In secular culture we are programmed to express sympathy whenever something bad happens to someone else. How often do you hear cliché phrases like “I’ll be thinking of you during this time.”, “This too will pass.”, “Things will get better, believe me.”, “I’m so sorry this has happened, know that you are in my thoughts.” … While well-intentioned sympathy hardly has any supportive impact on the actual person(s) in need whom often desire a more profound empathetic relationship with someone in their deep state of loneliness, darkness and pain.
Of course the Bible, which often counters popular secular society in about every facet, never advocated to be sympathetic but rather empathetic. Jesus Christ, who was perfect in every thing he did, was a true symbol and persona of what every empathetic person should emulate. Jesus stood in the place of everyone he came in contact with even when it was with someone who was deemed as “less than desirable” or unworthy according to societal standards at the time. He had the amazing ability to look in one’s heart understanding their true intentions and needs while delivering them from their desperate place giving them much-needed hope and life. Not once did Jesus sympathize with anyone he crossed paths with knowing it was empathy they truly needed. Jesus Christ took the most empathetic action for us all when he was put on the cross!
When it comes to the Persecuted Church, Christians in non-persecuted areas often struggle in how to effectively respond to their fellow Christians who are being persecuted for their faith typically falling prey to the remote “sympathizer” role as secular society has taught us. But if we are to truly follow Jesus we need to embrace the “empathizer” role and stand in their place. Comfortable Christianity endangers us all as a united faith-based family and lessens the effectiveness and power behind the Body of Christ. Therefore we need to become more engaged and educated on our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are undergoing severe persecution and are part of the Body of Christ.
For more reading on the Persecuted Church empathy verse sympathy please check out the article “The One Thing The Persecuted Church Doesn’t Need From You” by Joshua Pease on the Open Doors USA website.