Empathy and Being a Voice for the Marginalized

“When are we going to have the moral courage to speak in terms other than economy…” I struggle to understand people that have lacked empathy in the face of the fear and concern of minorities and marginalized people which rose out of the recent election; people who think it’s about who won/lost. I’ve often heard it said, “Those who voted for Trump but insist they aren’t racist/sexist/etc. are really only saying that I don’t matter at all; their wealth matters more than the wellbeing of others.” If we don’t stand for something, we stand for nothing. Let us make sure we strive to maintain the innate human dignity of every person.

“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:7-11

 

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God and Us: Compassion Versus Pity

Compassion is made up of two Latin roots married together which means “to suffer with.”  This is an action word, it requires you to be in the midst of something. Beside the person in their state of suffering. What this can often look like is pity. The Latin root of pity is “piety” but most definitions (Webster) look something along the lines of “to feel xxx for.”

Does it sound like an almost indiscernible difference? Like they are interchangeable? If we think back to the most painful loss that we’ve every experienced, at that point we most likely wanted someone to mourn “with” rather than someone who felt something “for” us.  In many instances, a “with” versus a “for” can make a big difference. When I think of my best mentors, leaders, pastors, teachers, they were the ones that exhibited compassion and empathy, not pity. So where do we see this modeled?

In the book Compassionate Ministry, Bryan Stone uses the example of Jesus since he is probably the most perfect example of compassion the world has ever seen. Is it because Jesus literally suffered with every one of us, collectively gathering our sin from each of us and lifting it from us, bearing our burden. Jesus is more in the midst of our collective suffering than we are. We experience a fraction of the amount Jesus bears for the world. Jesus is with us. How then, can we model Christ? Let us look at the words of Paul to the Galatians:

Galatians 6:1-3 “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.…”