Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What love requires, part 1

In my post yesterday, I talked about hate. Why is it so easy? It's easy because love is hard.  Love requires us to look inside ourselves.  Love requires empathy.

What is empathy?

We practice empathy when we feel the feelings of another person.  Often, sympathy and empathy are confused.  Sympathy involves showing compassion for the the other person but not necessarily feeling the same feelings.  Both words have the same root word 'pathy' which means suffering or feeling.  It's the prefixes that set them apart.  'Sym' means with or together while 'Em' means within. (reference)

Empathy involves going within our selves to find the same feelings inside ourselves that the other person is having.  We can not have empathy without putting ourselves in the other person's position.

A strange thing happens when we put ourselves in someone else's shoes.  Our toes get pinched.  It's a little uncomfortable.  We can start to understand why the other person made the decisions they've made.  And then, uh oh, we can see that we aren't really very different from them.

It's difficult to hate someone who is like you.  When you hate someone who is like you, you hate yourself.  And that, my friends, is an awful place to be.

Thankfully, we have a Savior who can empathize with us.  He came to earth and lived as a human.  He fully understands the human condition.  He doesn't sit on high with no knowledge of what it's like to struggle in this life.  He has first hand knowledge.

In John 11, we learn about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  At the beginning of the chapter, John lets us know that Lazarus was Jesus' friend but when Jesus gets the word that Lazarus is sick, Jesus does not go to him right away.  During this delay, Lazarus dies.  When Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been in his grave four days.  Lazarus' sister Martha runs out to greet Jesus.  I love their conversation.

Martha displays her trust in her Lord in this conversation.  She is open to the will of God.  Next, Jesus goes to comfort Lazarus' other sister, Mary.  Mary is straightforward with Jesus, "Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died".  She knows that Jesus could have saved Lazarus but it has not occurred to her that Jesus could still act.  John tells us that Jesus was 'deeply troubled' after this exchange with Mary.  He asks to be taken to Lazarus.

Then comes the verse that all good Southern Baptist children choose when asked to memorize a verse of the Bible, the shortest verse in the Bible.

Jesus wept.  He empathized with Mary and Martha.  He grieved their loss with them.  Even though he is the Son of the Most High God.  Even though he had already told his disciples and Martha that he would raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:4, John 11:23).  Knowing the plan did not keep Jesus from feeling the grief of his friends.  How amazing!

When you are able to feel what the other person is feeling, you are able to see their motives more clearly.  You are able to see that, in the words of Maya Angelou, we are more alike than we are unalike.  And that starts us on the path to loving one another.

Join me tomorrow to find out what else love requires!

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