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Empathy – The Fellowship Of Suffering (via Rut Etheridge at Gentle Reformation)

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Some reflections of nurturing a capacity to go beyond recognising a hurt to having a sense of the impact of the hurt – while not allowing the situation to be about your experience.
Rut Etheridge at Gentle Reformation:

Every emotion you’ve felt, the Lord has felt. I don’t know how that works, exactly. I do know that he’s felt your emotions and mine without the taint of sin. But that only means that unlike us, Jesus has felt what it is to be fully, uncompromisingly, relentlessly human, an image-bearer who never fell. He knows empathetically what it’s like to hurt as a human, but moving beyond what you or I can experience, he experienced the pains of a fallen world in the holiest and most holistic manner possible. What he never experienced was the corrupt and corrupting responses you and I daily conceive and enact as we face trial and temptation. He endured to the end, unstained by rebellion against his Father’s law. He was tempted in every way we are, but remained without sin (Hebrews 4).
As adopted, beloved sons and daughters of God, siblings of Jesus Christ, we are called to live as he did in this fallen world, learning sympathy as we suffer and ever straining toward empathy. We will never be our Savior, nor is any Christ-like suffering we endure ever identical to what Jesus endured and accomplished as the unique son of God, the spotless substitutionary sin-bearer. Jesus calls us to take up our own cross, not to carry his. But as Paul puts it so personally and poetically, it is the cry of the maturing Christian heart to come as close as possible in life to what the Savior endured and experienced in this world, through whatever times and circumstances the Lord would allot us (Philippians 3).
We are to seek empathy with Christ not in the sense of trying to mimic particular actions of his or trying to recreate historical circumstances and cultural conditions long past. We want to approach empathy with the Savior by having a heart made increasingly like his, filled with affections taught by God’s word and flowing forth in words and actions which draw attention to the glory and goodness of our heavenly Father (Philippians 2).
Paul tells us in Philippians 3 that he wants to know Christ, both in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering. Indeed, we often experience the power of Christ’s resurrection most truly and tangibly in the midst of our suffering the trials he calls us to endure for his sake. This is the case with my friends, and with countless other Christian sufferers throughout history.
None of this is to even come close to suggesting that only Christians suffer, or that Christians by definition suffer more severely than others, much less that only Christians suffer nobly and admirably. I wish that could go without saying, but sometimes Christian discourses on suffering can seem self-important and forgetful or dismissive of the pain shared by those who don’t share our faith and who endure that pain in an exemplary way. At the risk of falling into that same trap of self-importance, however, there is something unique not only about the purpose and principles of Christian suffering, but about the Christian’s capacity with regard to suffering.

Read the whole post here.

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