The Value of Empathy

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Empathy is a rare commodity, but needed more than ever.

Recently, a story has been circulating newsrooms across the country. The family of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger, felt disrespected when President Donald Trump said to the grieving widow that the soldier “knew what he signed up for.” (Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/us/politics/trump-widow-johnson-call.html) Whether you take this exchange as valid or believe it is “fake news”, the sentiments reportedly expressed raises questions about how we value empathy in today’s culture and society.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of empathy is:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy)

You may not have experienced a specific tragedy or disappointment. You may not have endured another’s pain. Yet, when you value empathy, you can extend compassion and connect deeply to their experience. Too often, the value of empathy is being dismissed and replaced with a callousness and apathy that permeates every sector of society. If you are attempting to start a new business and fail during your first try, rather than being greeted with words of compassion or being coached, you may be on the receiving end of words such as “You should have prepared more” or “Your business plan was weak” or “You needed to do more research before making the leap”. Apathy’s default is always what you could have done better and how you are a victim of your own weakness and lack of preparedness. It never considers circumstances out of your control, unexpected roadblocks or the emotional roller coaster endured to reach a particular goal.

The lack of empathy doesn’t end in the business arena, but extends in relationships, employment, and other areas of life. If you’re relationship or friendship failed, you don’t have what it takes. If you still are unemployed, you didn’t look hard enough. If you’re in need of assistance, you’re lazy. If you are having a hard time loosing the weight, you’re undisciplined. See the pattern? Apathy immediately resorts to what is wrong with you or what’s missing. Empathy relates to your pain, demonstrates compassion and serves to journey with you to healing and wholeness. Your pain may have been a result of wrong decisions. Your condition may have been a consequence of your poor planning. But, when you are bleeding, you need to address the wound with tender love and care. If I’m bleeding, I simply don’t need good thoughts my way or feeling sorry for me (pity or sympathy). I need sympathy with a compassionate response. I need empathy.

Whether you are in a leadership role or serving others, we all can grow in valuing empathy for our fellow man and woman. When I review the Scriptures, I see a man by the name of Jesus who spoke truth but in love. I witnessed a man who showed compassion, coupled with correction. I see a man who took time to tackle the problem and not the person. We can all learn from Jesus’ example. And if you find yourself having difficulty showing empathy to others, I would suggest you ask yourself this question: “How would I like to be treated?” – RF

Prayer & Support for the Gulf Coast (Links)

The devastating flooding taking place in Houston, Texas and the surrounding region as a result of Hurricane Harvey has a direct affect on the lives of millions. As an American family and a global society, we can pray for those affected and the brave men and women in their rescue and recovery efforts. We can also support the cause financially through the following means:

American Red Cross

Salvation Army

Samaritan’s Purse

You can also donate blood at the American Red Cross or find other reputable charities through Charity Navigator.

To the people of Houston, Texas and the surrounding Gulf Coast Region: we are with you. – RF

Going Deeper

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You may hear this often from churchgoers, viewers of Christian TV or those who attend regional Christian conferences:

“I need more ‘meat’!”

“Now that’s a deep Word!”

“So good! So good!”


“I NEED MORE MEAT AUDIENCE”

Depending on the source, these phrases could have a different meaning. Oftentimes, the “I need more meat” audiences are referring to the Scripture passage in 1 Corinthians when the Apostle Paul was addressing the Corinthian church and said:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NKJV)

In this Scripture, the word “milk” means the basic, elementary teachings of Christianity that are studied by new believers. The “meat” or “solid food” refers to the deeper, spiritual doctrines. In essence, “I need more meat” audience desire deeper insights into spiritual doctrines of the Gospel.


“NOW THAT’S A DEEP WORD” OR “SO GOOD” AUDIENCE

The “Now That’s A Deep Word” or “So Good” audience often respond in recognition that what’s being communicated draws from a deeper well than what is written on the page. For many, when they hear something new or another way of looking at a Scripture, they may find themselves responding immediately with either phrase. This audience serves to affirm the speaker or preacher that they have “done their homework” and provided a fresh take on an ageless passage of Scripture.


GOING DEEPER QUESTION

If you are in need of “more meat” or you find yourself affirming with a “so good”, does it mean that you have made the deliberate choice to go deeper? In my Christian walk, I have found that going deeper is not limited to having more information about the Bible. It’s not limited to have a revelation of God’s Word that was hidden to you before. I offer to you that is requires this and more. Here’s my equation:

INFORMATION + REVELATION + APPLICATION = GOING DEEPER

A basic understanding of God’s Word opens up the opportunity to receive revelation about the text, the author of the Eternal Word and the one (you) reading it. But information and revelation are not enough. I’ve had to ask myself this question in my own relationship before God:

If it’s “so good” then why aren’t these truths being demonstrated in your life? Where is the application?

When the Word of God is not only given an Amen in words but in lifestyle and choices, you will discover that going deeper is not a cliché. It is a conviction. If I want to know the Creator of my soul, the author of my faith and the strength of my life, I make the deliberate, intentional choice daily to go deeper. Studying to learn, praying to understanding, surrendering my will to apply God’s will for my life.


PRAYERFEST: FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2017

My church, Christ Church, will be hosting a regional prayer gathering called Prayerfest 2017: Making History Through Prayer. Our church family is currently on a 40-Day Prayer Journey to go deeper in God (access the guide here). I want to encourage you to join us on this journey and meet us at Prayerfest on Friday, July 28th at 9 AM (Christ Church West Campus, 140 Green Pond Road, Rockaway, NJ – http://www.Prayerfest.net). Let’s go deeper in God together! – RF

Holy Week REFlections: Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017

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JESUS IS ALIVE!

Love compelled Jesus to the cross. Love rose Jesus from the dead. Love leads Jesus to intercede for us right now. On this Easter Sunday, the Savior of the World invites you in loving relationship with Him.

To give thanks to Jesus for His love, enjoy this song by Anthony Evans:

Holy Week REFlections: Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017

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“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” – Luke 23:44-47

 

Surely, this was a righteous man.

Surely, this is a righteous man.

Surely, He is the Righteous One.

 

The death of Jesus on the cross was no ordinary event. It marked the exact time when the debt of our sins, that could not be paid by man alone, were paid in full. The blood of Jesus satisfied our debt and granted us access to the Father. When we pray, we pray in the name of Jesus because His life granted us the authority to boldly approach the throne of grace.

But for the enemies of Jesus, this was the end. No more need of a rousing prophet and preacher who said He was the Son of God. Yet, his actual death sparked reactions that were surprising and alarming. In Luke 23, we see that the event was so impactful, even doubters and skeptics said the word SURELY. In death, Jesus revealed His divinity for those who wanted to see. While the enemies of Christ and the Father of Lies surely celebrated the final breath of Jesus on this side of eternity, these same enemies forgot who they were dealing with.

As we think of the day of crucifixion and the day of resurrection, it’s the 2nd day in between that may stir up doubt, skepticism, worry and fear. Did Jesus really mean what He said? This question among others may taunt us today. Before a breakthrough, we wonder if it will come. Before the miracle, we question if God will show up right on time. Before the blessing, we may get weary in our belief that Jesus will be what He said He would be. Is He the One who can redeem, restore, and set free?

I can assure you, backed by the authority of Scripture, Jesus is the One.

Sunday is coming…

Surely…

Sunday is coming.

Holy Week REFlections: Good Friday, April 14, 2017

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“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Love is best defined through sacrifice. When we witness a couple exchange vows on their wedding day, seasoned married couples know full well that this moment is a promise of commitment and love. These vows are tested by the challenges and opportunities that life presents. It’s the sacrifices by each spouse from day to day that leads to the success of a marriage. While words and verbal declarations are important, the fulfillment of those words through action carries even greater weight.

Jesus personified love through His sacrifice on the Cross. This sacrificial act of love was not under compulsion, but under obedience to the Father. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” – Luke 22:42

This Scripture passage demonstrates that Jesus preferred another route to save the world from sin and eternal damnation. This “cup” was a hefty price to pay. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary was a risky proposition. Jesus committed to die on a cross for a people that may ultimately reject Him. Yet, the promise of each member of humanity to become the righteousness of God (in right standing with the Father) was worth the risk. The reward was a people reconciled back to God.

On this Good Friday, we are reminded of the great sacrifice of the Father. He surrendered His one and only begotten Son for the sins of the world. This day, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus, who surrendered to the brutality leading to and at the cross. Jesus took the ultimate risk for the reward of relationship with you.

I know Whitney Houston was sang of “The Greatest Love of All”. No greater love was personified than Jesus laying down His life for His friends.

On this Good Friday, we are reminded that death died so that we may have life and life more abundantly.

What will you respond to the greatest love of all?