It truly concerns me when we as individuals or collectively as a church pass judgment on another as to what we feel they are “worthy” to do within our Christian ranks. Often I hear of people that have had a divorce or admitted to premarital sex, not being allowed to hold or serve various roles within a church. Yes, these are sins but where is one sin worse than the other? Isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t self-righteous judgment a sin? Jesus says when we even look at or think of another with lust, then we have committed adultery. And who of us hasn’t sinned? Now, I will quickly point out that the sin needs to be confessed and repented of. By repented of, I mean stopped, changed. When do we become greater than God?
Isaiah 1:18 New International Version (NIV); “Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 New International Version (NIV); “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”
What kind of people did Jesus call to be His disciples? I was thinking about the word “empathy” and how the church as a whole and Christians individually, should show empathy to another. The word empathy is defined as: “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. To show compassion.” The apostle Peter challenged Christians to have compassion for one another and to be humble.
1 Peter 3:8 New International Version (NIV); “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”
The apostle Paul taught his fellow Christians not to be so hung up on just works or just deeds, but to live as reflective of Jesus Christand the grace of God. I would dare say Paul had very little patience with legalism when it came to loving others. As Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, it is thought that he meant this message to be to all followers of Jesus Christ everywhere.
While in Corinth, Paul wrote to the Romans expressing the love and grace of God. He spoke directly to the issue of grace when he wrote:
Romans 10:4 New International Version (NIV); “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
He addressed the issue of empathy as well when he wrote:
Romans 12:15 New International Version (NIV); “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
And then Paul tells us who God looks upon as sinners:
Romans 3:23 New International Version (NIV); “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
There are none of us perfect, no not one (Romans 3:10). The apostle John taught:
1 John 3:17 New International Version (NIV) Selected; “If anyone sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
Jesus commanded us to love one another. An integral part of loving one another is to relieve and comfort the pain in others. We are not to judge them as unworthy to be in God’s presence because of their sin any more than we, as sinners, are to be disallowed from His work. We know not what is in the heart of others. We know not their repentance. Empathy can be the key that unlocks the door to another’s suffering, or the lack of empathy can be the key that locks that same door forever.