Empathy is a word that only came into use during the 20th century and means to join yourself to the identity, feeling, problem, trauma or ideology of others.
In an amoral culture such as ours, empathy means getting drunk with the drunkard, comforting the sodomite in his sodomy, saying that she is he, and defending the distraught adulteress in her adultery. It means to drop your winning standards and join the losing team, because, you know, love.
Yes, we are to weep with those who weep. But we weep because we share a common humanity under a universal judgement not because we share a common skin colour, lust or STD.
Empathy is, for the most part, the sin of cowardice. It’s often driven by our insatiable appetite to virtue signal, belong and find approval.
It’s not the standard we find in scripture. It also fails to provide any meaningful comfort or a way forward.
Distraught mother of three: My husband just left me for another woman.
Empathy: Yeah, my husband did that. All men are bastards.
Sympathy: Why don’t you and the kids come around this weekend for a BBQ and we’ll spend some time together. Our kids would love that too.
The best way to help a blind man cross the street is emphatically not by blindfolding yourself (Luke 6:39).
Sympathy, means to identify with the suffering and struggle of others by drawing alongside them without losing our own bearings and is entirely biblical.
Not em (in), but, sym (with).
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus became one with us in our humanity, but He did not join us in our sinning.
He stands at the corner of the street and calls us into His house. He holds out redemption and deliverance from our shame, without becoming shameful and without making a shipwreck of His own standards to suit the current zeitgeist.
Sympathy. It’s an art. One that requires wisdom, courage and biblical love in a world that has lost it’s anchor.