Empathy is the Bridge
At The Life Project (edit: now known as P2C Digital Strategies), our desire is to help everyone come to know who Jesus is. We want them to get closer to him, regardless of where they are starting out.
Due to some very not-Christian events with over the last two thousand years, with a global world-view wanting to blame Christians for everything wrong in the world, the following images are how Christians are seen by those that haven't had the opportunity to experience Jesus.
So how can followers of Jesus break through the wall of distrust and even hostility that people have put up as protection from those claiming to be Christians?
I believe that the only way to do so is genuinely loving those that we are wanting to reach. When you genuinely love the person as Jesus did, it allows you to empathize with their situation.
Empathy is the bridge between Christians and a world that has turned its back on Christianity. It is also something that many people struggle having enough of and it is getting worse.
When compared to college students of the late 1970s, O'Brien and Konrath found that college students in 2009 were less likely to agree with statements such as "I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective" and "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me."
The good news is that as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit and when filled, the fruits will eventually show. One such fruit is love, another is gentleness, and yet another is kindness. I feel that those three fruits together will lead to more significant amounts of empathy for the people we meet and get to know.
So what is empathy anyway? Without getting into too deep into some of the different types of empathy, my favourite definition of empathy is "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another" (Oxford).
How can this lead to higher engagement in ministry? If you can be empathetic in a world which isn't, you will be a light in a dark world. People flocked to experience Jesus, and it is because of his love that they left satisfied. He didn't need to feed the 5000 that followed him to the remote area that day when he wanted to be alone. He understood their need and shared in it. The woman caught in adultery that was under the judgement of the religious leaders of the day experienced his love and empathy as he wrote in the ground, causing those leaders to slip away.
Empathy doesn't mean taking on someone's burdens, nor does it require that you solve the problem. It is our role to communicate that only Jesus can carry the load.
Would you like to know more about empathy? We'd love to share more in our new training, coming soon to our mentoring software. The system is available for you to develop empathy as you share your story with others from around the world, that are looking for love but not finding it.