Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 122; 149, 1 Samuel 14:16-30, Acts 9:10-19a, Luke 23:32-43
We don’t think we’re like other people. It’s cliché for someone in rehab to claim “I’m not an addict like the rest of them.” When someone else gets fired, they were lazy or inept; when we get fired the boss is a jerk. When a group we don’t belong to reacts to oppression, they are snowflakes; when we feel oppressed (despite possibly being in the majority) we’re standing up for what’s right. Even a thief hanging on a cross can find a reason to mock the savior hanging next to him.
Yet that same savior asked God to forgive his executioners. What’s the difference (besides not being Jesus)? Empathy.
Empathy is an ability to relate to the emotions and circumstances of others. It’s inseparable from forgiveness. To forgive we must understand what it means to be forgiven. To feel forgiven, we must first accept responsibility for the things we’ve done which need forgiving (not as popular a choice as maybe it should be) and then trust Christ to do what he said. If on some level we can’t accept Christ’s forgiveness (and it takes a real ego to think we’re the one person he can’t forgive), can what we call and offer as forgiveness be the real deal?
As long as we insist we would have been better, stronger, kinder, etc. having experienced the exact same life as someone else, true forgiveness eludes us. We don’t have to excuse misbehavior or abandon accountability, but neither of those is required to forgive. Actually, if we did, what exactly would we be forgiving?
When the Lord asked Ananias to attend to Saul, Ananias answered: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.” Yet in the end he trusted the Lord to make a great evangelist of this villain. Is there any doubt Ananias knew the forgiveness of Christ?
Psalm 51 tells us God will not despise a broken spirit and a contrite heart. When we are willing to admit to our brokenness and receive forgiveness, our ability to forgive blossoms.
Comfort: God will forgive you.
Challenge: It’s up to you to accept that forgiveness.
Prayer: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.. (Psalm 51:10)
Discussion: What are some examples of the difference between empathy and sympathy? Why is it important to know the difference?
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