We live in a day of staggering problems. The suffering on a world scale is so enormous that we try not to think of it. Our personal problems are big enough to demand all our personal attention. For many of us, sitting through the evening news is the best we can do.
How do we see the world’s suffering? The abject poverty, the mental distress, the crippling illness, the cruelty of the oppressor, the neighbors’ worries…?
Let me take you back to the eighth Century before Christ. One of the greatest men of that century was the Prophet Isaiah. His prophecy is rated as immensely significant, not in the least because of what he tells us about the coming Savior Christ. Among all Christ’s wonderful qualities, there is the one of His empathy. Sprinkled through the Chapters 42 and 43 are the delightful references to the kindness and love of the Savior whom Isaiah foresees. He will save his people from the raging waters and the blazing fire. He will know his people by name. He will lead the blind. He will heal the deaf. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. Isaiah quotes the coming Savior as saying: “I will take hold of your hand, I will keep you, I will free the captives from prison and release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness…” That’s how Isaiah introduces God’s Savior to us centuries later: the Messiah, a man of total empathy. He entered our person hood: he became man for us. And in his empathy the Messiah took our sin upon himself, he entered our guilt. Not only did he reach out in empathy to the suffering, but in empathy he actually owned their suffering.
You and I need this Savior so as to be saved. But this Savior will also equip us to be people of empathy. We can do more than helping people, we can actually enter their situation. Empathy gives our lives the quality of outgoingness, of acceptance, of understanding, of concern for our neighbor’s well-being. In empathy we gravitate toward the less privileged. In empathy our hearts enter into the sufferings’ plight.