Exercising Empathy

I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”—Acts 20:35 (NKJV)

As the apostle Paul was imparting some final instructions to the leaders of the church in Ephesus, he reminded them of their duty as Christians to “support the weak.” This should come as no surprise because this charge is absolutely foundational to the Christian ethic and lifestyle.

It’s something we learn at the very beginning of our experience as Christians, because we need to recognize our own weakness and helplessness before God in order to receive all that He has for us. We can’t approach Him from a position of strength but must come to Him from a posture of weakness. After all, Jesus tells us that apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). 

So, from day one, we experience weakness and develop and empathy towards it. We then take that empathy and extend it towards those around us who are weak. Remembering all that God has done for us, we then reflect His heart by doing the same for others. Helping those in need is embedded in our spiritual DNA and ultimately comes to define our lives. We move from being takers to being givers and find a truly blessed life.

And if there’s any lingering doubt about any of this, Paul reminds us that Jesus, the authority of all authorities, was the one who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It doesn’t get any more definitive than that! A Christian, by definition, is someone whose heart is open to meet the needs of those around them.

Why emphasize this point? Just as the Ephesian elders needed to be reminded of this, so do we. Our new nature “in Christ” is progressively displacing our old, sinful nature inherited from Adam. But this will be a lifelong battle within us. And if there’s anything our old nature will resist, it’s this! It will want to protect and preserve itself at the expense of others, especially those who are weaker than us. The only way to break its hold over our hearts is to exercise our empathy for those who are weak . . . to actually give, rather than take. 

Remember how weak you were when God rescued you? Allow it to produce a Christ-like empathy in you to rescue others in their weakness and look for the opportunities around you to exercise it. 

DIG: What did Paul remind the Ephesian elders of?

DISCOVER: How does this reminder relate to us?

DISPLAY:  How are you actively exercising your empathy for those who are weak?