Andy wrote me praying for healing for our country and that we might find “compassion, empathy and tolerance to be our guide forward.” I like his choice of words, and believe that if we can take on these attitudes ourselves, we will go a long way towards being part of the solution rather than adding to the problem in our communities and neighborhoods.
Compassion is a concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. It’s looking on someone in a sadder state than you are and having your heart go out to them. But compassion isn’t worth a whole lot without action. Jesus had compassion for the people because they were hungry, or they were sick, or they were lost like sheep without a shepherd. In each case, Jesus did something about what He saw. He fed them, or He healed them, or He came to their defense like the woman caught in adultery.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s climbing into the shoes of someone else. It’s weeping with those who weep, and rejoicing with those who rejoice even if you don’t have anything in particular to weep or rejoice over on your own.
“You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10:34-36)
Tolerance is the ability or willingness to put up with something, in particular, the existence of opinions or behavior that one doesn’t necessarily agree with. There is a huge need for this with so much division going on right now. This is where we learn to co-exist with those who have differing views from us including those who are not Christians. Our goal is not to get everyone to think like we do, but to come alongside those who think differently and be able to walk and talk together.
“Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” (1 Corinthians 8:13)
All three of these attitudes spring from humility — seeing others as more important than oneself. That’s a hard thing to do without the Holy Spirit in us to free us from the selfishness of only seeing our own point of view. What a boring world if everyone was like us.
As Andy said, these attitudes, exhibited by the Lord and His apostles, will help be a guide forward. Like grace turned outward, each one of these things springs from God being gracious to us, and we, in turn, having the grace to extend to others because of what He has bestowed upon us.