Multitudes cry, does anyone understand how I feel? Sadly, when I was younger, I didn’t have a lot of empathy for those who hobbled around using canes. I wasn’t unkind. I just couldn’t relate. I walked fast, hiked, and climbed hills with verve. Aging has changed my perspective. Now I’m the one who hobbles around, sometimes using a walking stick—I still can’t call it a cane. My knees are shot. One knee has already been replaced.
Christmas, the coming of the Son of God as a baby in a manger, is about God expressing empathy for our human condition enough to live 33 years among us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin”(Heb.4:15). “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”(Heb.2:18).
All of us find it difficult to understand those in situations that we haven’t experienced. I remember a conversation in which a friend talked about their antipathy towards cities, Toronto in particular. Personally, Mary Helen and I love both the countryside and the small town in which we currently live. But we also love to immerse ourselves in the multi-ethnic nature of Toronto. Hearing different languages, seeing different races— to us this is a taste of what heaven will be like. We can even understand why many prefer the convenience of city life with its transit, sh
opping and proximity to great museums, art galleries, and concert halls.
What of people from other cultures? In today’s climate many have no sympathy for Muslims. With ISIS in the news, we can understand people’s antagonism. Fortunately, we’ve had happier experiences among them. Mary Helen and I, having lived 16 years in an overwhelmingly Muslim country, have more empathy. Most Muslims—the Taliban and their ilk excluded—long for the same things we do: education for their children, economic security, basic human freedoms, and a safe place to live. Let me assure you that most Muslims are as appalled as you and I by the unbelievable barbarity of ISIS and suicide bombers.
It’s human to react, express puzzlement or disapproval of something or someone we don’t understand. For example, few of us understand the conditions under which our aboriginal people live because we haven’t walked a mile in their moccasins. But God understands.
At Christmas God sent His Son among us to save us from our sins, but also to express empathy with our human condition. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…became obedient to death—even death on a cross”(Phil. 2:4-8)!
So as we read the Christmas story, let’s remind ourselves of the lengths Christ went to so he could empathize with our condition. And let’s express a lot more understanding of others—especially as we welcome refugees like Jesus, whose parents fled as refugees to Egypt from the barbarity of Herod.
Have a Christmas full of empathy and understanding!
(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )