The Humanizing Effect of Sympathy

“But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts…” – Luke 9:47

Jesus didn’t only know the intentions of men’s hearts, but also the reasoning that led to their intentions. I wonder if this is why Jesus was so patient and compassionate with those He encountered, especially the commoners and laypeople. He didn’t judge them solely by their irreverent actions, their misguided questions, or their incorrect beliefs—He understood why they did those things. And my guess is that what Jesus saw was that their shortcomings weren’t due to stubborn disobedience, but rather ignorance or perhaps just mistaken, but good, intentions.

I want to be like that. I don’t want to immediately jump to conclusions about a person based upon their actions, their religious beliefs, or their political persuasion, although I do that often.

I think Jesus shows us a better way. We are too quick to speak with so much certainty regarding those we disagree with. (Look at how quickly so many people, on all sides of the political spectrum, have been so quick to levy such horrible opinions of Ford and Kavanaugh; two people that 99% of those saying such horrible things don’t even know). It’s shameful how we paint our opponents (although I don’t really like that word) with such a disparaging brush at even the slightest hint of disagreement.

But after just a couple years of being a pastor, of being in the “people” business, I’ve learned that communication with those you disagree with is such an effective disarming mechanism. After you take the time to truly understand another person, when you are intentional about listening with the goal of understanding them, you find they become more human. They’re not a moral monster, a corrupt foe, or some deluded idiot. They are a human being that bears the image of your Creator, just as you do. They have hopes, dreams, and desires, just as you do. And they are pursuing Joy the best way they know how, just as you are. Sympathy has a humanizing effect on those you share it with.

I dunno how I wound up typing all this. I know it’s not exegetically sound, or whatever. But I guess I’m just sick of withholding grace from people. I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and think of them in the best possible light by default. I want others to do this for me, but my Lord’s golden rule puts the requirement on me to do it for others first. I know I need this, and I think the Church, our nation, and the world needs this, too.

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