featured graphic for Pastor Mike McKay and his wife Kristi of Neighborhood Church during COVID-19

Weekly message from Neighborhood Church: The blessing of empathy

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

The words ‘put on’ in the Bible verse above mean to dress like the blessing of a warm jacket on a wintery day. The words ‘compassionate heart’ brings to our attention the understanding of another’s feelings, to sit in them for moment, and take action. Empathy is part of compassion. Empathy is taking the time and mental energy to understand how others feel and feeling with them in their plight. Empathy is talking with someone who just lost a job, who is having an issue in a relationship, who is dealing with inner struggles, or who lost a loved one, and hearing their hurt. In that, wearing it with them.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Empathy is something we learn yet we are born with the propensity and possibility to express it. That’s why God encourages us to connect emotionally with others.

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Though empathy is possible, a lot in our world has pushed us to think more about ourselves and ignore the hardships and struggles of others. Sure, some of those struggles may be brought on by one’s own choices and decisions, but we can and should feel with others.

Hebrews 13:1-3 Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

Empathy has many benefits. Having empathy can bring about a healthier life as empathetic people tend to deal better with stress and feel happier. Empathy can create stronger relationships. Actually, connecting on an emotional level through empathy is the glue that holds our relationships and communities together. Empathy helps us communicate better as empathetic people pay attention to how others feel and resonate with them. Empathy causes us to be better employees as empathetic people create a better team environment. Teamwork is a cornerstone to successful business. Empathy turns the negativity to positive actions. When empathy moves to compassionate action, attitudes shift from hopelessness, blame, anger, and despair to hope, help, and healing. There is a blessing in empathy.

Empathy does take practice. We need to ask questions about how others feel and listen when they tell us. We also need to look at ourselves and ask if we ever felt that way, or if there are any biases or lack of experiences that may block our empathy. To empathize is to mentally ‘put on’ how others might feel and experience it. Some call this “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.” How might it feel to be treated unjustly? How might it feel to be excluded? How might it feel to have been a victim of a crime? How might it feel to be abandoned? Yes, it’s painful to bear those burdens, but we are better for it. There is a blessing in empathy.

Jesus, the Christ, expressed perfect empathy and compassion Matthew 20:29-34, Luke 7:11-17, Matthew 9:35-38, Matthew 15:32-39. We should follow His example.

Church is a good place to learn of Jesus and how to be a more empathetic and compassionate person. If you don’t already have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church, especially this Easter season. We normally have a 9am live-stream gathering from our Cypress campus and another pre-recorded gathering at our Los Alamitos campus. In addition, both of these locations and times are now open for in-door, in-person gatherings. There is also an in-door, in-person gathering at the Cypress campus at 10:30am. Our webpage has information on our Easter programming and how to connect with us, or you can find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site.

Seeking to grow in the blessing of empathy along with you,

Mike