The Empathy of Love
In the first verse of the passage of the Bible we are reading, Romans 12:9 speaks of love without dissimulation, or Love without hypocrisy, and we have seen just such an example set before us in the exhortations to “Distribute to the necessity of saints, and to Bless them that persecute you and now we see this same level of consistency to show the empathy of love, and that is to Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep.
How much would the people of the world be blessed if they would simply accept these commands as absolute? In a time when Giant media Goliaths are ruling the lives of most people in the world, such simple basics as this are almost completely overlooked.
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Rom 12:9-15)
Love without dissimulation, is the very witness of God to the people of the world. It is Gods love that is witnessed through those who have known the Love of God. It is this love that you and I have experienced that is to emanate from our lives to the people around us, all people, even those who persecute us. It was HIS love first,
“We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19)
So too it is with empathy.
Divine Empathy Rejoices
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
All that that is commanded of us to do was first demonstrated by God. In him is the full gamut of emotion rightly emphasised. When God demonstrated anger it was rightly placed, when he showed love it was rightly placed, when God revealed joy or sorrow, so too it was fitting he should. Speaking to Israel, God said;
I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die (Ezek 33:11).
God had made clear his desire many chapters earlier saying;
Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? (Ezek 18:23)
Of all people Gods desire is to rejoice over the sheep of his pasture, he rejoices over his children, they please him when they do well, and in doing well they procure the favour of the Lord. Moses referred to them as “blessed” from the very beginning
Turn to Deuteronomy 28:2-9
And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. 3 Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. 5 Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. 6 Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. 7 The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. 8 The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
In your joy God has joy, in your blessing God himself rejoices over you to bless you. He shares in your happiness. God is first to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and of all people he it is who knows the full extent of the joy you should be experiencing.
The greatest example of Gods joy is told to us by the Lord Jesus in a parable. It is a parable of the joy over the salvation of a single sinner, a joy that is beyond even the joy the sinner himself might experience. But it is a joy that is not lost either on the Lord nor the angles that surround his throne in heaven.
Turn to Luke 15,
1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. 3 And he spake this parable unto them, saying, 4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. 8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? 9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
What we see here is Devine Empathy, rejoicing in the salvation of a single soul, reflected through his Holy Angels.
The Empathy of Brethren Rejoice
This Empathy of God, according to Paul, should be matched by the brethren of the Lord, the children of God, each person who is saved by their faith in Christ.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep.
This is natural for God to do, his love is without hypocrisy, but it seems evident it comes from Paul as a command in this passage in Romans 12. We are commanded to “Rejoice with them that do rejoice” we are to share in that state of heart others are experiencing, we are to be empathetic to them in their Joy.
As a father I can tell you that nothing gives me greater joy than to know my children are joyful. We know that life can get the better of us at times, but when things are a joy and our children are doing well and are themselves joyful, I simply could not be happier. And it is the JOY, not the EVENT, that makes ALL the Difference
It was a little while ago I was talking to my wife about how, even when those we love are going through a difficult time physically, if they are still joyful, we still rejoice. It’s not the difficulty people endure that is the most difficult things to bear, it’s how they are handling it that is most important.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep.
This is an expression of love and empathy that sets aside all of your own matters and has them focused upon the peaks and troughs of others. Beloved you know as well as I do that most of our lives are quite uneventful. We rise in the morning, we eat and prep for the day, we got to work and come home, we eat and prepare for sleep.
But there are peaks and valleys that interrupt that timeline, these are short lived events but can be sharp in either direction. It’s these peaks and valleys we see in others that we interrupt the focus on ourselves and place upon others.
What a blessing it is the rejoice in the prosperity of another! What prevents us from doing as God does? Why is it that sometimes we weep or are bitter at the rejoicing of another?
What, you’ve never experienced this? You’ve never experienced resentment at the prosperity of another? It is called Envy!
Turn to Genesis 29:31
31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. 33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon. 34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi. 35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.
1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.
Beloved, be sure not to mistake “Envy” for “Jealousy” in the scriptures, there is a consistency in the use of these words in the Bible and they are NOT synonymous. I am sure that might surprise you, but ENVY is NOT the same as Jealousy in the scriptures, they are not even synonymous.
Envy is a sin that stems from covetousness,
But God is a jealous God. (Exodus 20:5)
Exodus 34:14 says his very “name is Jealous”.
How can Envy be synonymous with Jealousy if one is identified with sin while the other is identified with God?
Jealousy is NOT envy: Jealousy has its root out of Love, the Envy has its root out of covetousness. Be sure to look at how the Bible uses the word before charging God foolishly.
Rachel envied her sister
The brothers of Joseph “envied him” (Gen 37:11)
The sons of Korah “envied Moses…and Aarron” in the camp before the ground swallowed them up, we are reminded in Psalm 106:16
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
That is a great expression in the Bible that perfectly represents the nature of envy, it literally “Rots the bones”.
Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?
This deep seaded covetous hatred is the very emotion behind the expression “keeping up with the joneses”.
It is covetous and has absolutely no basis in reality. While you spend all your time with the Joneses as your focus, they are merely getting on with life.
The 1913 New York Comic strip under the same name, incredibly never features the Joneses themselves, they we spoken about, alluded to and envied, but they themselves were simply too busy getting on with life than to appear in a comic strip dedicated to them.
So too it is with those you envy. While your bones rot with envy, they get on with life. No doubt, they themselves will genuinely rejoice when you rejoice because they have learned to be content with what God has given them, while the desire to have more that what God has permitted you, is the source of envy.
Beloved, it’s difficult for me to think of why a loved-one or a friend would not “Rejoice with them that do rejoice” other than envy.
Incline your heart to the testimonies of God and not to covetousness (Psalm 119:36).
Therefore, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice”
Divine Empathy Weeps
But we also weep with them that weep.
It’s interesting as I was preparing for this sermon today. I had thought to divide the message in a way that demonstrates empathy from both the Lord and from Man as examples to bring to you that you may be encouraged. When it came to the examples of rejoicing, most of the Devine Empathy of rejoicing with man is actually found contextually, not now, but in the millennium to come.
But when it came to Devine empathy respecting weeping, sorrow, suffering and pain, I found far too many passages than I can present to you this morning. I found many examples with man also, but certainly many more coming from Gods perspective.
Its interesting that the Bible speaks of Jesus Christ as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53) Beloved, it is that Devine acquaintance with grief that demonstrates ho God can sympathise with our heart breaks and our sorrows. Speaking of Christ the writer of the letter to the Hebrews wrote;
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Isaiah 63:9 says
“ In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.”
There is no greater physical example of compassion than that demonstrated by Christ. All through the Gospel accounts in the New Testament we see;
“But when he saw the multitudes he was moved with compassion on them…”Mt 9:36
“Then Jesus called the disciples unto him and said, I have compassion on the multitude” Mt 15:32
“So Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes…” (Mt 20:34)
“And Jesus moved with compassion put forth his hand and touched him…” (Mrk 1:41)
“And when the Lord saw her he had compassion on her…” (Luke 7:13)
One of the most precious demonstrations of diving empathy is found in the new testament and is identified in one verse, it is the clearest expressions of Devine empathy in what has become known to us as the shortest verse in the Bible;
“Jesus Wept” John 11:35
Jesus groaned in his spirit when he saw the women weeping and the Jews weeping.
God wept when he saw the broken hearts of Mary and Martha and the Jews grieving over the death of their brother Lazarus. Jesus loved Lazarus, but his tears were not limited to the death of Lazarus, he knew where Lazarus was and he also knew that he would soon show forth the Glory of God by raising him from the dead that all may believe.
The death of Lazarus will bring opportunity for many people to come to Christ and would be an account told down through the ages, saving many souls. No doubt there is so much more to it, and I cannot hope to plummet the depths of the sorrow of Christ over Lazarus, but I am also certain that what seems evident here is that Jesus wept for the grief he witnessed in those who lost a loved one.
God wept respecting the death of Lazarus.
God wept over Jerusalem who knew not the time of their visitation (Lk 19:44)
God wept once before over Jerusalem.
It was one of the greatest examples of the sorrow and sadness and empathy found of God in his weeping through the Prophet Jeremiah; It is found in the book of Lamentations.
Time and time again God, as a doting, loving father did all he could to teach his people to trust him and obey his voice. Time and again they rebelled against him.
“I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against me” he is heard to cry in Isaiah 1:2.
And now he has no choice but to afflict them and carry out his warning to them so long ago. It is in the book of Lamentations that we see the sorrowful heart of God for them.
1 How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! 2 She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. 3 Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits. 4 The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. 5 Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy.
Never think that the Lord is ignorant of your affliction or sorrow.
Never think that God does not know your pain or your suffering.
Never think that the Saviour cannot empathise with you in all your sadness and grief.
If you only could see all that he has done to bring you near to him. If you could only see his love for you, his compassion upon you and his hand held out toward you….you would RUN to him.
You would RUN to him knowing that his love is an eternal love
You would RUN to him knowing he suffered and died that you might live
You would RUN to him knowing that you have sinned against your own soul and need the Saviour.
You would RUN to him knowing that he will keep you, hold you safe and no man is able to pluck you out of his hand.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and my Father are one.
DEVINE EMPATHY WEEPS for the saving of your soul.
The Empathy of Brethren Weep
Rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep.
Paul writes this to the brethren of the Lord, he writes to the Church at Rome, to Christians like you and me. It’s a command, telling us how we ought to live one with another.
Within this small church (Hope Baptist Church) in the span of one month we have had cause to rejoice and cause to weep.
- We have rejoiced in the purchase of a new home by Chrissie, David and Pavo.
- We have wept, even bitterly over the death of Jason, the Son of Dorothy and Victor, the brother of Melanie and the partner of Julie, and one who truly loved Gracie and Alex.
- We have REJOICED even today, and the news of a Child to come into the world.
- But we have also sorrowed over the loss of property of a brother in Christ and the near tragedy of his young apprentice.
There could be more such examples, even this month in this church. As a Church we will endure many such experiences as this, and the range of emotions from Rejoicing to weeping is good and proper and should be the way people who love one another feel.
It is a love without hypocrisy, without covetousness, without envy and without self idolatry. This is unique beloved! I wish I could tell you how unique this is in a Church today, it is NOT the norm, not by a long shot. And it will become rarer. Paul tells us what it shall be like in the Church of the last days.
Turn to 2 Timothy 3:1-5
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
Paul wrote this Epistle to a young Pastor named Timothy, this is one of a series of letter known as ‘The pastoral Epistles’ (Epistle means letter). He was not writing about the world in the last days (the descriptions in the passage is the natural state of the world), no. He was writing about the state of the Church in the last days.
Continue to trust in the Lord and read his word, flee from covetousness and the distraction of riches, the lusts and sin that easily besets us, cling to the book and to Christ; and the precious, selfless love and affection you see within this small assembly will continue on into the future. Guard first your own hearts beloved.
I want to spend just a moment to speak of the antonym of all we have been looking at this morning. The opposite of empathy and compassion is pitilessness.
There seemed to have been compassion shown by the friends of Job in the first days of his mourning. We will take a quick look at Job. In the Bible we don’t see an account of another individual that has such an acute turnaround of circumstances as Job. It is indeed the single most astounding series of events in the Bible. From unequaled wealth and prosperity in his day, to losing it all, including his children, the honour of his wife, the respect of the town folk and the health of his flesh. But for seven days and seven nights his three friends showed Job company and compassion yet not a single person spoke until Job broke the silence.
Job Chapter 3:3
Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. 4 Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. 5 Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. 6 As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months. 7 Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein. 8 Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning. 9 Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day: 10 Because it shut not up the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.
11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?
The sorrow of Job was matched only by the indifference of his “Friends”. Chapter after chapter they answered him that he had brought this misery upon himself, but none pitied him. Job cries out in chapter 6 saying “To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty” (Jb 6:14).
Turn forward to chapter 19:17
Job is detailing the changes that have afflicted his life in the hope his friends may look upon him with compassion and pity;
17 My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children’s sake of mine own body. 18 Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. 19 All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me. 20 My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth. 21 Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me. 22 Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?
23 Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! 24 That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! 25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
Beloved, we are called to rejoice with them that do rejoice and weep with them that weep
Paul wrote; “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Rom 15:1)
He said, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)
There will be opportunities for joy and for sorrow in life, it will be our love and compassion toward others that will make all the difference in the world to them. Look around you, see who it is that you might bless. Each one of you have opportunity to bless someone and there is ALWAYS someone at any moment in time, suffering more than you are, or walking on air for joy. Share that time with them.
Job’s story ends with his words indeed written, printed in a book, for ever. And the ultimate person he seeks after, if all his friends fail him, is the redeemer he knows “liveth”. SO, Remember who’s child you are, and while there is opportunity to do good, do it. But if none return the good you do, look not upon it, but look to the one who joys and sorrows with you each and every day.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ, if you are even unsure if you are truly a saved, born again child of God, then today is an opportunity to change your life.
There was an event, an interesting event, that occurred in the book of Acts that fits well both with the Gospel and with this topic this morning, we will close on this.
Turn to Acts 16:25
25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. 29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.