Empathy is rarely seen in our impersonal world today. It is a trait that when exhibited is noticed because of its rarity. A trait that is a gift to those who receive it. A trait that is perfectly displayed in the life of Christ.

Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to another person’s thoughts, feelings and experiences… and to view them from the other person’s perspective instead of one’s own. Empathetic people display sympathy, kindness, compassion and sensitivity… showing love, care and concern toward others… desiring to help, comfort and alleviate any suffering.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet He did not sin.” – Hebrews 4:15

There is no greater model of empathy than our Lord Jesus. Empathy is essential to His being. He is our Intercessor at the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is our Defender who Himself endured trials and temptation as the Son of Man on earth. He is our Mediator who perfectly represents us, for He knows and understands all our weaknesses.

Because of His omniscience, Jesus is aware of our every thought, motive, feeling and attitude. Nothing is hidden from Him. He understands exactly our life situations and emotional connections. He discerns the essence of our behavior… and has compassion beyond measure.

Who could better empathize with us than the One who knows us so intimately? Jesus walks with us in our trying times. He heals our brokenness, comforts us in our sorrow, bears our burdens, leads us away from temptation and gives us His peace. Through it all, He never stops loving us.

“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” – Matthew 11:5

Jesus’ deep love and concern for all mankind was expressed throughout His earthly ministry. He manifested His heart of empathy in many miraculous acts. He related genuinely to the hurting and the suffering from all walks of life. Scripture tells of countless ways Jesus offered His gift of empathy. Here is just a snapshot…

Jesus looked on the crowds with compassion, healing all their sick… for He saw them as sheep without a Shepherd. He healed several on the Sabbath who were suffering, recognizing their worth to be of more importance than the laws of the Pharisees. He dared to reach out to the leper with His healing touch. He mercifully spared a woman from being stoned because of her life of sin. He wept with the grieving Mary and Martha at the grave of Lazarus before He miraculously raised the dead man to life.

“As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” – Colossians 3:12

How are we to offer our gift of empathy with the heart of Christ to those in our world?

†   See each person as God sees them – Every person is a unique creation of God, treasured by Him. Yet each are fighting their own personal battles. You may never know what someone is truly going through. Their outward behavior may or may not reflect their inner turmoil. How you respond has the potential to either make or break their day.

†   Step outside of your comfort zone – Reaching out with a heart of empathy can mean the world to someone in need. Yet it may take you beyond your comfort zone. Focus on them not yourself. Try to connect emotionally without taking on their emotions. Look to the Spirit’s leading.

†   Listen with attention and intention – Put aside your own busyness, concerns, troubles. Recognize their need to be heard… without judgment or a problem-solving agenda. Respect their feelings. Show them you care. Listen with your ears and your heart.

†   Understand their frame of reference – Try to see through their eyes… to view what they are experiencing from their perspective, their point of view. It is not about what you would do, but what would be best for them to do. Offer advice only if asked.

†   Show them the love of Christ – Like Jesus, walk in love. Give grace as He so graciously gives to you. Turn the conversation heavenward. Offer prayer. Remind them of God’s divine plan unfolding in their lives… a promise of hope and a blessed future.

“We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

As followers of Jesus, we are to emulate Him. Will you offer your gift of empathy to someone in need in your world? Will you step beyond your comfort zone and reach out with the heart of Christ? Will you show them His love, His mercy, His comfort, His hope?