The Power of Empathy
Remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison. Hebrews 13:3
Put on the R70i Age Suit and you immediately feel forty years older as you experience impaired vision, hearing loss, and reduced mobility. The Age Suit was designed to help caregivers better understand their patients. Wall Street Journal correspondent Geoffrey Fowler wore one and wrote, “The unforgettable, and at times distressing, experience shed light not just on aging, but also how virtual reality equipment can teach empathy and shape our perceptions of the world around us.”
Empathy is the power to understand and share the feelings of another. During a time of severe persecution against the followers of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews urged fellow believers to “continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (13:3).
This is exactly what our Savior has done for us. Jesus was made like us, “fully human in every way . . . that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (2:17–18).
Christ the Lord, who became like us, calls us to stand with others “as if [we] were together with them” during their time of need.
Hebrews 2:17–18 tell us that Jesus had to take all human suffering and sin upon Himself to both understand and heal humanity. But is it possible for each of us to truly empathize and help believers who are suffering? Hebrews suggests “yes,” noting that the church is the family of God (2:10–14; 13:1). In a loving family, emotional ties are so strong that when another family member suffers, everyone suffers right with them (13:3). Similarly, Paul argues that because believers are united in Christ as one body through His Spirit, when anyone suffers, everyone is affected (1 Cor. 12:26). Yet the church’s uniquely powerful love should also be extended to “strangers” outside the church (Heb. 13:2), for each believer was loved by God while still an outsider (Rom. 5:8).
How does strengthening relationships within the church enable more effective outreach to those outside the faith?