First of all I’d like to acknowledge that what happened is a tragedy for all involved. The Browns lost a loved one and a police officer was put in the terrible position of taking a life. There is plenty of grief to go around.
What this article will discuss is what I believe to be a much bigger issue altogether. That being how do we love and relate to someone with whom we differ. Specifically, loving and relating to a person who suggests incidents have negative racial undertones in which we deem race is irrelevant.
For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. -Hebrews 4:15
Finally, all [of you] should be of one and the same mind (united in spirit), sympathizing [with one another], loving [each other] as brethren [of one household], compassionate and courteous (tenderhearted and humble). -1 Peter 3:8
Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]. -Romans 12:15
There’s nothing more Jesus could’ve done to love and ascribe worth to us than by dying on the cross. It’s clear that Jesus states that those who love him will love others as well (John 13:35).
We are to love and ascribe worth to others just as Jesus did for us. Based on the cross, 1 Cor. 13, and the passages above (and many others like them) it’s reasonable to say that sympathy and empathy play an important role in loving and relating to others no matter what the circumstance.
But we can almost hear the collective groan and see eyes role when race is said to have played a roll in incidents like Ferguson. The reaction by many is annoyance, anger and entirely dismissive. Again, let me say that whether or not race has a role is not the point of this article. Our reaction is.
How do we sympathize and empathize with a minority, claiming race played a role in which we say it didn’t? Some might say, “Well, I just think about what I might do if I were him/her.” That’s great but what many of us mean is that we’ll imaginatively move our own thoughts, ideas, and life experiences into their bodies. I’d argue we’re missing the mark.
Thabiti Anyabwile writes in this article,
“After all, none of us can peer with omniscience into the hearts and minds of other people and conclude infallibly what they were feeling or thinking. We must leave that to God—unless the persons themselves confess such a motivation.”
Of course we’re unable to peer with omniscience into the hearts of others but the effort is worth so much. In order to truly sympathize and empathize we need to try and understand the other persons ideas, thoughts, and life experiences. We need to take off the lens through which we view the world and put theirs on. Only then can we relate. Only then will the other person feel loved and heard.
Ahhh yes. The need to be heard. Facts are irrelevant when it comes to this need. They really are. What one views as fact the other disagrees with. The key is finding out why. How are they getting from A to B? Why do they feel race is an issue? Could it be that racism isn’t as dissolved as we think? Could it be that our black neighbor has had to deal with pressures and experiences we’ve never been caught up in? Racial diversity is even still a struggle in the church for goodness sake.
“Sometimes I wonder how we get so up in arms and culturally empathetic with people in other countries. But can’t do that in our own backyard. We rushed to Haiti. We Adopt in Asia. We empathize with Africa. But struggle to humanize our struggles here in the states.” -Lecrae
There are few better ways to make a person feel unloved than to dismiss what their reality says is true. There are also few better ways to make a person feel loved than to listen and truly make the effort to understand their perspective.
Jesse and Kara Birkey
Jesse and Kara Birkey are committed lovers of Jesus who seek to show others the extraordinary life of Jesus is available for everyone. They have authored two books, been featured in films and seek to serve the Lord in whatever ways they can. Follow their blog here.
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Life Resurrected, Extraordinary Miracles through Ordinary People has been endorsed by Sid Roth and Mark Virkler and is a collection of inspiring stories making it clear that the extraordinary life of Jesus is available to all who love Him. It’s also the testimony of Jesse’s life, the road he travelled bringing him into the arms of Jesus. Get the paperback here. Get the Kindle Version Here. View the trailer here.
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