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Pointers along the way #691

The empathetic Christian

- Jacob Ninan

The righteousness and the mercy of God met perfectly together on the cross. They hardly do that in our practical lives. By our natural temperament we tend to lean more towards righteousness or mercy than the other. As we begin to grow in the Lord, we may sometimes switch between righteousness and mercy, but we rarely get them balanced. It is one of the marks of maturity that we move towards a balance in these opposite looking virtues. Another example could be about 'not judging' (meaning not condemning or despising others) and 'judging righteously' (forming a balanced assessment about people or situations) (Mt.7:1;Jn.7:24). We may find ourselves more on one side of the argument than the other!

It becomes interesting when two of us are on opposite sides of the tension. When one of us is emphasising the need for righteousness and the other on mercy, the arguments can become really hot! Both of us think that we are on the right track, and we have got verses to back us! Think of two parents discussing about whether to overlook a child's mistake or to be firm about it. What is lacking is the ability to look beyond ourselves and to see things from the other's point of view. That can start only when we are convinced that there are truths outside of our own experience, or, in other words, truth is not confined to what we have gone through. The multi-sided aspects of truth or wisdom can only be explored if we are willing to look beyond ourselves.

Empathy is one of the most important requirements of a counsellor. It is the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of another and understand how they feel and what they think. One who tries to counsel another without empathy tends to tell the other person that such and such is what they have gone through in their own life and that it is what the other should do. The mistake is not realising that each of us is different, and how we look at things may not describe another person's point of view. This is not easy if we have gone through tough situations and made certain choices, because then we may insist that everyone else also should make the same choices.

Our goal should be to become like Christ in a well-rounded manner and not to become a specialist in any one aspect of life (Co.1:28). We should become righteous but equally merciful too. Wisdom is to know when to show what, and how much of one and how much of the other are needed in different situations.

If you think this doesn't apply to you, the chances are that you need it seriously! Let us have our eyes opened to see how unlike Christ we are before we can proceed to become like Him. This also needs balance -- to see how unlike we are like Christ in our thinking and behaviour and also to recognise that we God has accepted us as if we were perfect! The next time we have a conflict with another, let us learn to listen to him more and understand his world better. Perhaps then we can also learn to help him better (Mt.7:3-5).


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