I continue to see writings about “untethered empathy,” “untethered compassion,” or the “sin of empathy.” Each time I think this viewpoint might die down, another blog post or Twitter tweet arises.

So, reluctantly—because I prefer avoiding such controversies—I’m going to wade in. Here’s why:

The Bible consistently rebukes untethered truth especially when addressing how leaders minister to God’s flock.

Or, said positively:

The Bible consistently commands that shepherds always tether truth with love, comfort, compassion, tender care, and empathy—like Jesus.

The Bible Rebukes Untethered Truth: A Brief Bullet Point Biblical Journey 

Let’s take a bullet point look at how the Bible blends truth and love with an emphasis on warning shepherds to tether truth to love, compassion, and empathy for their flock.

  1. Jesus reserves His most fierce rebuke for non-caring, unempathetic shepherds who talk truth but “tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4).
  1. Jesus rebukes pastors-shepherds-leaders who neglect “the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24, emphasis added).
  1. In the context of cross-cultural relationships that model how Kingdom citizens relate to people from different cultures, Jesus commands and commends pity, compassion, mercy, and cross-cultural active empathy (Luke 10:25-37).
  1. Paul, in the context of pastoral shepherding, warns that we must tether truth to love: “but speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). We must tether truth to agape love—Jesus-like sacrificial, giving, caring, compassionate love.
  1. Paul, in the context of pastoral ministry, insists that we must not give God’s people only Scripture, but also our own souls. “But we were gentle among you, just like a nursing mother caring for her own children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well because you were dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8).
  1. In the context of how to relate to one another in the church, Paul warns against untethered truth. “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
  1. In the context of how to exercise mutual ministry in the church, and in the context of teaching truth with the eloquence of angels, Paul warns against untethered truth. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angles, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

In the context of pastoral training through the Pastoral Epistles—the seminary of the day:

  1. Paul insists that the goal of truth-telling is love. Love is the telos, our purpose in shepherding. “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
  1. Paul describes the inner character of God’s shepherds: not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, but taking care tenderly of God’s flock (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
  1. Paul commands pastoral leaders not to have “anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments” but to be “the Lord’s servant” who “must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone.” Opponents “must be gently instructed” (2 Timothy 2:23-25).

The Trinity embodies Shepherding Care that is compassionate, comforting, sympathetic, and empathetic:

  1. God the Father is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Our Father never untethers compassion and comfort from truth.
  1. God the Son is our Sympathetic High Priest who is able “to empathize with our weaknesses” and from whom “we receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). Our Savior never untethers empathy, mercy, help, and grace from truth.
  1. God the Spirit is our groaning Encourager Who groans with us in our suffering (Romans 8:17-27) and Who never leaves us as orphans but comes along side of us and inside of us to help us in our time of need (John 14-16).
  1. Jesus embodies the perfect tethered infinite blending of truth and love—“full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
  1. In the context of applying gospel truth (Romans 1-11) to daily life (Romans 12-16), Paul highlights empathy as a core Christian calling: “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).

16. In the context of the spiritual maturity of the body of Christ, Christians are commanded and encouraged to empathize with one another. “But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it so that there should be no division in the body, but that it parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Corinthians 12:24-26).

Let’s Put Our Emphasis Where the Bible Does 

Yes, of course, truth is essential, vital, foundational.

Yes, of course, love is essential, vital, foundational. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hand on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Yes, of course, truth and love/care/compassion/empathy must be tethered together.

Within the contexts of church shepherding leadership and the context of daily Christian relationships, the Bible emphasizes warnings against the danger of untethering truth from love, compassion, comfort, care, concern, and empathy.

Let’s put our emphasis where the Bible does—on rebuking the error of untethering truth from loving empathy.

Join the Conversation 

I awoke at 2 AM thinking about this topic. From 2-3 AM I crafted these 16 initial bullet points. I’m sure they’ll grow over time.

What additional biblical passages would you add that demonstrate that the Bible highlights warnings against the danger of untethering truth from love, compassion, comfort, care, concern, and empathy?

The post The Sin of Untethered Truth appeared first on RPM Ministries.

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