A Word from Bob 

You’re reading Part 6 of a blog mini-series on empathy.

Mini-Series Introduction 

There’s been some controversy in evangelical Christian circles the past year about “empathy,” with some even saying “empathy is sinful.” For 36 years (since 1985), I’ve equipped God’s people for compassionate, empathetic one-another care. This issue has been important to me long before the current controversy. In this blog series, rather than giving you a negative critique of those who say, “empathy is sinful,” I’m providing a positive presentation of what the Bible says about one-another care. And, rather than “re-inventing the wheel,” I’m taking this series from the culmination of 36 years of thinking about this, as summarized in my equipping book, Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ.

Feedback and Pushback 

I’ve been quite encouraged by the positive feedback on this mini-series. For example, I asked on Facebook and Twitter if people would be interested in my collating this series into a free PDF. In response, I had more “likes” and positive comments than on most anything I’ve written about!

At the same time, one or maybe two people have said something like:

“Okay. You’ve covered empathy. Now, isn’t it time to move on from ‘this love stuff’ and write about ‘some truth stuff’?”

I actually like when people “pushback.” It encourages me to think more deeply and to engage a topic even more biblically.

All Biblical Truth Is Theological Truth 

So today’s post is an extra, unplanned, post in this mini-series. First, here’s what I’m wanting to communicate in a “big picture” way:

Second, here’s what I’m wanting to communicate specifically in today’s post:

Empathy & Systematic Theology 

In classical, historical systematic theology, there are 10 primary doctrinal areas. Quickly and briefly, let’s see how several of those systematic theology categories address empathy.

  1. Theology Proper: The Doctrine of God the Father

We saw in Part 5, The Trinity As Our Model for Empathy, how God the Father models empathy.

  1. Christology: The Doctrine of God the Son

We saw in Part 5, The Trinity As Our Model for Empathy, how God the Son models empathy.

  1. Pneumatology: The Doctrine of God the Holy Spirit

We saw in Part 5, The Trinity As Our Model for Empathy, how God the Spirit models empathy.

  1. Soteriology: The Doctrine of Salvation

We saw Part 5, The Trinity As Our Model for Empathy, how Christ as our Savior and High Priest relates to us with empathy.

  1. Hamartiology: The Doctrine of Sin

Here’s where I want to focus a bit more time.

Jesus clearly saw and taught the deep impact of sin—and the suffering it causes, and the empathy that is therefore needed.

“In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

“Trouble”—to be pressed, squeezed, squashed, crushed by the weight of the fallen world which falls on us—suffering.

It is within Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” in John 13-17, that Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit as our Parakaletic Comforter/Counselor who dwells within us to empathize with us, encourage us, enlighten us, and empower us (John 14-16).

Paul clearly saw and taught the deep impact of sin—and the suffering it causes, and the empathy that is therefore needed. In Romans 8:17-25, Paul highlights the cosmic, universal suffering that all creation—especially humanity—suffers and endures. We groan inwardly as in the pains of childbirth (8:22-23). It is within this context that the Holy Spirit empathizes with us as He intercedes for us through wordless groans (8:26).

Empathy is necessary because of the doctrine of hamartiology. In other writings, I’ve called this the doctrine of sufferology—the biblical/theological teaching on the cause, care, and cure of suffering.

  1. Eschatology: The Doctrine of Last Times/Eternal Life 

Within Romans 8:17-27 and this theological context of the Spirit’s empathetic groaning with us and for us, Paul highlights eschatology. “…the glory that will be revealed in us…” (8:18). “…the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God…” (8:21). “…we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies…” (8:23).

As we’ll do in Part 7 of this series, Paul relates empathy for current suffering to encouragement provided by future hope.

Empathy is taught throughout the various systematic theology doctrines…

Empathy Is at the Heart of Paul’s Theology—Romans 8 

Theologians ancient (the Church Fathers, Luther, Calvin) and modern (Sproul, Piper, Packer) have declared Romans to be the most richly theological biblical book. Those same theologians have described Romans 8 as the pinnacle of Pauline theology.

And what did we just see Paul address in Romans 8? Romans 8 highlights:

What can we conclude from this?

Empathy Is at the Heart of Paul’s Application of the Theological Truths of Romans 1-11 

In Romans 12, Paul moves from the “theological indicatives” (truths about Christ, salvation, and our Christian lives in Christ) to the “theological imperatives” (truths about how we then shall live in and for Christ).

He begins, “therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy…” (Romans 12:1). In view of every theological truth that Paul taught in Romans 1-11, how should we live?

What answer do we find just a few verses into this theologically-rich application section?

“…mourn with those who mourn…” (Romans 12:15).

The Greek word behind “mourn” means to weep with, to share grief with, to lament with. It comes from a powerful, intense root word meaning to weep aloud, to express uncontainable, audible grief. It’s used in other biblical passages for weeping and wailing; even for screaming out our grief. It denotes bewailing on behalf of another—mourning for and with others.

“Mourn” is synonymous with words that mean to howl, to wail, to cry out in a dirge or lament—to give verbal expression of grief on behalf of another. It is to express grief by inarticulate or semi-articulate sounds—to groan.

Empathy is at the heart of Paul’s grand theological truths as expressed in Romans 1-11 and as applied in Romans 12.

The Rest of the Story 

Join us for Part 7, where we’ll explore:

Join the Conversation

Given that the Bible clearly emphasizes empathy as a rich theological truth, why do you think some people minimize the theological richness of the biblical teaching on empathy?

The post Empathy Is Theological Truth: Empathy Is Biblical, Part 6 appeared first on RPM Ministries.

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