So a couple of days ago over on Twitter, where I continue to fly just underneath the radar, I broke the Internet. Of course, I made the fatal mistake of thinking, “Folks will think before reacting” (duh), “Folks will look up the terms and see what I’m talking about” (duh), “People will realize there is a background to what I’m saying” (duh again). Instead, articles were written, and once again, I was written off as a waste of flesh…nearly 40 years of ministry gone! What on earth did I say?
Well, actually, one tweet did not get much traction, but the other did, yet they were related. Here they are:
Jesus endured all the trauma needed to accomplish redemption and reconciliation.
Dragging your emotional trauma into the fellowship and making everyone else feel guilty for it is the perfect poison for the Body.
Get over yourself.
It’s all about HIM, not YOU.
That was the first one. Pretty basic, back to the Scythian Test, Colossians 3, new identity in Christ, freedom from the past, newness of life in Christ, Christian identity rather than a worldly one, basis of unity for the Body, all that stuff that is currently being rejected even by the evangelical elites. But then came the next one, the one which broke the Internet:
When you start with man as image-bearing creature of God, you can understand why sympathy is good, but empathy is sinful.
Do not surrender our mind to the sinful emotional responses of others.
Now, fact of the matter is, I packed more than sufficient context into those two sentences to have stopped 95% of the absurd blow-back that came my way IF people were not already fully infected with the “empathy is required of everyone and is how you are loving” balderdash of a rapidly dying culture. I mean, check it out:
1) I made the context that of creation, with man as the image bearer—the exact opposite of the secular worldview. Should have been a context-setter.
2) I asserted a direct contrast between the goodness of sympathy and the sinfulness of empathy.
3) I then made it clear what is sinful about this use of empathy: if involves the surrender of our minds to the sinful emotional responses of others.
Plenty there to explain the point? With just a little reflection, yes.
But all you need to do is read through even some of the around 200 comments (let alone all the sub-tweets, and even an article by some guy named John Reasnor) and you will see that the majority who read the tweet either lacked the capacity, or willingness, to listen to it and think about it. Now, it is Twitter, and that is part of the program there, in all honesty. Who really makes the effort to think before responding with emotion?
So allow me to briefly expand. Man is God’s creature. God has created man with a mind, the capacity to think, to reflect, to meditate. Man is told to be disciplined in these things. In fact, the greatest commandment is not “feelings, nothing more than feelings,” but is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” You do not give that commandment to your cat, or your Siamese fighting fish. Man has the capacity to direct his passions, control his passions, rule over his passions, and the first two commandments (love your neighbor as yourself) prove it.
So I am actually functioning on the radical idea that God lays out for His creature man laws and guidelines and we are to live within them, seeking to love God and think His thoughts after Him, glorifying Him by living in His creation as He has commanded. And yes, I believe man is to master, control, and utilize his emotional life in light of divine truth. We are not to be mastered by our emotions.
So what is the problem with empathy today? We are, in fact, told to weep with those who weep, but that assumes those who weep have a reason for weeping that is in line with God’s revelation. We are not to weep with the drug dealer who accidentally drops his stash down the storm drain in New York City. We are not to weep with the bank robber who botches the job and ends up in the slammer. We are, plainly, to exercise control even in our sympathy. We are not to sympathize with sin, nor are we to sympathize with rebellion, or evil.
But the new cultural (and it has flown into the church as well) orthodoxy is: you shall empathize. You shall enter into the emotions of others AND YOU SHALL NOT MAKE JUDGMENTS ABOUT SAID EMOTIONS. By so doing YOU SHALL VALIDATE ALL HUMAN EXPERIENCES AS SUPREME. The greatest sin of all today is to say, “The emotions that person is experiencing are the result of sinful rebellion against God, and hence do not require my validation, support, or celebration.” HOW DARE YOU! That is the great rule I stepped upon, and must now pay the price.
The Great Empathy Commandment has been very useful in the degradation of Christian morals and ethics, let alone evangelism, pastoral counseling, etc. Sixty years ago it was almost unthinkable that the Christian people would, by a majority, think homosexuality a “gift from God,” but that is the case today. Why? Empathy. “Walk a mile in their shoes. Consider their life. ENTER INTO their emotional experience.” Then it went from simple homosexuality to the redefining of marriage. Now, polyamory, polygamy. And with 2015, every form of gender-destroying “experience.” You must empathize. You must “enter in” or your are “unloving.” Already the push to empathize with those who naturally experience “intergenerational love” (pedophiles) is in the academy and the culture. Marrying your cat or your Siamese fighting fish is just around the corner. Just empathize with the experience. Validate it. Then submit.
I did not intend to write a book, but let me point out the obvious. For a Christian, especially within the fellowship, we are to love one another. And it is that commandment to love which precludes sinful empathy. When I see a brother or sister who is experiencing what they call “trauma,” and I first (before diving in with them) inquire as to the source of said trauma, and then discover it is rooted in rebellion, in sin, or in simple ignorance of God’s truth, the LAST thing they need from me is the validation of their emotional responses. They need me to stay OUT of their emotions, stay firmly planted on solid ground, and reach out of hand of help. I can sympathize with their situation, but I cannot ENTER their emotions, not if I actually love them. But that’s a definition of love which is about as heretical in today’s culture, and, sadly, in today’s church, as my heretical tweet above.