Empathy Isn’t Theology

"The Struggle is Real" Is Not Theology

good friend

When confronted with a clash between what one believes and what one feels experientially, it is increasingly common to hear someone respond, “I use to believe that, until I met a…”, “Why don’t you get to know a…before you…, or, “We don’t have any right to say that if we haven’t walked in their shoes.” Such logic would be laughed at if applied to any other sphere of ethics–and bears a stronger resemblance to Edwin Friedman’s description of the chronically anxious society than the Kingdom of God.

All of this used to be most common in Millenials, but it has become an cross-generational phenomenon. If I express disagreement with someone about the morality of behavior in someone or a group of people–it is almost a reflex for those who disagree with me to respond, “Maybe you should try getting to know someone who…” As though I don’t already (because if I did I certainly would see it their way), and as though that would somehow alter the actual morality of the person’s behavior.

Empathy and/or experience as its own truth. Hmmmm…

Relationship (and the experience of it) is nearly always a good thing. It can increase our understanding, round out our perspectives, and cause us to be wiser and gentler in how we hold and convey our beliefs. However…

It doesn’t actually change what is true.

“The struggle is real,” is not theology. It is many things–even positive things–but it does not change what is actually true. Empathy and experience become our enemy when they form a funnel or filter through which any truth must fit. Of course this all assumes we Christians really do care about the truth.

Truth and lack of relationship can exist at the same time.

Relationship and truth can also co-exist…and do so most beautifully.

Truth and love can and must go together. As Paul says of love, ““it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:6)

Perhaps we should strive to empathize less with each other more with God–the true intersection of truth and love.

 

 

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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