It Takes Humility and Empathy

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In yesterday’s devotional, we read eight ways to open the door to honest conversation. Today, I want to look at the first three:

1)         Simply be a listener.
2)        Don’t try to fix them or the situation.
3)        Be present.

So often in our conversations (with anyone), we don’t really listen—we just wait for our turn to talk. Instead, we need to listen to understand, not just respond—especially when their perspective is very different from our own.

Unfortunately, some people, including Christians, “have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2).

It’s tragic, because that’s simply not how Jesus would respond—and as Christians, we’re called to respond as he would. Jesus  often sat across the table and shared meals with others who were different from him.  Jesus listened with genuine empathy. The heart of Jesus is to love all people on earth, and you can’t do that if you’re not willing to take a step outside of your bubble, engage with people who are different from you, and listen with humility and a genuine desire to understand.

We know Jesus would respond with humility and empathy because he does it time and time again. One example can be found in John 11 where we see an interaction between Jesus and Mary after her brother Lazarus’ death.

John 11:33-35
33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept.

Jesus wept—it’s the shortest verse in the Bible, but it’s powerful. It reveals God’s heart. Jesus knew he would restore Lazarus’ life, but even still, it caused him great pain to see Mary’s and the mourners’ despair. He listened, he heard the hurts of others, and he responded with empathy.

Unlike Jesus, we don’t know everything and we can’t see everything. Our all-knowing, all-powerful God stopped to understand those around him, be present in the moment, and be humble enough to feel genuine empathy instead of immediately trying to fix the problem—so who are we to think, when others share their perspectives with us, that we have the answers and solutions? We need to enter difficult situations with humility: having “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.” If God himself isn’t too important to show humility, clearly neither are we.

It takes humility to have difficult conversations, especially about racism, and to genuinely listen—to understand and not just to respond. Hear their hurts. Have empathy. It may not be easy, but know that Jesus is with you, weeping with you. He wants us to heal, to mend our broken relationships. If we are willing to take that first step of humility, God will change our minds and open our eyes to the kind of relationships only love can rebuild.

Do you usually listen to respond or to understand? What does it look like to listen with the goal of understanding?

What humbling step do you need to take to mend a relationship with someone who looks and speaks differently than you do?

What does it reveal about God’s heart that he weeps for broken relationships?

How do you think God would change your mind and open your eyes if you were to take that step of humility?

Next Steps:
Put yourself in situations to meet people who look differently than you. Take a step to better understand or grow a relationship with someone who doesn’t look like you or may have differing viewpoints.

Journal about your pride and what keeps you from humility. Instead of turning away from someone who looks and speaks differently than you do, respond differently—treat them like Jesus would.

Dear Jesus, it excites your heart when you see the people of the church love different people of the earth—when they have conversations with others who have different perspectives and experiences than they do. It is a hard thing to step into. It takes letting go of pride and stepping into humility to sit across from different people. I pray that you will search my heart and reveal any root of pride that I refuse to let go of. I pray for a spirit of humility to take a step to mend a relationship with someone who is different. I pray that I could respond differently and be like Jesus and that this step of humility would change my heart and my mind. In Jesus’ name, amen.

This post was written by the LivingItOut team.

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2 replies
  1. Jaron Camp
    Jaron Camp says:

    I love the statement about not needing a fixer. A lot of times, we only want someone to listen and gain understanding.

  2. Julie Estep
    Julie Estep says:

    I listen, I hear. I don’t always understand. People are passionate about what’s happening in our society today. They think theirs is the only opinion that matters and that theirs is the only truth. I love them where they are and pray. I usually dont engage unless I feel lead by the spirit. I know I can’t change them, only God has the power to change hearts.

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