Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert: The Costly Price of Empathy

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For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

“Therefore, if you aspire to be a son of consolation — if you would partake of the priestly gift of sympathy — if you would pour something beyond common-place consolation into a tempted heart — if you would pass through the daily intercourse of daily life with the delicate tact which never inflicts pain — if, to that most acute of human ailments, mental doubt, you are ever to give effectual succor, you must be content to pay the price of the costly education. Like Him, you must suffer — being tempted.”

Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 574.

As a CEO, I am asking God to help me grow in empathy. To this point, the Spirit has led me to build a “with you” culture in the GTP organization. This comes into view as a community of servants who appear as sons and daughters of consolation. We come alongside ministry administrators in need and assist them.

As I dig deeper into empathy and its relationship to generosity, I find it calls for a willingness to suffer in unexpected ways. I am experiencing this in real time.

For example, at present, I am teaching my online course, Faith and Finances, at Asian Theological Seminary and one student confessed fear and worry linked to obeying the teachings of Jesus on money. Others concurred. At that point, though I know the truth that can set them free from fear and worry, I determined first to meet them in their place of fear and worry. It’s actually really hard to do.

If I dismiss this situation, they remain locked in sin and shame. But, only when I allow myself to feel the same temptation, do I help them bear this burden and discover the freedom only found in Jesus. I can’t do this for everyone but can serve those God puts in my path. This is a costly price because we have to humble ourselves, and meet people where they are struggling.

This is priceless generosity. I have a long way to go in this area. Perhaps you do too? With God’s help, let us meet people where they are with the love of Christ and give the gift of empathy.