June 30th Weekly Meditation
As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them… (Mark 6:34a)
This is one of my favorite “Jesus Stories” in the Bible. He and his disciples were trying to get away from the crowds and have a little alone time, so they got in a boat and headed off to a “deserted place.” However, the crowd found them and flocked there and when Jesus went ashore, “he saw a great crowd.”
Has anything like that ever happened to you? Maybe not a great crowd but perhaps you were trying to get away, have a little alone time, maybe a romantic getaway, but life intervened. Maybe one of the kids got sick, or you were needed at work. In our house, it will often be a funeral. Funerals have changed many plans in our house.
I have to admit I have not always responded to these interruptions as Jesus did. When Jesus saw the crowds, “he had compassion for them.” He did not curse them, shout at them, tell them to go away and leave him alone. He had compassion for them, and he sat down and began to do what Jesus does: he began to teach. And later, when the crowds were hungry, Jesus’ compassion ran deeper still. In answer to his disciples wanting to send the crowds away, he said no, we will feed them.
Sara Konrath is an Associate Professor at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and lately she has been doing research on empathy. Empathy, as she defines it, “is the ability to imagine other people’s perspectives and worlds and respond with caring, compassion and concern.”
In a nutshell what Konrath and other researchers have found is that empathy is on the decline in our society, especially among young people. Not surprisingly, she also reports a rise in narcissism. There are many reasons and more research needs to be done, but when I read about her work, I couldn’t help but think, “Yes. I have seen it, too.” We seem less and less able to walk in another’s shoes and imagine what it may be like for them, especially those whose experience is different from our own.
Jesus’ response to the crowds, and to the sick, and to the poor, and to anyone he encountered who were in need shows us how empathy is at the heart of Christianity. We, too, as disciples of Jesus Christ, ought to show the same care, compassion, and concern for others.
Konrath does have some suggestions to raise our empathy. She says reading fiction is a good start. Taking care of a pet or a baby or small child also increases empathy as we have to learn how to understand their wants when they cannot express them clearly. Perhaps the best way is to just imagine; imagine what another person’s life may be like, especially someone different from you like an immigrant, or a person of color, or someone with a disability. Once we can imagine what it might be like for someone else, then we can respond in a Christ-like way; we can see their need and have compassion, just as Jesus did.
Worship This Week
Thursday, July 2, 6:30pm, on the north sidewalk
Sunday, July 5, 9am in the Peace Garden and on Facebook Live
If you choose to join us in person, please wear a mask and practice social distancing
Keep In Prayer:
Lorrie Watkins; Our shut-ins: Harriett Ryerson, Kate Shelley, Dot Ann Smith, Nora Smith, Helen Payne