Laying our rocks down
Grit and Grace
September 3, 2022
Empathy is an important skill for us to develop in all of our relationships. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. In the scriptures there is a story of how Jesus showed empathy with his presence and posture, and with his keen ability to listen to a situation and discern it as it unfolded before him. Religious leaders brought a woman who had been caught in an immoral act, which they believed deserved capital punishment. They had a Bible verse to prove it! The Law of Moses prescribed that they throw big stones on her until she died. There was a “lesser” severe punishment, depending on the exact marital status of the woman.
They put her in the middle of everyone standing around Jesus so she would be the center of embarrassment. They said to Jesus, “The Law of Moses is very clear about what we should do to this woman, but what do you say?” They were testing Jesus so they would have a reason of accusing him. If he would have said, “Go ahead and stone her,” then he would be charged with endorsing action contrary to Roman law. If he does not say to stone her, he would be going against Moses.
Jesus showed how to show empathy with his body language, his gestures, the tone of his voice and his ability to stay neutral. He neither condoned nor condemned. Notice how Jesus shows empathy to this woman. He identifies with her by stooping down to the ground and placing himself on her level. He then wrote something on the ground. We can only speculate what he wrote. All the while the people persisted in their badgering him to know what he was going to say. He stood up and he said, “Any of you without sin go ahead and be the first to throw the first stone at her.” Immediately they dropped their rocks and the crowd dispersed.
Jesus teaches us an important attitude for showing empathy with others. We must be non-judgmental. We must lay our rocks down! There is a misconception about empathy going around today. The misconception is that, if we listen to someone who disagrees with us or if we are even kind to someone who differs from us, we are agreeing with their views or condoning their actions. That is not empathy. For empathy to take place we must suspend our judgmental views of another in order to put ourselves in their shoes and gain an understanding of their perspective. That’s exactly what Jesus did in this story. He then looked at the woman and said to her, “Where are your accusers? Did they not condemn you?” She replied, “No one, Lord.” Jesus concluded, “I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and sin no more.” One day I was teaching this story to one of my classes and a student raised her hand and shared this thought. She said, “Jesus was the only real one in the story without sin. If anyone could have thrown a stone at her it was him but he didn’t judge her.”
We could all do better at listening to one another. Empathy is a bridge to healing and restoration from small scale personal issues in our life, all the way up to national and global problems. Listening well is an important Christian quality to have. James says, “This you know, my beloved brothers and sisters, that everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” We might ask, “Why slow to anger James?” He says, “Because anger does not achieve the righteousness of God.” It’s listening to each other that does that!
Join us for our 51st anniversary at Mountain Bible Church at 630 Maple St. on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. Also, keep your eye out for details about our 6th annual Pumpkin Patch in October. There will be lots of family fun activities and field trips for kids in local schools. Is your 6th-12th grader looking for a youth group to attend on Wednesday nights? Join us at 6 p.m. for a biblical message, games, small groups and a community that respects the individual spiritual growth and faith journey of each person.
Youth Group (6th-12th grade) is on Wednesday nights from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the student building. Games, food, fun, music and message.
Chris Frost is the pastor of The Mountain Bible Church of Tehachapi, and an on-call chaplain at Adventist Health Hospital where he teaches a monthly Empathy training class. He is a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary (ThM) and has spoken at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland and worked on projects with Lexham Press and Kregel Academic and is published in Bibliotheca Sacra. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.