A man put up a sign in his yard that read: “Puppies for Sale.” Among those who came to inquire was a young boy.
“Please, Mister,” he said, “I’d like to buy one of your puppies if they don’t cost too much.”
“Well, son, they’re $25.”
The boy looked crushed. “I’ve only got two dollars and five cents. Could I see them anyway?”
“Of course. Maybe we can work something out,” said the man.
The lad’s eyes danced at the sight of those five little balls of fur. “I heard that one has a bad leg,” he said.
“Yes, I’m afraid she’ll be crippled for life.”
“Well, that’s the puppy I want. Could I pay for her a little at a time?”
The man responded, “But she’ll always have a limp.”
Smiling bravely, the boy pulled up one pant leg, revealing a brace. “I don’t walk good either.” Then, looking at the puppy sympathetically, he continued, “I guess she’ll need a lot of love and help. I sure did. It’s not so easy being crippled.”
“Here, take her,” said the man. “I know you’ll give her a good home. And just forget the money.”
Sympathy is our word of the week.
Christians are called to be people of sympathy . The Bible exhorts, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1Pet 3:8, ESV)
The Greek word means “to suffer with another.” Vincent says it is not limited to sorrow, but is the interchange of feelings for fellow human being, whether or joy or sorrow. It is the application behind Paul’s command, “Rejoice with those that rejoice; and weep with those that weep.
Sympathy involves compassion . Empathy. Understanding. It really does feel the pain of another. To better understand sympathy and learn how to be sympathetic take a look at Christ.
Luke tells about a time Jesus came into the city of Nain and witnessed a funeral procession. A widow woman’s only son had died. A large crowd of people followed. “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then Jesus opened the coffin. And raised the boy to life again. (Lk. 7:12-14).
The classic example of sympathy is Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. A man was journeying the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Thieves attacked him. Beat him up. Stole his possession. And left him dying.
After two religious leaders passed by, a Priest and Levite, Jesus says, “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him” (Lk. 10:33) But we learn here that sympathy is more than just a feeling. It is moves us to action.
The Samaritan stopped. Cleaned his wounds with oil and wine. Bandaged up the bleeding man. Lifted him up on his own animal. Took him to an Inn. Paid for his lodging. And then asked the Inn keeper to look after him. And volunteered to reimburse him for his expense.
Jesus teaches us a lot about being sympathetic toward the problems of others. Sympathy gives of its time. Expends energy. Gets involved. Rolls up its sleeves. Gets its hands dirty. Irish author, Bram Stoker, correctly observed, “Though sympathy alone can’t alter facts, it can help to make them more bearable.”
Both the basis and the results of a sympathetic spirit are embodied in this challenging text. “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil 2:1-4)
In a world surrounded by hurt. Sickness. And suffering. Christians should be people of sympathy. May God open my eyes to the pain of other people and help me be sympathetic.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman