Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Yesterday I heard something really powerful. I cannot remember the author but it was something like “you can not debate empathy”. This really speaks to my personal principles when it comes to talking about what is happening in America today. I have been part of or observed different debates about racial equality and justice; In each of these debates I have seen conversations derail because many of my white brothers and sisters just fail to empathize.
I have walked away from friendships where I felt unheard. Many people of color have lost communities and friendships because they had no choice but to walk away from people who said they loved them but would suffocate them whenever they exhaled a cry for help. Does that mean that those communities did not love us or care for us? Yes and no. Yes because they loved us based on their perception of love and NO because their love did not a built empathy. You can say you love someone but if you never take the time to understand, at a deep level, their life experiences then your love falls short.
The author of Hebrews talks about Christ being the perfect high priest because he lived the life of a human being and so he has empathy. He was born as a human being, he lived as a human being and he died as a human being. This makes him the perfect mediator for us in heaven. Christ led the way with empathy. He showed how important empathy is. If your love does not produce empathy then your love is probably self-serving. You can give gifts to, invite people of color home and even have them as a part of your life. But until you open yourself up to internalizing what the experience then you will struggle to be a true ally of their cause. Some of the greatest expressions of love I have experienced are when a white brother or sister chose to empathize with my struggle as a person of color. Some of the most painful moments I have had in friendships are when a white brother or sister refuses to empathize with my struggle as people of color and chose to debate and suffocate my voice.
We can debate words and politics all day but at the end of the day it is empathy that matters. Empathy is not just imagining what someone is going through. Empathy is a sacrifice. It is losing a part of yourself in order to gain a part of someone else. Many of my white brothers and sisters hopped on the all lives matter bandwagon because they feared that they were being left out by #blacklivesmatter. This statement “all lives matter” became a rallying cry for self preservation. It did nothing but spit in the face of people of color whilst destroying any chance for my white brothers and sisters to engage and understand what people of color go through because of systemic racism.Many of my wife brothers and sisters went from using “all lives matter“ two saying things like “well he was a criminal so he deserved what he got“. The death of empathy opens up society to hate, cruelty and as history has taught us, mass atrocities.
So as we celebrate Christmas let’s remember that we are celebrating what we believe is the greatest act of empathy ever. Christ choosing to become flesh. Even though we were sinners he still felt the need to become like one of us not only to save us but to understand us so that he can be the perfect mediator between God the Father and human beings.