The path to empathy is self reflectionempathyscripture
The other night a group I've joined at times was reading through the Bible. I have participated in such groups in the past. This group feels and functions very similarly to the others. It begins with small talk along with beverages. Then an opening prayer to kick things off followed by scripture reading and discussion. Prayer requests and a time of prayer follows. Then small talk resumes again.
This group is reading through the Gospel of Mark. This night we were looking at chapter 7. It begins with Jesus and his disciples eating with unwashed hands. The religious elite of the day saw this as a major failure and questioned Jesus about it. Jesus let them have it, teaching that the defilement to be most concerned about is what comes from within us.
The group commented on the story, sharing as you might expect, such as the culture of the day and the failure of the religious to miss the forest for the trees, but never venturing into asking questions of ourselves. What do we hold to which we are concerned is defiling but all the while ignoring what is within us?
My sense is we are proud of ourselves. That we are beyond those we rail about. Even beyond those other Christian groups. But are we really? It feels we all are the same thing differently. Yes, there are great variances in Christian groups, but we also share similarities, such as being formulaic. I suppose it's natural, only human. But I wonder how closely we compare to those we think ourselves better than. Wash you hands feels the same as read scripture, discuss, pray. But the question of defilement was missed. The question of ourselves is missed. We are those we think we're better than. Anger rises within me. But I also have hope.
My hope is that when we realize this it will lead us to real empathy. Forgiveness comes more easily when we see how the gap between us has been bridged. Instead of further division it brings unity. The differences between us, between groups, are real but that doesn't mean divisions are the result. And I found that as I was sitting there in that group I felt superior to them because they weren't reflecting on themselves, and they were thinking themselves superior to those in the story. But that was exact same thing I was doing to them. Upon my realization of this the gap I had created between me and that group had been bridged. My self reflection lead to empathy. And so I have hope.