Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
We have a great high priest, who has gone into heaven, and he is Jesus the Son of God. That is why we must hold on to what we have said about him. Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin!
So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help.
Empathy and the Lepers
Dr. Paul Brand was the son of missionaries who became a world-renowned surgeon. His best-known accomplishments were in helping those whose leprosy had impacted their hands.
He developed a method for transplanting tendons in the hands to restore their function. He also established the New Life Rehabilitation Center, which helped dispel the stigma of leprosy among medical professionals. His work sprung from contact with people whose leprosy had caused deformities of the hands.
He was the first physician to trace leprosy to the nervous system. He saw that the loss of the sensation of pain makes sufferers susceptible to injury. These injuries, in turn, lead to tissue becoming infected and the loss of limbs.
Yet it isn’t just the injury that causes the deformities. The lack of feeling itself causes the extremities to wither.
Brand wrote, “In the human body, when an area loses sensory contact with the rest of the body, even when its nourishment system remains intact, that part begins to wither and atrophy. In the vast majority of cases—95 of 100 insensitive, unfeeling hands I have examined—severe injury or deformation results.”
When it comes to healthy spiritual life, Scripture reflects a parallel truth: Connection between believers in the “body of Christ” is essential for spiritual health.
Many are aware of the need to gather together for prayer, worship and study. Yet Paul’s admonishment goes far beyond this.
He encourages a heart connection – seeking to notice, validate, and join in the feelings of joy and sadness with others.
Science has shown that such empathy is life-giving. Just as a connection with the sensations is essential to our hands, connection with others’ feelings is essential for healthy Christians.
Yet, it is not science that was the first source of this truth. This kind of empathy is grounded in the incarnation – God coming to us in human flesh and blood, complete with human feelings.
Jesus, who the scriptures call the “man of sorrows” and one who was “aquatinted with grief,” is depicted as joining in the joy of weddings and in the anguish of funerals. And just as his touch healed many lepers, his touch has transforming power.
When we reach out to others the connection can be used to restore a withered heart – not only in them, but in us as well.
Questions to Consider
- What “life-giving” connections do I have in the Body of Christ?
- How can I strengthen one of them today?
Pray for the needs of those to whom you are connected.
Rev. James R. Needham, PhD, MDiv