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Practicing Empathy

Devotions

Anne Graham Lotz’s grandfather was a medical missionary to China for 25 years, where he established the Love and Mercy Hospital in Tsingkianpu. She writes, “My grandfather was wise. He knew that ‘man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,’ and so all of his ambulatory patients were required to attend chapel every day in the hospital . . . Those who were unable to leave their beds were visited personally by someone who would share Christ with them.” Because of her grandfather’s care for their physical and spiritual needs, hundreds, and even thousands of Chinese men and women received Jesus as Savior.

During His earthly ministry, it is easy to see that Jesus understood both the spiritual and physical needs of His followers. In Mark 8:2, Jesus showed empathy to a hungry crowd that had gathered to hear Him teach on a hillside: “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.” We can imagine the crowd of people clinging to Christ’s every word. But after three days and no more food, there were certainly rumbling stomachs, headaches, and plenty of irritability.

Jesus knew that if He sent them home, many of them might faint along the way (v. 3). His empathy led Him to meet their physical needs. He told them to sit on the ground (v. 6), perhaps so they could be fed in an orderly fashion. Jesus fed the people spiritually, but first He met their physical hunger. He understood that both needs were important. As Christians, we must have genuine empathy and understand people’s spiritual and physical needs. If we want to lead others to Christ, we cannot turn a blind eye to someone’s physical needs.

>> As you read Mark 8, notice Christ’s attitude toward those He is serving. Compare His attitude to the disciples’ attitude . . . and then to your own. Who is God asking you to serve, and how will you respond?

BY Mary Martin, Former Professor of Christian School Education

Dr. Mary Martin previously served at Moody as program head of Christian School Education and chair of the Education and Counseling division. She has also served as a classroom teacher, principal, and head of school. Mary is the author of Impacting Student Learning through Christ-Centered Instructional Leadership and currently resides in North Carolina with her husband, Michael. She speaks at numerous education conferences each year and loves mentoring Moody graduates.

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