Empathy is Not Forgiveness — Reblogged

Cheyenne moccasins (from here)

insanitybytes22 writes posts that hit at the gut level. Such is what Empathy is Not Forgiveness does. What I write I like to think appeals to the intellect. That informs people, I guess, but is more likely to get to the heart and persuade.  So it occurred to me it might be worthwhile to reblog ‘s post and just include my comment.

Empathy is not forgiveness. That was a real stumbling block for me, but empathy can be a bit like trying to rationalize away sin. We’re seeking a logical explanation for human behavior, some cause and effect, and trying to walk in someone else’s shoes compassionately. That all sounds very good, very charitable on the surface, but it is not the supernatural grace of forgiveness.

You will wind up extending mercy to everyone but yourself. We’ll call it “self-abuse,” because you’ll be filled with forgiveness, confusion, frustration, while attempting to rationalize away the entire world’s poor behavior.

Battered women do this all the time. He doesn’t mean it, it’s not his fault. People married to alcoholics do it, they rationalize, it’s just the addiction talking. We do it in crime, bad childhood, lousy neighborhood, poor job training. What winds up happening in the end is that you are surrounded by totally irrational people doing stupid things for what seems to be good reasons and all of this somehow becomes your fault. Also, now you’re even more bitter and unforgiving because everyone in the entire world has an excuse for treating you poorly…. (continued here)

So what do I have to add? A little Bible study.

Excellent post! It inspired me to do a little Bible study.

It is a curious thing. Empathy is supposed be a Christian thing, but anyone would be hard put to find the word in the Bible.

Empathy sounds like a great idea. There is that old Indian proverb (=> http://grammarist.com/phrase/walk-a-mile-in-someone-elses-shoes/), but forgiveness and empathy have different purposes. When we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, we don’t do it to forgive them. We do it to understand them, to perceive what motivates them. When we understand the motives of another, we can react more appropriately.

What is forgiveness? It is not holding a grudge (Leviticus 19:18). It is continuing to love another. As this passage puts it, it is overcoming evil.

Romans 12:9-21 New King James Version (NKJV)
Behave Like a Christian

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The person who cannot forgive cannot give up vengeance, but vengeance does not belong to us. We don’t have the wisdom or the right. Because we belong to God, vengeance belongs to God.

We don’t punish criminals out of vengeance. We punish criminals to discourage crime. Our job is to love each other. If we don’t forgive each other, we cannot love each other.

Because God requires justice, however, He does take vengeance.

Psalm 99:8 New King James Version (NKJV)

8 You answered them, O Lord our God;
You were to them God-Who-Forgives,
Though You took vengeance on their deeds.

We cannot thank God enough for taking upon Himself the full measure of vengeance we deserve.


6 thoughts on “Empathy is Not Forgiveness — Reblogged

  1. Tom,

    Thoughtful post. However, I wonder if the word ‘vengeance’ was the right word translation to use in the New Testament Bible.

    ‘Eye for eye’ was intended to mean not to mete out a greater punishment to an offender for a crime by victim angered by the offence. For example, someone steals a hundred dollars you saved up a long time would not merit you beat him to death in a fit of anger. Rather justice would be that he should repay you in some manner to compensate you.

    In other words, justice would ‘vindicate’ and/or give ‘retribution’ for the harmful act.

    Vengeance implies anger, in my opinion. I believe God is more a just and merciful than an angry God.

    The Greeks interpreted the Bible and word translations from Old Testament Hebrew belief in an angry God, to Greek choice of words, can sometimes be a problem of the intent of the New Testament.

    Check out this article if interested.


    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @scatterwisdom

      It is an interesting question. Frankly, I don’t see much difference between retribution and vengeance. They are synonyms, but I will concede we use vengeance when we want to accentuate the anger of the avenger.

      The most literal translations use vengeance.

      Does God get angry? I don’t exactly know what God feels. I have enough trouble understanding my own feelings and the feelings of other people. I just know the Bible speaks of the wrath of God. If you check out various translations of Romans 1:18, it seems God does get angry with sin.

      Did Jesus use the word wrath? Did Jesus speak of the anger of God? Maybe not, but Jesus told us more about heaven and hell than anyone else.

      So why don’t we associate Jesus with the wrath of God? Even though the New Testament quotes — does not deny — the Old, why does the God revealed in the New Testament seem so much more gentle and mild to us?


      Matthew 10:27-33 New King James Version (NKJV)

      Jesus Teaches the Fear of God

      27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

      Confess Christ Before Men

      32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

      We have selective hearing. Because the fear of God is nearly intolerable, we ignore it. We focus instead upon the fact that God cares for us. Yet Jesus made quite clear that those who deny Him should be afraid.

      What happened when Jesus died upon that cross? What happens when we forgive? When we forgive, we take our anger — our need for retribution — and we set it at the foot of the cross. We say to ourselves “God will judge,” and we allow our anger to become pity.

      What about God? What does He do with our anger? How does He react to our sins? Here is my best guess (I suppose that is all it is.). When Jesus died upon that cross, He took our sins upon Himself because ultimately He is responsible. He is our Creator.

      Why does the Bible say every sin we commit is against God? How can that be so? I think it is because He created us. If we turn to Him in love and repent, then as our Creator He he can responsibly forgive our sins, but what does He do with the anger? Perhaps what we see upon the cross is a measure of God’s empathy. With Jesus’ death upon the cross, He swallowed His wrath for our sins into Himself. Therefore, every sin we commit increases the pain of Jesus upon that cross.

      What if we do not repent? Then we deny God our love. God created us to glorify Him with our love and adoration. For the sake of that love and adoration, He died upon the cross. If we refuse to love Him, He separates Himself from us. He separates Himself from the pain our sin causes Him. That separation is Hell for us, but I guess it is a small measure of relief for Him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am probably more sensitive about the word vengeance because every day I pick up and read a Chicago Newspaper, there is a high probability of another report of a gang vengeance killing.

        Thou shalt not kill is in the Old Testament. Too many do not know the difference from the Old Testament and the New Testament.

        Often simpleton critics of faith believers bring up Old Testament phraseology to make fun of the ancient stories in the Bible.

        In Chicago, it could influence someone to think that if the Bible refers to vengeance, it could result in believing if God is vengeful, then it must be okay.

        I frankly am simple minded too. If God said do not kill, it means do not kill. Of course, in time of war, it is probably justified assuming you are not a power monger conqueror on some quest.

        As for empathy, I really do feel bad that a criminal must learn the hard way not to be a fool. I will pray for him or her to find their way to wisdom and love.

        However, being an example to others of penalties for criminal acts may at least gives some meaning to their lives . Meaning only in the sense that seeing what happens to criminals may prevent others from thinking about doing the same.

        Regards and goodwill blogging.


        1. @scatterwisdom

          Washington DC does not have much to commend over Chicago. Lots of crime and way too many politicians.

          Since I was in the military, I have thought much about what the Bible has to say about killing. It seems to me that the Bible commends honest soldiers. Remember Jesus and the faith of that Roman Centurion.

          None of us want to accept the Bible as it is. None of us. The Bible says what God wants it to say, not what we want it to say, and that’s a big problem.

          God hates sin. Because it hurts us, God hates sin. I had people argue with me about that. They say God does not hate, and they would not give on the argument, but then they don’t actually believe the Bible. You do. I do. Still, we struggle to accept its truth.

          Some don’t make such a struggle. So then we do the only thing that makes sense. When they ask, we show the stubborn their errors, and we pray for the people who won’t read the Bible and do their best to accept its truth.

          Our primary task is to show people Jesus. He changes hearts, but people have to be willing to have their hearts changed. It does not seem that everyone does want their hearts changed, but we can have faith that God knows what He is doing.

          The best we can do for unbelievers is to strive to live as Jesus wants to live. It is the Christian example that counts. God wants us to be joyful worshipers, and we have lots to thank Him for.

          Thanks for your comment.

          Liked by 1 person

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