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                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS"

                    The Empathetic Christian (12:15)

INTRODUCTION

1. In the twelfth chapter of Romans, we find answers to questions such
   as...
   a. What is indicative of a true transformation?
   b. What constitutes God's good, acceptable, and perfect will for the
      Christian?

2. We have seen in previous lessons that it includes...
   a. Fulfilling our function in the body of Christ - Ro 12:3-8
   b. Love without hypocrisy, while abhorring what is evil - Ro 12:9
   c. Loving brethren with family affection, esteeming one another
      highly - Ro 12:10
   d. Serving the Lord diligently, with fervency of spirit - Ro 12:11
   e. Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, steadfast in prayer
      - Ro 12:12
   f. Having fellowship in the needs of the saints, pursing hospitality
      toward strangers - Ro 12:13
   g. To bless those who persecute us - Ro 12:14

3. Now we note the twofold exhortation...
   a. "Rejoice with those who rejoice" - Ro 12:15a
   b. "Weep with those who weep" - Ro 12:15b

[In this text we are called to display the virtue of "empathy" towards
one another.  What this entails will be the focus of our study...]

I. DEFINING EMPATHY

   A. COMPARED TO SYMPATHY...
      1. Sympathy - An inclination to support or be loyal to or to agree
         with an opinion
      2. Empathy - Understanding and entering into another's feelings
      -- One may be sympathetic while not empathetic; the latter
         requires a deeper emotional involvement than the former

   B. ITS PLACE IN THE CHURCH...
      1. The Lord intended such connection between the members of His
         Body ("if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it")
         - 1Co 12:26
      2. "This command grows out of the doctrine stated in Ro 12:4,5
         that the church is one; that it has one interest; and therefore
         that there should be common sympathy in its joys and sorrows."
         - Barnes
      -- If we are truly one, members of the same body, then we will be
         empathetic towards one another

[Our text commands two ways to demonstrate empathy; we have several
examples of individuals...]

II. DEMONSTRATING EMPATHY

   A. REJOICING WITH THOSE WHO REJOICE...
      1. Neighbors and friends of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist
         - Lk 1:58
      2. Barnabas at Antioch, when he saw the grace of the Lord at work
         - Ac 11:23
      -- Two good examples of sharing in others' happiness and success
         without envy or jealousy

   B. WEEPING WITH THOSE WHO WEEP...
      1. David with his sick friends - Ps 35:13,14
      2. Jesus with the family and friends of Lazarus grieving over his
         death - Jn 11:33-35
      3. Paul with his weak and stumbling brethren - 2Co 11:29
      4. Christians with their brethren in prison - He 13:3
      -- People of God truly understanding and entering into the
         feelings of their friends and brethren

[The quality of empathy certainly prepares one to be of greater service
to those around them.  How can we rise above simple sympathy for others
to truly become "The Empathetic Christian"...?]

III. DEVELOPING EMPATHY

   A. TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF OUR MINDS...
      1. We must submit to the transformation that comes by renewing our
         minds - cf. Ro 12:1-2
      2. Which will involve the development of such graces as:
         a. Being kindly affectionate to one another in brotherly love
            - Ro 12:10a
         b. Giving preference to one another in honor - Ro 12:10b
      -- Note how being affectionate aids in being able to weep, and
         learning to give preference will enable us to rejoice

   B. DEVELOPING THE MIND OF CHRIST...
      1. Note the virtues that characterize the mind of Christ - cf. Ph
         2:3-5
         a. Doing nothing through selfish ambition or conceit
         b. In lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than oneself
         c. Looking out for the interest of others
      2. Note the goal of having the mind of Christ - Php 2:2
         a. To be like-minded
         b. To have the same love
         c. To be of one accord, of one mind
      3. Note what having the mind of Christ is necessary for to
         experience - Php 2:1-2a
         a. Consolation in Christ
         b. Comfort of love
         c. Fellowship of the Spirit
         d. Affection and mercy
         e. Fullness of joy
      -- As one develops the mind of Christ, there will be no envy or
         jealousy to prevent true empathy; with the mind of Christ, we
         will be able to truly rejoice and weep!

CONCLUSION

1. It is God's good, acceptable and perfect will that Christians be a
   people...
   a. Who are glad when others rejoice
   b. Who are moved when others weep
   -- For only then can we be useful in sharing the joy and comfort of
      Christ with others

2. Are we truly an "empathetic" people?  The development and display of
   true empathy will greatly...
   a. Increase our usefulness to the Master
   b. Enhance the fellowship we have in the Lord
   -- Simple sympathy is not enough; we must be able to understand and
      enter into one another's feelings!

Develop the mind of Christ, be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
and you cannot help but become "The Empathetic Christian"...!
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