Sympathy or Empathy?

Sympathy or Empathy?

For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Hebrews 2:18

Recommended Reading – Matthew 4:1-11

Speakers of English often confuse two similar sounding words: sympathy and empathy. But their meanings are significantly different. Sympathy is a feeling of pity or sorrow because of someone else’s suffering. Empathy is the ability to identify with, understand, and share another’s feelings. Sympathy can only imagine another person’s suffering, while empathy knows exactly how the sufferer feels because of having suffered the same way.

Regarding our temptations to sin: Does Jesus sympathize with our temptations or empathize? Does He feel bad for how we feel when tempted or does He know exactly how we feel, having been tempted Himself? Some people find it hard to believe that the Son of God could be tempted to sin. Yet that is the clear testimony of Scripture. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness “to be tempted by the devil” for forty days (Matthew 4:1-3). And the writer of Hebrews says Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are” (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). It’s how He learned to obey God (Hebrews 5:8).

When you are tempted, know that Jesus is able to intercede and help you on the basis of empathy, not sympathy (Hebrews 7:25).

The best of saints may be tempted by the worst of sins.
Matthew Henry


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