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Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

James 1:19

Session Five: Being Generous With Your Empathy

i'm (sort of) listening

Our fingers fly across the keyboard, jabbing every keystroke. A post on Facebook has ruffled feathers, including our own. The comments are coming in fast and furious, each expressing different views from the previous. We disagree with them all and are ready to prove why our viewpoint is the best way of seeing things. Someone refutes our points and we dig our heels in even more, perhaps growing dismissive of other viewpoints in order to emphasize our thoughts on the matter. Soon, the conversation has spiraled out of control, escalating to thinly-veiled insults and straining years-long friendships.

We all want to be heard, to know that our voices matter and are respected. But in justifying our own perspective, we can overlook the perspectives of others. This can make us come across as arrogant and dismissive, the opposite of what we intended. If we always speak instead of listening, always have to share our thoughts on a matter, or don’t consider the other’s viewpoint, then we miss out on one of the key characteristics of a believer—humility.

with all humility

In the chapters preceding today’s Scripture reading, Paul details the saving work of Christ individually and collectively. Because of Jesus, we have been adopted into God’s family, the church.

It is impossible for us to pay back such a gift, but we can respond to the grace extended to us. Walk “worthy,” Paul writes (Ephesians 4:1). The use and tense of the word “walk” here is an implied imperative, meaning that it is not an option but it is our obligation. Throughout the Bible, “walk” is figuratively used to refer to one’s lifestyle. To walk in a worthy manner implies that we are to honor God with a lifestyle that is marked by certain characteristics.

The first virtue in our reading is humility. It’s not surprising that Paul lists this virtue first. Humility is the proper response to God’s grace, as God accepts the humble and rejects the proud (James 4:6). It is only when we recognize who he is and who we are in relation to him—sinners saved by grace—that we can have a true relationship with God and his people.

A constant awareness of this position leaves little room for elevating ourselves above our brothers and sisters in Christ. But it doesn’t compel us to beat ourselves up either or live with low self-esteem. Humility is about seeing ourselves as God sees us, no more and no less.

Willingness to Enter Into Another’s Perspective

Even though believers share a worldview centered on Christ, we all have a unique lens through which we see the world, based on our experiences, our cultures, our socioeconomic positions, and the list goes on.

It takes vulnerability to truly enter another’s perspective. Our deepest prejudices, perhaps even unknown to us, may be exposed in the process. But we must take the risk, asking for grace and extending it along the way.


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Daily Question

Think about Paul's exhortation to the Ephesians to be humble. Think about ways you can show humility among people who are different from you. What does that look like? What particular challenges does that hold for you? Ask God to help you open your eyes to ways in which you can display more humility, especially in your interactions with people who are different from you.

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