Two men can have a deep friendship and not be gay. But most men don’t have a truly deep friendship. Frequent acquaintances come closer to the kind of male friendships that men have. But for building a strong Chrisitan faith that has the potential to change the world around them, men are more victims than victors. But our Christian faith should be built on the idea of being victors (as God would define victory). Possibly men purposely don’t see themselves in Jesus’ shoes (or won’t).
Christian men need to relate to each other as deep friends who have each other’s backs. And that is about accountability for their walk with Christ. Christian men also need to be able to relate to non-believers in order to draw them to Christ.
The only way to achieve deep friendships and witnessing opportunities is with empathy. The earliest traces of this quote about empathy date back to the Cherokee tribe of Native Americans, who warned: “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”.
Nelle Harper Lee, an American authoress, was seemingly inspired by the saying of the Amerindians in her book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” where she wrote: “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
*Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1960
How to Empathize
Knowing how to empathize with someone starts with a desire to love God first and our neighbor also as it says in the following scripture passage. This is especially hard for us men. We tend to talk about stuff and activities. Our closest thing to emotions is often our confusing conversations with our wives or girlfriends. But it does happen in recovery groups.
(Matthew 22:37-40 WEB) 37Jesus said to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second [is] like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
How do we love our neighbors? Our love for our neighbors must start with our love for God. When we love God then we’ll share God’s concerns for our neighbor’s well being and their salvation. Just as people have different learning styles they also have different love languages. If we are going to be able to love others then we also need to be able to recognize their love language.
When verse 39 says “love thy neighbor as thyself” the key is to recognize that we wish people to know us and our love language. So we need to do the same for others. Our love language is how we bless others. And the blessing we have to offer is the knowledge of freedom from sin and eternal death that comes only from Jesus. The key attitude in all of this is the ability to listen in a non-judgemental way.
(Matthew 5:41-44 WEB) 41And whoever shall constrain thee [to go] one mile, go with him two. 42Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away. 43Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy: 44But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Each verse above from Jesus gets harder as He goes along. Two miles instead of one is doable; then it says we just need a Christian to hang out with them as in do not turn a borrower away. It seems to get easier when He says it is “said” to hate thy enemy. Now He asks for the impossible to pray for the very people that we don’t particularly care for initially. Our tendency is to simply avoid such people.
BUT – WWJD? Jesus died for all the sins of the world. And some of the people that He died for are lost souls that need a Christian witness. We need to seek the people who are outside of Christ. They could even be in the church. There are people who need us to understand they’re not walking with Jesus, only copying a Chrisitan culture to one degree or another.
(Matthew 5:45-48 WEB) 45That ye may be the children of your Father who [is] in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if ye love them who love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so? 48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.
Notice that 1) getting to know someone may not depend entirely on our choice, 2) this passage is talking about a person outside of our family and friends, and 3) However, in regards to Christ, there may be unbelievers in our own circle of
family and friends.
Surprisingly, the ability to empathize with others is relative to a person’s capacity to identify, feel, and understand their own feelings and thereby being able to project one’s feelings onto others. This means in turn that it becomes complicated at times to understand what a person is undergoing if you haven’t undergone it for yourself – or at least felt similar feelings.
The outcome of this can be seen in our day-to-day lives; it’s relatively easy to laugh about someone who is not as tall as you or to rant about “the lazy unemployed” when you have never been unemployed in your life, or grown up in riches. But once you experience for yourself what it feels like to be teased about your body height or the difficulty to find a job, your point of view might change drastically. You may also feel differently about those who are facing a similar situation.
Intentionality is the first step in this process. Failure is not a reason to opt out. It is merely a teaching lesson. And the whole process is like building a brick wall. Prayer is the mortar. Purposely engaging people is the foundation. And God is the architect.
Intentionality must start with conviction. Without the conviction of the Holy Spirit, it will be like building on sand to do this solely on our own power. And in this case we may need to build a strong building, even a tower with a very deep foundation.
(Luke 14:27-30 WEB) 27 And whoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he hath [sufficient] to finish [it]? 29 Lest perhaps after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish [it], all that behold [it] begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
As we endeavor to be God’s witness to the lost we must have a good attitude; and a persistent attitude. And we must always remember it is God, not us, that causes the growth.
(1 Corinthians 3:5-9 WEB) 5 Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6 I have planted, Apollos watered: but God hath given the increase. 7 So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth: but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor. 9 For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, [ye are] God’s building.
We do the witnessing and God causes the blessing. The harvest belongs to God. The new believer receives the blessing. And we build treasure in Heaven.
That’s Win, Win, Win, and Win!