Two Levels of Obedience Law or Love?
Why do I speak kindly with my wife and show her patience? Is it just because it is the right thing to do? Maybe it’s because I don’t want to look like someone who is curt or angry. Maybe I fear God will be angry with me if I don’t. These types of responses all represent one level of obedience, actually a level where many of us live.
Empathy is higher.
A second level is a place where love compels us, not fear. We could say that this is “really” living. When we live and obey at this level, we have moved from a semi-depersonalized existence into agape. But to do this requires a developed personhood where I have value for my own thoughts and feelings first. I need to be in a place of feeling comfortable in my own skin, embracing and rejoicing in who God has made me to be—where issues of shame that have made me feel like an object have been resolved, and I’m walking in the dignity of being God’s child, fearfully and wonderfully made. It is then that I can express that to others.
Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.