Sep 06

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Not long after a shooting, a woman was heard saying something like this: “We don’t want your words of sympathy or your prayers!” Just what do these words express? Well, first let us understand that in the moments following a tragedy, people say many things without thinking and would take them “back” if they could. Second, people often express what they really think at such moments! Without trying to prove which motive the words express, let us look at the words themselves.
First, let us take the word “sympathy” Just what does this word mean? Merriam/Webster gives: 1) “an affinity, association, or relationship between persons;” 2) “inclination to think or feel alike : emotional or intellectual according sympathy with their goals;” and 3) “the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another.” In short, sympathy is what one feels for another in time of stress. However, before continuing, let me call your attention to the words of Hastings: “The subject of sympathy, considered in its relation to Jesus Christ, is so large as to be almost co-extensive with His whole life and work. The Incarnation and the Atonement, whatever be the exact theological meaning of the two words, are undoubtedly exhibitions of the intense sympathy which resulted not only in the human ministry of Christ, but in the redemption of the world.” (Hastings Dictionary of the New Testament). With this to reject sympathy is to reject Jesus Christ! The New Testament uses, the King James Version, the word “compassion” and not sympathy; as in Matthew 9:36: “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion (splagchnizomai) on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” The Greek word means: “to be moved in the inward parts, to feel compassion” (Strong). The word “compassion” appears about forty-three times in the New Testament. To express that you are not interested in the “sympathy” of others, is to reject the true heart felt concern of the person/people making a statement! Sad indeed! There are many people, citizens of the United States of America, who are deeply touched by the loss of life, due to a madman taking the lives of others. In fact, what kind of heart would not cry out in dispair? Certainly not the heart of a Christian!
Second, let us here notice three verses that deal with the subject of expressing and showing sympathy: 1) Gal. 6:2 – “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” The Greek word for “bear” is “bastazo” and like most Greek words has several meanings, one is “to take up with the hands.” (Thayer). In the world of the first century, most of the work done was using the hands. It was a very physical world, thus, to “bear” one another’s burdens, which is the Greek, “baros” and means: “heaviness, weight, burden, trouble;” therefore, putting the two words together we are to do our best to relieve the “weight,” and “troubles” of others. This may be grief or physical burdens. 2) Col. 3:12 – “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.” The Greek word for “bowels” is “splagchnon” and expresses: “the seat of the tenderer affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart (tender mercies, affections, etc.).” (Thayer). Thus, from the heart Christians are to reach out to help others from their inner most being that is full of “kindness, benevolence, compassion.” When others are hurt, be it physically or spiritually, the Christian is there with a heart of “kindness, benevolence, and compassion.” And 3) “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” Matt. 7:12. These words need no exegesis, as they are self-expressive! It is easy to see from these three verses, that it is the nature of a Christian to reach out to others who are suffering, to express not only words but action! This is true, even if the other person has no interest in such action.
Now, let us turn our attention to the subject of prayer. Just what does it mean with a person says, “I don’t want your prayers?” First, it denies the existence of God. As God is the one who is addressed in our prayers when petitions are made for others. Second, and this naturally follows, that a non-existent God cannot or in the case that God does exist, which he does, will not answer prayer. Therefore, let us take the case, that Hurricane Dorian was first forecast to hit Florida hard. However, let us say Christians prayed that Dorian would make a northern turn and miss mainland Florida. Can anyone, and this includes the God denying atheist, prove that God was not answering the many prayers of Christians as Dorian did move more north and not west? Of course, not!
Therefore, such expression as: “We don’t want your words of sympathy or your prayers!” Is the atheist revealing what they really believe! These words express the true nature of much of the America today. As we, America in general, ask, “What is wrong with America?” The first conclusion should be and must be, that America has turned their back upon God! The Old Testament is full of examples of Israel turning her back upon God, and the result that followed! Yes, Israel is another time, as God did work with them directly and he does not work with America directly today; nevertheless, the result would be the same in today’s world! America should not expect any favors from God.
Finally, the words of Peter fit here: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Yes, even with godless America God is “longsuffering,” “not willing that any should perish.” Nevertheless, America will fall in her own wickedness, unless she repents!

Frank R. Williams

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