“All of you have . . . fellow feeling.”—1 PET. 3:8.
SONG 90 Encourage One Another
1. In line with 1 Peter 3:8, why do we enjoy being around people who care about our feelings and welfare?
WE ENJOY being around people who care about our feelings and welfare. They try to put themselves in our place, to discern what we are thinking and feeling. They anticipate our needs and offer help—sometimes even before we ask for it. We appreciate people who show that they have “fellow feeling” * for us.—Read 1 Peter 3:8.
2. Why may we need to work at showing empathy?
2 As Christians, we all want to show empathy, or fellow feeling. Realistically, though, we may need to work at it. Why? For one thing, we are imperfect. (Rom. 3:23) So we must fight the inborn tendency to think mainly of ourselves. Also, some of us may struggle to show empathy because of our upbringing or past circumstances. Finally, we could be influenced by the attitude of people around us. In these last days, many do not consider the feelings of others. Rather, they are “lovers of themselves.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2) What can help us overcome these challenges to our showing concern for the feelings of others?
3. (a) How can we improve in showing fellow feeling? (b) What will we consider in this article?
3 We can improve in showing fellow feeling by imitating Jehovah God and his Son, Jesus Christ. Jehovah is a God of love, and he sets the best example in showing concern for others. (1 John 4:8) Jesus perfectly imitated his Father’s personality. (John 14:9) While on earth, he demonstrated how a human can show compassion. In this article, we will first consider how Jehovah and Jesus have shown concern for the feelings of others. Then we will consider how we can imitate their examples.
JEHOVAH’S EXAMPLE OF CONCERN FOR OTHERS
4. How does Isaiah 63:7-9 show that Jehovah cares about the feelings of his servants?
4 The Bible teaches that Jehovah cares about the feelings of his servants. For example, consider how Jehovah felt when the ancient Israelites went through trials. “During all their distress it was distressing to him,” says God’s Word. (Read Isaiah 63:7-9.) Later, through the prophet Zechariah, Jehovah declared that when his people are mistreated, he takes it personally. Jehovah told his servants: “Whoever touches you touches the pupil of my eye.” (Zech. 2:8) What a powerful image of the concern Jehovah has for his people!
5. Give an example of how Jehovah has taken action to help his servants who suffer.
5 Jehovah does more than just feel compassion for his servants who suffer. He takes action to help them. For example, when the Israelites were suffering as slaves in Egypt, Jehovah understood their pain and felt moved to relieve it. Jehovah said to Moses: “I have certainly seen the affliction of my people . . . , and I have heard their outcry . . . I well know the pains they suffer. I will go down to rescue them out of the hand of the Egyptians.” (Ex. 3:7, 8) Because Jehovah felt compassion for his people, he freed them from slavery. Centuries later, in the Promised Land, the Israelites faced enemy attacks. How did Jehovah respond? He “was moved to pity over their groaning caused by those who oppressed them and those who were treating them abusively.” Again, empathy moved Jehovah to help his people. He sent judges to save the Israelites from their enemies.—Judg. 2:16, 18.
6. Give an example of how Jehovah showed regard for the feelings of someone whose thinking was not sound.
6 Jehovah shows consideration for the feelings of his people—even when their thinking is not always sound. Consider the case of Jonah. God sent this prophet to proclaim a message of judgment against the Ninevites. When they repented, God chose to spare them. However, Jonah was not happy about this outcome. He “became hot with anger” because his prophecy of doom did not come true. But Jehovah was patient with Jonah and helped him to adjust his thinking. (Jonah 3:10–4:11) In time, Jonah got the point, and he was even used by Jehovah to record this account for our benefit.—Rom. 15:4. *
7. Jehovah’s dealings with his servants assure us of what?
7 Jehovah’s dealings with his people assure us that he has empathy for his servants. He is aware of the pain and suffering of each one of us. Jehovah “truly know[s] the human heart.” (2 Chron. 6:30) He understands our intimate thoughts, our deepest emotions, and our limitations. And “he will not let [us] be tempted beyond what [we] can bear.” (1 Cor. 10:13) How comforting that assurance is!
JESUS’ EXAMPLE OF CONCERN FOR OTHERS
8-10. What factors must have contributed to Jesus’ concern for others?
8 As a human on earth, Jesus had deep concern for others. At least three factors must have contributed to his concern. First, as noted earlier, Jesus perfectly reflected his heavenly Father’s personality. Like his Father, Jesus loved people. Although he rejoiced over everything he had helped Jehovah make, Jesus “was especially fond of the sons of men.” (Prov. 8:31) Love moved Jesus to care about the feelings of others.
9 Second, like Jehovah, Jesus could read hearts. He could know people’s motives and feelings. (Matt. 9:4; John 13:10, 11) So when Jesus discerned that people were brokenhearted, concern moved him to provide comfort.—Isa. 61:1, 2; Luke 4:17-21.
10 Third, Jesus himself experienced some of the challenges people faced. For example, Jesus apparently grew up in a poor family. From working with his adoptive father, Joseph, Jesus learned how to do hard physical work. (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3) It seems that Joseph died sometime before the end of Jesus’ ministry. So Jesus likely felt the pain of losing a loved one in death. And Jesus knew what it was like to be in a family with differing religious views. (John 7:5) Those circumstances and others would have helped Jesus to understand the challenges and feelings of ordinary people.
11. When was Jesus’ concern especially evident? Explain. (See cover picture.)
11 Jesus’ concern was especially evident when he performed miracles. Jesus did not perform miracles out of a mere sense of duty. He was “moved with pity” for those who were suffering. (Matt. 20:29-34; Mark 1:40-42) For example, imagine Jesus’ feelings as he took a man away from the crowd and healed his deafness or as he resurrected the only son of a widow. (Mark 7:32-35; Luke 7:12-15) Jesus sympathized with those people and wanted to help them.
12. How does John 11:32-35 show Jesus’ fellow feeling for Martha and Mary?
12 Jesus showed fellow feeling for Martha and Mary. When he saw their grief over the death of their brother, Lazarus, “Jesus gave way to tears.” (Read John 11:32-35.) He did not weep just because he had lost the company of a close friend. After all, he knew that he was going to resurrect Lazarus. Rather, Jesus wept because he understood and was touched by the heartache of his dear friends.
13. How are we encouraged by knowing about Jesus’ fellow feeling?
13 We benefit greatly from learning about Jesus’ fellow feeling. Of course, we are not perfect as he was. Yet, we love him for the way he treated others. (1 Pet. 1:8) We are encouraged to know that he is now ruling as King of God’s Kingdom. He will soon eliminate all suffering. He is in the best position to help humanity recover from the wounds inflicted by Satan’s rulership, for Jesus too was once human. Indeed, we are blessed to have a Ruler who can “sympathize with our weaknesses.”—Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:15, 16.
IMITATE THE EXAMPLE SET BY JEHOVAH AND JESUS
14. In view of Ephesians 5:1, 2, what do we feel moved to do?
14 When we consider the example set by Jehovah and Jesus, we ourselves feel moved to try to show greater fellow feeling. (Read Ephesians 5:1, 2.) We cannot read hearts as they do. Even so, we can try to understand the emotions and needs of others. (2 Cor. 11:29) Unlike the selfish world around us, we strive to “look out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others.”—Phil. 2:4.
15. Who in particular need to show fellow feeling?
15 Congregation elders in particular need to show fellow feeling. They know that they are accountable for the sheep entrusted to their care. (Heb. 13:17) To help their fellow believers, elders need to be understanding. How can elders demonstrate fellow feeling?
16. What does a sympathetic elder do, and why is this important?
16 A sympathetic elder spends time with his Christian brothers and sisters. He asks questions and then listens attentively and patiently. That is especially important if one of these dear sheep wants to pour out his heart but struggles to find the right words. (Prov. 20:5) By willingly giving of his time, an elder forms strong bonds of trust, friendship, and love with his brothers.—Acts 20:37.
17. What do many brothers and sisters say that they most value in elders? Give an example.
17 Many brothers and sisters say that the quality they most value in congregation elders is their concern for the feelings of others. Why? “It is easier to talk to them because you know that they will understand you,” says Adelaide. She adds: “You can discern that they have fellow feeling for you by the way they respond when you talk with them.” A brother recalls appreciatively: “I saw tears well up in the eyes of one elder as he contemplated my situation. That image will always remain in my mind.”—Rom. 12:15.
18. How can we develop fellow feeling for others?
18 Of course, elders are not the only ones who need to show fellow feeling. All of us can develop this quality. How? Try to understand what family members and fellow believers are going through. Take an interest in the teenagers in the congregation as well as in the sick, the elderly, and those who have lost loved ones in death. Ask how they are doing. Really listen as they express themselves. Help them sense that you truly understand what they are dealing with. Offer to help in whatever way you can. When we do this, we show genuine love in action.—1 John 3:18.
19. Why do we need to be flexible when trying to help others?
19 We need to be flexible when trying to help others. Why? Because people react to hardship in different ways. Some are eager to talk, while others are more reserved. So we want to offer help, but we should avoid asking questions that are too personal. (1 Thess. 4:11) Even when others do open up, we may find that we do not always share their point of view. Yet, we need to recognize that this is how they feel. We want to be quick to listen and slow to speak.—Matt. 7:1; Jas. 1:19.
20. What will we consider in the following article?
20 Besides showing fellow feeling in the congregation, we want to show this beautiful quality in our ministry. How can we display fellow feeling when making disciples? We will consider that in the following article.
SONG 130 Be Forgiving
^ par. 5 Jehovah and Jesus are concerned about the feelings of others. This article will consider what we can learn from their examples. We will also discuss why we need to show fellow feeling and how we can do so.
^ par. 1 EXPRESSIONS EXPLAINED: To show “fellow feeling” means to try to understand what others are feeling and to feel the same way ourselves. (Rom. 12:15) In this article, “fellow feeling” and “concern” mean the same thing.
^ par. 65 PICTURE DESCRIPTIONS: Meetings at the Kingdom Hall offer many opportunities for warm fellowship. We see (1) an elder kindly talking to a young publisher and his mother, (2) a father and his daughter helping an older sister to the car, and (3) two elders listening attentively to a sister seeking guidance.