This capacity to feel, understand, and share the pain and joy of others takes center stage in many biblical narratives and teachings. Empathy is not only a characteristic of the faithful who strive to love their neighbors as themselves, but it is also revealed in the nature and actions of God throughout the Bible.
What Does the Bible Teach about Empathy?
The Bible teaches that empathy begins with understanding and feeling the emotional states of others. A person is not truly empathetic unless they can put themselves in the other person’s shoes and feel what they are feeling. From the Genesis story of Cain and Abel to the New Testament parables of Jesus, such as that of the Good Samaritan, the Bible consistently encourages the practice of empathy.
Where Does Empathy Show in the Bible?
Empathy is exhibited through various biblical narratives. For example, in the Book of Ruth, we see empathy demonstrated when Ruth chooses to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi, after the death of Ruth’s husband. Even though returning to her own family would have been the easier choice, Ruth empathizes with Naomi’s suffering and chooses to bear it with her. David’s empathy for the suffering of others is also evident, particularly when he forgives his enemies and shows sympathy towards his friends. The highest expression of empathy in the Bible, however, is seen in the life of Jesus, who shows empathy towards poor, sick, and marginalized individuals, thus revealing the empathetic heart of God.
Why is Empathy Vital According to the Bible?
The Bible points to empathy as an essential characteristic of a righteous life. It is seen as a critical element not just for individual spirituality, but also for societal peace and unity. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the importance of empathizing with the poor, the oppressed, and the suffering – this empathy, in turn, leads to actions aimed at alleviating that suffering. Empathy fosters forgiveness, encourages repentance, and promotes reconciliation, all of which are central to the biblical concepts of love and justice. Without empathy, it would be difficult to love one’s neighbor, forgive one’s enemies, or be at peace with everyone, as the Bible instructs.
Who Demonstrates Empathy in the Bible?
Biblical empathy is not merely reserved for extraordinary individuals or demarcated moments; it is a pervasive theme touching ordinary people in their everyday lives and routines. The empathy demonstrated by Ruth towards her suffering mother-in-law, David towards a struggling friend, and even the Good Samaritan towards a wounded stranger on the road all emphasize the universal call to empathy in the Bible. Moreover, empathy is not simply depicted as an attribute of humans alone but is seen as a defining characteristic of God Himself. The Bible shows God empathizing with His people in their joys and sorrows, their victories and failures, and their hopes and fears.
Below is the full list of bible verses on empathy (King James Version – KJV). The list is ranked in order of popularity and we hope you find the inspiration you need.
Most Popular Bible Verses About Empathy
“15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
“32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
1 Peter 3:8
“8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:”
“12 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.”
“12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
“2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 12:26
“26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”
“29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
“12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;”
“33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.35 Jesus wept.”
“3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
“15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
“36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”
Related Themes: Compassion
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
“14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Related Themes: Suffering
“21 Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”
Related Themes: Vindictiveness
“1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
“3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
“17 I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.”
Related Themes: Loneliness
“8 Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?”
1 Peter 5:7
“7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
“34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
“31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
1 Corinthians 9:22
“22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
“18 The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”
“1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
1 John 3:17
“17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”
“5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
1 Corinthians 12:25-26
“25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”
1 John 3:16
“16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”