Ministers of Sympathy
If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love . . . fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love. -- Phil. 2: 1-2
Paul wants us to be Christlike in our love; he wants us to pass on to others the consolation and comfort we have found in Christ. He is calling us to the ministry of Christian sympathy. There is no other form of service through which one can do so much good. We can never tell what the simplest word or act of sympathy may accomplish, or how far it may extend its influence and blessing.
Often we are unable to put into words the sympathy we feel for another; we can only express it by a warm clasp of the hand. Tennyson wrote to a friend who had suffered a great sorrow: “I was at a funeral the other day, and one of the chief mourners reached me her hand silently, almost over the grave, and I as silently gave her mine. No words were possible. And this little note can do really nothing to help you in your sorrow, but it s just such a reaching out of the hand to you, my old college comrade of more than forty years standing, to show that I feel with you.” A show of feeling like that does much to ease the pain of sorrow--more than many words.
Said Canon Farrar: “We often do more good by our sympathy than by our labors. A man may lose position, influence, wealth, and even health, if with resignation, and still bear up; but there is one thing without which life becomes a burden--that is human sympathy.”
The world is full of hearts that need sympathy and comfort, orphans crying in the night; Rachels weeping for their children; strong men crushed in the winepress of suffering and sorrow; thousands mourning at the grave of departed hopes. In homes on every street in every city, are hearts that bleed and ache.
Let us cherish sympathy. Let us not permit ease and indulgence to contract our afflictions, and wrap us up in selfish enjoyment. Let us cultivate that sympathy that puts us in human communion, that makes us sensible of, and responsive to, the troubles, distresses and sorrows of human life.
We can never know the full meaning of Christ and Christianity, until we learn to be ministers of sympathy.