I’m no theologian, but the crux of Christianity has always seemed to me to be empathy.
Jesus had the potential for an easy ride. He was God’s son, and he could have reveled in mortal pleasures. He could have been a king — you know, the real kind, with crowns of gold not of thorns — but he declined.
He immersed himself in our miseries. He hurt. He felt betrayal. He was judged by those with no right to judge him. He died the most brutal death, overwhelmed by vulnerability and pain. He asked for a pass and simultaneously declined one.
He was human. He understood the least of us. He buried himself in humanity: the dirt and grime and sweat and blood. The king of kings became the lowest serf, walking in the shoes of the shamed and diseased.
Once or twice a year, we worship Jesus. We see him on the lowly ass and look for ways to spread palm fronds to ease his journey.
Somehow, though, we miss the point. We acknowledge his empathy for us but decline to feel the same for our brothers and sisters.
We raise fiscal issues when the issue is healing those who are sick. We preach the deficit when the issue is hunger. We throw stones at immigrants when we should be comforting the stranger.
We claim to be Christians, but we rebuke Christ daily. Rather than empathize with the poor and the hungry and the sick, we seek ways to denigrate them.
Christ, who could have had any worldly possessions, chose instead to honor those who had none.
Christ, the supreme judge, refused to judge. Instead, he understood our failings. He embraced our desperation. The all-powerful son of God chose empathy over censure. He loved us and demanded that we love one other.
In the ultimate act of empathy, Christ hungered and suffered and died for us. Can we honor his sacrifice by empathizing with each other? Can we care for the sick and the poor?