for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. (ESV)
The body of Christ is an amazing thing. The love and affection that happen between the members of the body are a reflection of the great love that our Savior has for us. Before the world was ever created the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had beautiful fellowship together. Perfect love and harmony was theirs. This is supposed to be what we experience with one another.
To truly love one another in a proper way means to care for another. As Paul told the church at Corinth, "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Corinthians 12:26). This kind of genuine concern, where we are sensitive to the needs of others, and even feel the same feelings of our brother or sister in Christ is what we would define as empathy.
- The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner
In our verse today, Paul is describing Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus longs for his fellow believers in Philippi. He is distressed because he knows that they have heard that he was ill. He feels so bad that they have been worrying about him and wants to go back to them and reassure them that he is fine. This kind of empathy is a beautiful picture of people in the church loving each other like Jesus.
What happens when you hear that someone in the body of Christ is hurting? Do you grieve with them? Do you celebrate when your brother celebrates?