“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet He did not sin."- Hebrews 4:15
The month of October is often highlighted by what comes at the very end of the month, as kids of all ages (yes even some adults) go to great lengths in choosing the coolest, most creative, and eye-catching costume. The costume selection becomes as important as enjoying a good time with friends at a Halloween party or filling a bucket/pillow case with goodies while trick or treating. From Disney princesses to superhero's to movie characters to cool professions to silly food items, boys and girls will transform themselves into someone or something else for a night. They will not just put on the costume to identify with their character, they will wear their hair a specific style, talk with a distinct accent, and demonstrate similar movements and mannerisms. They are fully immersed in playing the part, milking the moment, and receiving rave reviews from others.
The costume one puts on will most times clearly and instantly IDENTIFY them with someone or something else. As I think about the identity transformation that takes place on October 31st each year, I am convinced that there is a key work God wants to do in shaping us that will be seen by others, known by others, and of great value to others. As we build relationships with others, as we cross paths with people, and as we "do life and faith" with family members and friends, the Lord wants us to walk with others through their specific season of journey, focus, need, and even struggle. In Romans 12:15 we are instructed to, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; and weep with those who weep." We are to make ourselves available and present for people to pray for their pressing need, to have compassion for their current struggle, to have a listening ear to the cry of their heart, and to offer encouragement and assistance that brings them to the place of rescue, relief, and resounding victory!
The call we have been given in life to "BE WITH" others is so vital to God's economy and is often the very God equation that answers the need of the individual. In Proverbs 17:17 it says, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." As important as it is for us to be with others in their time of need, there is an even deeper level of love, support, affirmation, and healing. But as you might guess, deeper does mean more difficult. What if we learned to go a little deeper with a person, by not just being "with", but allowing God to open our hearts and our eyes in such a manner that we were actually able to "IDENTIFY" with their need, their loss, their pain, and their experience? Based on the fact that we are human and have had some measure of time on earth will ensure that we have shared experiences and a point of common ground. Yet, there are also certain things that we may never be able to compute or feel completely. I know that in the ways that I am able to identify with people who have lost a loved one, dealt with an alcoholic parent, or the pain of being a child dragged through divorce, there are other experiences that are foreign to me and where I need God to reveal what to say and what to do. For example, if there is someone who is unemployed and looking for work, at an earthly level I cannot identify with that specific need, as I have not been without a job since I was eighteen years old. The reality is that there are certain things that we have no context for: How to live with an unbelieving spouse; the pain of a family member's drug addiction; losing a child through a miscarriage; having a parent abandon or neglect you.
It is in this reality, in this chasm/void if you will, that I want to encourage us that the lack of earthly experience in an area can give way to the fullness of an eternal infusion and identification. The key to both "being" and "identifying" with someone else for their comfort, healing, and deliverance is when we ask Jesus to flood us with His heart, His mind, and His love for that person. That we are no longer looking through physical lenses, but through the Savior's. What I cannot personally identify with in another's place or pain, Jesus always can. In II Corinthians 5:14, 16 Paul declares a new way of seeing and thinking, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died...So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view." For it is Christ who has experienced every dimension of emotion, pain, abandonment, and temptation that humanity has endured through. Jesus knows ridicule; Jesus knows rejection; Jesus knows real loss; Jesus knows loneliness; Jesus knows weeping; Jesus knows death!
The best outfit to wear each day is to clothe ourselves in the love of Christ which will extend the sweetest treat of God's compassion, kindness, loving-presence, and healing power. Let us learn to live with others, to be present for others, and to identify with others, not in the physical paradigm of self, but in the heavenly paradigm of the Savior. Let us make every day an opportunity for us to have our identification in Christ and identify with those Christ came to redeem. As Colossians 3:12 tells us, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."