My husband’s resume is pages and pages long. Which means he’s had lots of different jobs. Which means he has interviewed for dozens of positions. But he’s never had an interview quite like this one.
It was an interview for a management position at his current place of employment. A few questions in, the man asked, “How would you give someone bad news? Suppose they didn’t get the promotion or they’re not being given the role they wanted. How would you let them know?”
So Ken proceeded to talk about how he would call out the person’s strengths, and encourage them to pursue other opportunities. He would tell them that only one can be chosen, and there are others who haven’t been selected as well. Yada, yada, yada.
The man interviewing Ken said, “That was a pretty good response. In fact, I may use that on you if I tell you that you didn’t get this position.”
Ken said, “Sure! In fact, you wouldn’t even need to bother repeating all of that. You could just tell me, ‘Remember your response to that question about giving bad news.'”
Fortunately, Ken isn’t desperate for employment, and can laugh about the interchange. But often, bad news isn’t funny. And if the person giving the news has no empathy, it makes bad news even worse. (Which is why I don’t think it would be fun to get bad news from this man.)
God has given us all some really bad news in the Bible. He says that we’ve each sinned, and our sin has personally offended God. And since God deserves infinite honor, our sin is infinitely offensive. Meaning we can never tip the scales back in our favor–not even if we started now and did good works for the next 100 years.
Our punishment is equivalent to the offense–it’s eternal. God has prepared a place for the fury of his wrath to burn forever. It’s a place without him, without hope, and without escape.
Some think God is condescending and indifferent as he gives us this bad news. They think he is detached and unfeeling, like an aloof manager behind a big desk. And this is why they also don’t want to hear God’s good news–the news that Jesus came to take our sin upon himself and pay the debt of our offenses by dying on the cross.
While I think people do need to hear God’s bad news, I think it’s equally important that they hear of God’s empathy and compassion toward them. They need to know that Jesus sympathizes with their weakness–that he remembers how it felt to be tempted! And that God beckons them to come to his throne, not with cowering shame, but with confidence–ready to receive his mercy and grace. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
As Christians, it’s our job to spread the bad news (and the good!). People deserve to know, and we would be incredibly detached and unfeeling to not bother to share the bad news. But empathy and compassion makes all the difference. Our empathy toward the world should resemble God’s.