John W. Hodge
Like many other characteristics of the human race, sympathy may be, and in many instances is, misdirected. It is good to be sympathetic, provided, of course, our sympathy is guided in channels of truth and right. We have known people who have allowed their sympathy to override common sense—yea, even the truth of God’s word.
Regardless of how I think or feel, the word of God is to have the preeminence in my life. It—not how I feel—“is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psa. 119:105). If others—even my relatives according to the flesh—have not walked in the light thereof, I am not to allow my feelings or sympathy for them to be the deciding factor of my own eternal destiny. My feelings cannot alter the will of God or change the destiny of any man. “If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be” (Eccl. 11:3). Considering Israel’s aloofness from Christianity, Paul could wish himself accursed for their sake. But nowhere does he intimate that they could be saved in their rebellion to Christ and His gospel. With him, it was a settled fact that the Lord will take vengeance on all those who obey not His gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
How often is it the case that when the Lord’s plain declaration, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” (Mark 16:16) is quoted, someone responds, “Oh, but my father and mother were not baptized? Am I to believe that they are lost?” Such a remark clearly shows that feeling, or sympathy, is allowed to predominate over the word of the Lord. The Universalist affirms the salvation of all mankind, regardless of conduct or character. When pressed for proof of his affirmation, he stresses the love and mercy of God, saying that God will overlook our transgressions. Thus, he creates a sympathy in support of his theory, and the theory overrides God’s word that, he by no means will clear the guilty (Ex. 34:7). What the world—religious and irreligious—needs is not sympathy, but faith—a full acceptance of what the Bible teaches.
We need to create a sympathy for truth and right. David said, “Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psa. 119:104). We cannot hate a thing and be in sympathy with it at the same time. We may love and sympathize with relatives and friends who are in error, but certainly we cannot afford to sympathize with their error to the extent that we would walk therein.
As an outstanding example of one who allowed his faith to override his sympathy, we find none better than Abraham. God commanded him to offer his son Isaac (Gen. 22). There existed in the heart of Abraham love and sympathy for this “only son.” But there existed in his heart a faith that “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief” (Rom. 4:20). Would his love and sympathy for Isaac lead him to the sacrificial altar? It could not! Rather, it would revolt at the idea. But when the strength of faith takes hold of God’s word, sympathy is overpowered—not destroyed—and the deed is done.
And so it should be now. For “…this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). There are problems which we cannot solve and difficulties which we may not overcome by sympathy, but unwavering faith in God’s word is the sure way to victory. The heroes of God are the heroes of faith. From the burning, smoking altar of righteous Abel till the last trump shall sound, God has ordained that “the just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11, Heb. 10:38) and no man is regarded by Jehovah as “just” who is devoid of this fundamental principle, regardless of how he may sympathize with the forces of error. Is your sympathy in harmony with truth and right?