There is something about sympathy that causes defensive walls to crumble. Not only does sympathy get past defenses, it is healing salve for the soul. Peter wrote, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9 ESV).
The word Peter uses for sympathy is only used once in the whole Bible. It literally means suffering or felling the like with someone. When we are truly sympathetic, we enter into suffering with them.
The word for tender heart means have a “good gut.” It means to have compassion well up from your bowels, where it is essentially full of meaning and heart. It is about entering into the world of suffering with another person with immense meaning. When we are unified in mind (having the same mind), enter into suffering with people and mean it from our gut, treat each other with brotherly love, and are humble, that person’s world changes.
As Christians, we need to mean it when we express sympathy for one another. This was how Jesus treated people who were desperate. He entered into their world of suffering and then ultimately suffered the pain of the cross.