I recently updated my Facebook profile, changing my occupation to “Sharing God’s Story”. Some of you, my dear friends, noticed and LIKEd this. It gives me a warm and fuzzy to know that you do read my posts (even the ones that don’t touch off political … firestorms.) But, what do I mean by this?
I hope that it is obvious that I am trying to live as a disciple of Christ, meaning that I have dedicated myself to following the teachings of Jesus, Son of Man/Son of God, which may or may not be the same as the Christian “religion”. (What that is exactly is another post.)
In this post, I want to focus on one area, “loving others” – helping and caring for others, and I’ll start with Zechariah 11:4:
The Lord God says, “Care for the sheep that have been raised to be killed.”
In very blunt terms, this verse pairs with the cliche, “S**t Happens”. We all know that some people get a raw deal from life – that life in this broken world is unfair and some of us are, frankly, the sheep to be slaughtered, in a figurative sense. I’m also pretty sure we can all agree that most of us will go through periods of ‘sheepness’, very raw seasons, times of extreme need, but that some of our “needs” can be relative – not always material in nature and sometimes of a severity that is difficult for others to understand. In many ways, we are not equal.
Case in point, my own. I assume, of course, that you are familiar with my and my family’s recent story, of my sudden failing health. There is no question that we needed financial help, because I could no longer work and had no benefits as a contract employee. How I ended up in that situation, at age 50, is the story of my relative needs. I won’t go into the details, but let’s first consider where our financial help came from:
1. family and friends (we started a Go Fund Me)
2. from my church community
3. from “the government”, the last resort (Social Security Disability)
I know that some of us “are not so lucky in our friends as [others]” (movie quote!), and don’t have family and friends capable of giving. But everyone can be a part of a church community – I joined Grace Chapel only in 2011. (I’m conservative because the atheistic left seems to want to remove #2 as an option, and make #3 the first resort – I proclaim we need GOD, but that is a very big other post.)
I should note that, first off, I want to help myself, and I do want to help others, and I assume that we are all alike in this. [Insert your favorite discussion of the definition of help: the giving of a fish to feed for a day or the teaching of fishing to feed for a lifetime.] The point for this post is: we can’t be taught without a teacher. In regards to my non-material needs, my help, the teaching, also comes from God. God has taught me. He teaches all of us. Therefore, it’s HIS story.
The Bible, in numerous places, stresses that we are changed on the inside by God. Philippians 2:13 “Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it.” All self-improvement comes through the gift of the Grace of God. This is why we say “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It’s God’s job to change others; our part is to follow through with changing our own thoughts, words, and behaviors – through the power he gives. It’s GOD’s story in the details of our lives.
So, as of 2008, I found myself, changed/saved by God. (again, another story I’d be very happy to share with you.) 1 Timothy 1:15 “Here is a true statement that should be accepted without question: Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners, and I am one of the worst of them. :16 But I was given mercy so that in me Christ Jesus could show that he has patience without limit. Christ showed his patience with me, the worst of all sinners. HE wanted me to be an example for those who would believe in him and have eternal life.” No matter how many times we fall down, what matters is that we get back up. God extends his hand to help us every, single time.
GOD is the answer, the teacher, not me or any of my efforts. It is crucial that we know and live this humility, because otherwise pride comes, and we fall. i.e. Change the stress in verse 16 from “HE wanted me” to “he wanted ME.” Now it’s all about me: I’m more important than you. How’s that make you feel? Certainly, this is not an attitude helpful to others.
What else is not helpful? The 1 Timothy 1 verse is in reference to those who focus on meaningless stories and family history – pride in who they are, not even for anything they’ve done but because of their ancestors, their circumstances of birth.
This pride in ourselves instead of the humility of being simply one character among many in GOD’s story, rubs people the wrong way and is the cause of envy and jealousy, the spiral downward, the slippery slope.
Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. :3 (i.e.) Those who know they can eat any kind of food must not feel that they are better than those who eat vegetables (and vice versa). God has accepted [all of us]. :13 Let’s decide not to do anything that will cause a problem for a brother or sister to hurt their faith. :22 You should keep your beliefs about these things a secret between you and God.
All this is to say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” We don’t need to be “in your face” about our beliefs. (Sports metaphor! why is it unsportsmanlike to taunt or dance after scoring a touchdown? Unless both teams can celebrate the skill of a great play, act like you’ve been there before.) But I digress.
To conclude: How can I help others, other than with material needs? First, by sharing what I do have plenty of, my faith. GOD’s story in my life, expressed as exactly that. My time in service somewhere, like volunteering on the worship team. Second, by the way I act, speak, and think, humbly. Showing Christ-like characteristics, not prideful ostentatiousness of any kind. 1 Corinthians 1:31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” GOD has helped me. He can and will help you, too.
Thanks for reading! As always, I love your feedback – about the subject of the post (was it made plain? was it well-reasoned and researched?) but also about the writing itself (typos? grammar? structure?)