By Karen Ho, Yale-NUS ’17 – See bio
My friend put up a Facebook post about how Christians tend to respond to a friend’s situation, as compared to a non-religious person. Many Christians tend to say things like ‘I’ll keep you in prayer’, while a non-religious friend might say ‘Let me know if you need anything.’
My initial response to that was ‘No, that’s not true, we’re supposed to help them practically!’, but the truth is that we tend to simply stick to prayer, and think we’ve done enough. Keeping someone in prayer is an easy way of helping. A friend whose mum is sick? A cousin who needs a job? A sister in Christ facing tough family issues? “I’ll pray for you, darling. Hope everything gets better.” How sincere are we really being? Will our friends in need feel more comforted and helped when we say we’ll pray for them, or when we actually make the time and effort to meet their needs practically?
What did Jesus do when he met a blind man begging to be healed? He healed him. What did Jesus do when they ran out of wine at the wedding? He turned water into wine. What did Jesus do when he saw Simon Peter and Andrew trying to catch fish? He asked them to cast their nets out again, and they caught so much that their nets were on the verge of breaking! What did Jesus do when the 5,000 needed food? He gave thanks, broke bread and they ate their fill.
What did Elisha do when the widow had nothing left in 2 Kings 4? What did Peter do when he came across the lame beggar in Acts 3:6? What did the people of the church do to help their poorer brothers in Acts 4:34?
‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me…inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.
A lot of us forget that what Jesus commands as a response to practical needs is, primarily, practical help. What’s the use of seeing people stricken by poverty, illness, disability and tragic family situations, and simply saying you’ll pray for them? Will that comfort them? Does that make them feel loved? Is it a genuine heart of compassion and sympathy we have, or are we just trying to feel better about ourselves?
Thank God for His love that moves people to open organisations, shelters, food programmes, orphanages and more. People who let God’s love flood their heart enough to lead them out of their comfort zones are the ones who display true love. Hey, I’m nowhere near there. I’m also guilty of falling into the Christian laziness. Time is a big factor and also a huge excuse. Letting God’s unconditional, selfless love flood our hearts and spill out into the world is a process that takes more than a lifetime.
Having the love of God means really loving each person like we love our best friends, ourselves, our family. When you truly have a compassionate and understanding heart, it shows in the effort you put in to help people, or just be there for them. Time and energy is something a lot of us can’t afford, though, especially because in this day and age we know a gazillion people; there are too many people to look out for, too many needs to be met even within your social circles, too many things going on, and we can’t attend to them all. So prayer becomes a ‘cheap alternative’.
It should be in everything we do, but not in place of everything we do!
It’s easy to let Jesus be our Saviour – our help in times of need, our blesser, our provider. It’s not easy to make the decision to let Jesus be our Lord and take control over our lives – let Him discipline us, mould us, take us through tough lessons. What’s even harder, though, is the very simple Great Commandment: loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, and loving people as much as we love ourselves. It’s hard to let Him change the way we feel about people, to let Him shape our hearts to love everyone equally, and equally tremendously.
We try to adopt the love of Jesus, but it’s not just about obligatory actions. It’s about a heart that is moved by others’ situations; one that’s moved enough to want to do all you can for them.
I’m nowhere near that kind of love, and I hope more of us realise that we’re nowhere near it, never finished with that job.