Ephesians 2:14-17 describes Jesus as a unifier who broke down walls of separation and brought us all near to God. One of the most amazing things about being a Christian is that we share equality in the eyes of our creator (Gal.3:28). Still, in our human imperfection, we have built all sorts of divisions that fly in the face of the unity that we should share as God’s children. This is the final installment of the “bridging the gaps” series that has attempted to teach us how to achieve the unity that Jesus himself prayed for before he was crucified (John 17:20-21).
Throughout these posts, we have discussed the differences between individuals because of our backgrounds, the varying roles that we all play, and the struggle to move beyond them. In this final post, having firmly established that we are all equal and hopefully broken down some barriers, we are going to look at how to work together by giving and taking!
Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” It is clear in scripture that it is our responsibility as Christian brothers and sisters to care for each other. We have talked about getting along and looking past each other’s differences, but we must do better than surface relationships and really think about caring for each other. Below are four ways that we can be a part of the mutually beneficial Christian relationships that the Lord intended for us to have!
I. Accept Help
One of the most beautiful things about Christians is their willingness to help. Last Sunday, many congregations all over the country took up special contributions to aid in disaster relief in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and other places damaged by recent hurricanes. In the coming weeks, many will pack up in church vans and buses and travel to help with the physical rebuild of homes and church buildings. Thankfully, Christians are traditionally very generous in times of turmoil and tragedy. Yet, Christians often struggle with accepting help in their own time of need. Whether it’s pride, stubbornness, or a failure to see the need, we do not like to accept help. No one wants to be a charity case or feel like they can’t take care of themselves, but it’s really not about that. We are blessed by helping others, so when we accept it, we are allowing others to follow the Christian command to help! James 2:14-17 reminds us that we show our faith in God by helping others. We must learn to let others care for us when we need it!
II. Show Up
That same passage of scripture should encourage us to show up for others even when it’s inconvenient! We are a society that is becoming more and more isolated. We no longer greet the new neighbors with a casserole or plan a block party for the entire community. If someone shows up at our front door we are immediately suspicious of their intentions, especially if it’s the preacher! This cultural shift should not change the way the church acts when someone has a need. In the same way that we must accept help, we have to learn to show up when others are in need. This is a time commitment and will most certainly be uncomfortable. We must get over that to grow closer as a body of believers.
III. Seek Opportunities
No one can debate that we are busier now than we have ever been. In most households, both parents work, and the kids are involved in countless extracurricular activities. There is a tremendous demand for our time and the days are not getting any longer. Because of this, we have to seek out those times when we can help. A Monday afternoon is not going to be convenient to help someone move or do yard work, but we can find a couple of hours in the evening or on the weekend. Similarly, we all need to find our own niche to fill. An elderly lady may not be the ideal person to cut down a tree, but she can certainly send a card. A teenager is not going to be a candidate to do re-wire the church Fellowship Hall, but he/she can always go visit someone in the nursing home. We need to find our place and seek out our opportunities serve.
IV. Consider Service a Privilege
Philippians 2:14 reminds us to do everything without complaining. This is one of the difficulties of hard work for a good cause. Often, we are out working and grumble about someone else who is at home relaxing instead of helping. Or, we get upset because we feel someone else is not carrying their weight or work load. So, while helping others, we begin to make service a chore and ruin the whole point. Serving others is not a glamorous job, and it will usually go unheralded. We do not do it for the glory, we do it because we are Christians.
There is a well-known story about World War II when England needed to increase its production of coal. Winston Churchill called together labor leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation, he asked them to picture in their minds a parade which he knew would be held in Piccadilly Circus after the war.
First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Then would come the pilots who had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky.
Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner’s caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, “And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?” And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, “We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.”
This who we should be as Christians – those people with our faces in the dirt, working to serve others!
Bridging the gaps that separate us is certainly a daunting task, but God has called on us to do it. If we can love and serve each other in our individual times of need by giving and taking, we will grow to love each other in the way Christ intended. It is my prayer that we will never let the cares of the world come between us because we serve a risen Savior who broke down all the barriers between us! May God bless you as you care for others!