Is the Church a Caring Community?

by Rev. N. Earnest, Sri Lanka

Scripture Readings: Acts 4:32-35; Matthew 25:31-46. (NIV).

 

When poor are crushed under more than they can bear

And the smell of innocent blood wafts through the air

When truth is comprised by only what media shares

And those oppressed victimized keep silent from scare

When self is the focus of all what we care

When fears and anxieties are common to share

When charity is limited only to what we can spare

A cry comes from the heart, “is there anyone who cares?”

 

The Church is called to accomplish many things, but if it does not care for its own people, it is not operating as the Church of Jesus Christ. As Christ’s body, the Church and its members are required to care for one another. That is not to say that the Church should disregard needs outside of the body. The Church should extend Christ’s love to all people, but it ceases to function as a church if it does not care for its own.

The early church is described in Acts 4:32-35 as follows:

 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

These verses describe a community of people who cared for one another out of genuine love and concern.

Looking at the Church as a caring community, we may see it from a variety of angles and perspectives. The most straight forward of these coming from the dictionary definition of the word care.

 

Caring is usually defined as, ‘Displaying kindness and concern for others,’ or ‘Feeling or showing concern or kindness to others.’

Caring, however, entails showing compassion for others. The core of caring is the feeling or expression of concern and compassion for others. Therefore, caring is intended to be other-centric. Then how did we get to the point where we have slogans like, “I love me, myself and I?” In this self-centred world why do we need to care about others at all?

The answer to this question is found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Seeing humanity enslaved by the force of sin and wickedness, God could not hold back, and gave His own Son for our redemption because of the great care for us all.

In Ephesians 2:13, Paul stresses to the Church, “but now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

 We care because we have been cared for.

Throughout Scripture, we are constantly reminded that we are people of God who have received and experienced God’s care. Jesus says in the Gospel of John 13:34, “A new commandment I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

These words of Jesus do not imply that loving for one another is optional or merely a suggestion.

John 13:34 does not say, “If you want to, you can love and care for each other,” or “If you have time, you can care for each other.”  This is a command: Love one another. God has called us to be His people, people who love and care for one another. It is meant to be a fundamental component of who we are supposed to be as a church because our Lord and Master, whom we serve, has ordered, and instructed us to love one another.

Paul says something similar in the book of Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ as disciples of Jesus as followers of Christ.” We must provide practical relevance and reflection for our own selves to examine and evaluate where we are as a church and as people of God.

 

We are commanded to love and care for one another.

So, how does one develop a caring and compassionate heart? Paul presents a lovely description of this loving engagement of caring in Colossians 3:12 – 15, which states, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,”

Many will read that section and marvel and rejoice at the privilege and beauty available to God’s people who are holy and passionately loved. However, this is followed by, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” A call to exercise compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience in everything that we do.   But look at the way Paul puts it – “Clothe” yourselves in these values. In other words, your our lives must be enveloped by these characteristics. One should live this way with everyone and wherever, all the time. Compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience should be instilled in the life of anybody who follows Jesus.

When we talk about compassion, we have limited ways of comprehending what compassion is. For example, consider showing favour to someone who is in need or experiencing trouble or feeling sad for that person.  One of my mentors, Dr. Ivor Poobalan, once said, “Compassion is when you feel someone else’s pain in your own heart.” True compassion requires one to identify and empathize with the needs or sufferings of others. As mentioned before God’s love for His lost children was so great that Jesus stepped into our human condition leaving behind the glory of heaven.

Paul continues in verse 13, “bear with each other and forgive one another. If anyone of you has a grievance against someone, forgive as the Lord forgives you”. This is crucial to our understanding of compassion and caring. One way to show our care for each other is by enduring and forgiving one another. As broken people who will always have challenges, difficulties, conflicts, and problems, the question is not whether we can remove them from our community but, the question is, how do we deal with these difficulties effectively? Christ was willing to bear humanity’s sins and provide redemption from the cross. As His people, we must learn to bear with one another.

Acceptance of one another and willingness to forgive is crucial part of a Christian’s daily walk with the Lord. Verse 14 continues with, “and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” So, if we are to participate in caring, we must weave everything together in a single strand of love, and the result will be the beauty of the unity of God’s people.

We are as sinful as everyone else, yet more conscious of it. We are aware of the depths of our sins and the incredible compassion, grace, and forgiveness we have received through Jesus Christ. We Those who have been forgiven the most should be the most forgiving. Those who are the most loved should be the most loving – it is part of our Christian purpose.

Allow Christ’s peace to prevail in your hearts, for as members of one body, you were called to peace and thankfulness. We often do not care for one another as Christians because we are not at peace with one another. Show each other love and care, and the peace of Christ will dwell in our hearts and continue to mend and restore those things, heal and help us to endure with one another, and forgive one another.

Finally, when we are truly unified, we will care for one another in quantifiable ways and support each other physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

So, let’s ask ourselves, what’s the biggest obstacle? What prevents the Church from caring for each other’s needs and witnessing Kingdom growth? We have been tasked with these duties. Being the Church entails being a community of Christians who bear the physical and spiritual burdens of the other.  Consider how the Church would be if each of its members shared the weight of the load.

 

 

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