Caring Like Christ
By Grant Dibden
“People are our most important asset.” I often hear that from organisations, but it’s a lot less common to see it actually being lived out. Of course, there has to be a balance with getting the task done, but the task and caring for the people can be symbiotic. Christian organisations should be hallmarked by care for their people because as Christians we desire to obey God and be like Jesus. He loved us while we were His enemies (Romans 5:10) and we are told to cast all our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).God is a caring God and people are precious to Him, He loves them because they are made in His image, and through them God brings His plans to pass. Therefore, as His followers we need to care for people well because they are God’s children (Galatians 6:10) and because we long to see the kingdom of God advanced (Matthew 28:19) – just as He does.
Now care is a big subject, bigger than can be covered in this short article. It’s not really defined in Scripture, but perhaps a good definition can be made by combining what Paul said about the people who cared for him: “They supplied what I needed” and “they refreshed my spirit” (1 Corinthians 16:17-18; Philippians 2:25). A friend of mine described care as a series of “safety nets” (I know safety nets can sound a little negative and care is a very positive thing, but please run with the intent of the illustration). These separate nets are: care for ourselves, care for each other, care from our leaders and care from professionals … It’s not too hard to slip through one safety net, but having a series of them reduces the likelihood of not being cared for altogether. While each of these “nets” has value, I’ll focus on the details of two – care for one another and care from our leaders.
1. Care for One Another
What’s most essential about care for one another is the foundation…It’s founded on love. We love one another because we are members of the one heavenly family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and recognise that we are fellow sinners redeemed by Jesus in the same way. We love one another because love is a fruit of the Spirit who lives in us and because we long to be like our Saviour who loved us and gave Himself for us. Furthermore, we love one another because it is commanded by our Lord in the famous new commandment: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34,35 Not only does this new commandment benefit the recipient, but it also carries an element of evangelism. Our loving care for our brothers and sisters in Christ results in those around us knowing, and hopefully being attracted to, the God whose love has transformed us.
So, what should this care look like? We lovingly care for others by seeking their good, laying down our lives for them, building them up in the Word and serving them. This type of love and care is so attractive and unique that it stands out against a world of people focused on themselves. Correct teaching and understanding of all this without living it out is just so much humbug.
If we love one another we will indeed care for each other. As the Scriptures say, we will bear one another’s burdens, we will forgive one another as Jesus has forgiven us, we will be devoted to one another, we will honour one another, we will be patient with one another, we will be compassionate and kind to one another and we will encourage one another and build one another up (Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:2; 32; Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). Caring for one another is an important way to keep labourers labouring.
2. Care from Our Leaders
The most frequent metaphor used for leaders in the Scriptures is that of the shepherd. God Himself is called a shepherd (Psalm 23:1) and Jesus says He is the good shepherd (John 10:14). Christian leaders are told to shepherd God’s (not their) flock (1 Peter 5:1-4). Therefore, the care provided by leaders must be like that of a shepherd and, of course, founded in love. A good shepherd cares for God’s flock by knowing their needs. They spend informal time with people, ask questions, listen sincerely and build trust. For this there is no substitute. When the shepherd knows the needs, they are responsible to see those needs met. This doesn’t mean that leaders must personally meet all the needs, indeed doing so may stunt the person’s growth.
Leaders encourage people, looking for evidence of God’s grace in people’s lives. They communicate joy about what God is doing in the life of those they are leading and they keep pointing people to the Lord, to focus on Him. Shepherds protect the sheep and this can take many forms depending on the circumstances. As spiritual leaders, this involves praying for people, teaching sound doctrine and refuting error. A good question to ask those you are shepherding is “When have you felt cared for well?”
To keep labourers working in the harvest field it’s important that they are well cared for – and this includes care from others and care from leaders. Ask God to show you one area where you could improve your care. Make a plan and share it with someone who will encourage and support you to execute this plan so that we aren’t just hearers of the Word, but also doers (James 1:22).