The first two posts in this series have offered two observations coming out of 1 Timothy 5:1-16 which may help a church family to further consider what it means to honour and care for those who are most vulnerable.
In the first post, we observed that the widow of 1 Tim 5 was akin to the ‘vulnerable’ today.
In the second post, we observed that when caring for a person in need – everyone is different and everyone can play a part. Five pointers were offered in how to do that.
In this last post, I would like to recommend a good book that works hard to offer principled and practical suggestions for getting alongside a person whom we are trying to love.
Side by Side – Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).
Side by Side by Edward Welch is a quick and helpful read, written by a Christian counselor who has practiced and written in the fields of depression, fear and addiction for decades.
The aim of the book is to identify skills that Christians can learn and then use in caring for others. His basic idea is that those who help best are the ones who both need help and give help.
As such the book is divided into two parts. The first is focused on the reader, we all have needs. To be needy is to be human. His observation is that most people find it hard to ask for help, yet by God our very design is that we are are needy lest we trick ourselves into thinking that we are self-sufficient.
He then uses this section to address some realities – life is hard and will have hard things, we use busyness to cover up many of our needs, sin is a problem, praying is good, asking others for help is good and especially when it comes to spiritual matters.
I particularly found his attitude to thankfulness very refreshing as he says:
‘We aim our thankfulness at spiritual matters – what is permanent and certain, from the Spirit, rather than temporary. Spiritual means that we peer through things seen so we can see the things unseen… Spiritual matters deserve priority in our thanks. We should be thankful for physical health or for a job following a season of unemployment, but if our thankfulness is grounded on only those things we can see with our eyes, which do not have longevity, we will, someday, have no reason to be thankful, because someday we will be unhealthy and suddenly we can turn from thanks to bitterness.’ (p63)
The second part of the book looks forward and the emphasis changes from being needy to be needed. His argument is that we are all helpers, which is also a part of being human. We are meant to walk side by side with others. Welch suggests in fact that this is the way that a church family moves forward, modeled on Christ through mutual love and care.
Suggested are a series of principles that may help the needed care for others despite the fears that might arise.
- To remember that when Christians care they do it by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- That when we care we naturally move closer to others.
- That caring involves thoughtful intentional conversations.
- That it is helpful to keeping looking until you see the good in the one you are caring for (which the church more than anywhere should be equipped to do since we are called to serve others).
- That everyone has a story and the story is worth listening too (on repeat if necessary).
- That compassion in the face of trouble is exercised in humility.
- That praying for healing, comfort and faith is essential and that sometimes the person in trouble finds it too difficult to pray, and so the carer must.
- That Satan loves to attack the downtrodden.
- That sin should be talked about graciously and that it rarely helps to ignore it or minimize it.
- And that the Bible’s story: the past, present and future, is our story and must be kept in view.
The challenge is for the Christian to engage, both for the sake of the needy as well as for the needed (ourselves). Part of being in a Christian community is that we use the gifts that we have to serve one another in love.
‘Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others. We each have different gifts according to the grace given us…let him use it in proportion to his faith’ (Romans 12:4-6)
I am thankful that 5pm Church is a place where members do exercise their gifts to serve others. Let’s keep it up and help one another do it better and better under God.