AS A CHRISTIAN HOW MUST ONE DIALOGUE WITH THE POOR
God does not just call and work through individuals. He calls us to be part of the community, part of the people of God. That is how God has always worked. Being together in a community has many benefits –
• We can accomplish more together
• We can support each other
• We complement one another with our various gifts as the body of Christ.
For these reasons and more, being a Christian means becoming part of the Church. It means being plugged into and active in a local congregation.
But it’s also true that living in a community with one another can be challenging. Misunderstandings, the difference in personalities and points of view can lead to conflict and hurt. But this is what God uses. This is part of God’s purpose for us to be together, and not just all by ourselves serving God independently. As Proverbs 27:17 states, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Our interactions with each other are intended to make us better.
As different as we are, God puts us together to stretch us and teach us what love really is all about. And you can’t know this unless you are in a relationship with someone. And I must say in a relationship with people who are different than you are. And like all love, it can be painful.
The problem is that when we encounter relationship problems, we too often respond in an unacceptable way, which complicates the situation. We do what naturally comes to us — in our human weakness and self-centeredness. Things like gossip, rumors, always believing we’re right, always wanting our way, holding on to anger and negative attitudes, being rude, being cliché, being impatient, being hard-hearted. The list could go on and on.
We’ve all seen, heard, or even done this kind of stuff. (It is amazing what happens in churches.) Because of this and the pain it causes, many step back and don’t want to be part of it. And thus, the purpose of God is defeated.
We must be reminded, not of what comes to us in the flesh; we need to be reminded of what comes naturally to us through God’s Word and the Spirit of God working in our hearts — to care for one another in our relationships.
And to remind us of what this looks like, and to encourage us to be this way with each other, I want us to look at the in the New Testament which have the expression “each other” or “one another” and which inform us how we are to relate to one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord. (These are most of the positive advice that have to do with two words, that is, ‘one another’ or ‘each other.’
I’ve grouped them into several categories. As we go through these, I want you to think about how these might apply to you, and how you relate to others in your fellowship. Where might God be challenging you? Who might you need to make things right with?
1. WE ARE TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”—John 13:34. Love involves caring for the well-being of others. And in this verse, Jesus gives us an example of himself. We need to love one another the way Jesus loves us. That is, we are to lay down our lives for one another. We are to sacrifice for the good of one another.
Several other verses also state, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.”— 1 John 4:7. “Love one another with brotherly affection.”—Romans 12:10. “…see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” — 1 Peter 1:22.
Do we love each other? It’s not just about words or emotions; it’s about how we treat each other.
2. WE ARE TO WELCOME ONE ANOTHER
“Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.”—Romans 15:7. The context here is that of the Jews and Gentiles joining the Church in Rome. Although from very different backgrounds, they have to accept others as fellow believers.
Nearly related to this is “Show hospitality to one another.”— 1 Peter 4:9. Hospitality means being warm and friendly, making room for someone to include that person, even if they are different.
Do we welcome one another? Are we really warm and friendly with one another?
3. WE ARE TO CARRY ONE ANOTHER’S BURDENS
Paul says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.”—Galatians 6:2. The context here is to correct each other if we fall into transgression. This is a way to show one another our concerns. As James 5:19-20 states, “if any of you do err from the truth, and one converts him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
But, of course, bearing burdens can cover dealing with all sorts of needs. We need to support each other with our life burdens. Christ’s law is the commandment, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
4. WE MUST BE AT PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER
Jesus said in Mark 9:50, “Be at peace with one another.” The context here is, in part, that the disciples of Jesus were debating with each other over who was the best. He didn’t only tell them to be great, “you must be the servant of all,” he tells them to be at peace with each other.
Many verses that speak concerning, “Live in harmony with one another.”—Romans 12:18. “…And be at peace among yourselves.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:13
Are we living in peace with each other? Are we working through our differences and conflicts? Being at peace does not mean pretending that we’re going to get along. It means working through issues with love and reverence for one another so that our relationships are perfect and life-giving.
5. WE ARE TO SERVE ONE ANOTHER
“… but by love serve one another.”—Galatians 5:13.
A similar verse refers to the use of our spiritual gifts to serve one another—”As every man hath received the gift, even so, minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”—1 Peter 4:10.
6. WE ARE TO FORBEAR WITH ONE ANOTHER
“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;” Ephesians 4:2. This means putting up with, tolerating, or enduring. If you’re married, you know that even those who love each other often have to do so in areas. This has to do with the weaknesses in another believer or the things they say and do, which could rub you wrong.
7. WE MUST BE KIND WITH ONE ANOTHER
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted.”—Ephesians 4:32. That is, don’t be hard-hearted, but rather gentle, generous, or thoughtful.
8. WE ARE TO DO GOOD TO ONE ANOTHER
Paul says, “Always seek to do well to one another.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15. Just before that, he says that we certainly should not repay evil for evil or harm for harm to one another. We should always do well by each other.
9. WE ARE TO FORGIVE EACH OTHER
The previous verse goes on to state, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”—Ephesians 4:32. When someone has wronged you, choose to forgive them and try to work with them, and when they do the right thing, restore the relationship.
10. WE MUST BE HUMBLE BEFORE ONE ANOTHER
Peter says, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5.
A particular example of this comes from Paul, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.”—Romans 12:10.
11. WE NEED TO TEACH ONE ANOTHER
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.”—Colossians 3:16. We need to share with each other what God has taught us. To advise is to teach in a way that warns and corrects.
Along these lines, the writer of the Hebrews says, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”—Hebrews 3:13.
12. WE ARE TO PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER
James says, “…Pray for one another.”—James 5:16. We must care for each other by bringing each other’s concerns before the Lord that he can give grace and help in their time of need.
13. WE ARE TO CONFESS OUR SINS TO ONE ANOTHER.
In its entirety, our previous verse states, “Confess your sins to one another, pray for one another, that you may be healed.”—James 5:16. This means, of course, that we confess our sins to the person we have wronged. And it might if it were necessary, mean confessing our sins more broadly than this. All of this requires vulnerability before others and honesty.
And then we pray for healing for the individual from whatever discipline the Lord might have required them to go through because of their sin. If the guilt has been dealt with, discipline can be eliminated.
14. WE ARE TO ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER
Paul says, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11. Encouraging means instilling confidence in someone, cheering them up, and soothing them. Near to this is the term “build-up,” which reinforces or makes it more effective.
Likewise, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”—Hebrews 10:24. The idea is that we can become complacent or lazy, so we are to act to get each other motivated and move forward.
So here are fourteen ways we are to relate to one another:
1. Love one another
2. Welcome one another
3. Bear one another’s burdens
4. Be at peace with one another
5. Serve one another
6. Bear with one another
7. Be kind to one another
8. Be good to one another
9. Be humble before one another
10. Teach one another
11. Pray for one another
12. Confess our sins to one another
13. Forgive one another
14. Encourage one another
Caring for the poor is not easy — but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, at least when we understand poverty from a biblical perspective. When we begin to see suffering as the Bible does, we begin to see it as providing many practical opportunities to worship Jesus.
But how we will worship — how our concerns will be expressed — will vary from person to person. The expression of our concern does not reflect or establishes our holiness before God. Our responsibility is to serve in the way that we feel compelled to do so. With that in mind, here are five ways you help the poor who need help:
1. Start in the Church and move from there. So, this means a few things: service begins in our local congregations. James wrote (James 2:15-16), “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”. If we know the need in the Church, we are genuinely obliged to fulfill it. Note, the early Church, inspired by their love of Christ and the grace God had shown them, lived an open-handed way of life, sharing what they had with one another (Acts 2:44-45).
2. Look for simple, practical ways to serve. Consider the options that surround you. It may be volunteering with an after-school program in your neighborhood, a soup kitchen, or a clothing pantry (and if there isn’t one in your community, you could start one with the help of your Church). Maybe it is just as simple as buying a coffee for a man on the street who is asking for change. There are many needs around you than you might realize. Ask God to give your eyes to see and your heart to serve.
3. Work with experts who you can trust. Several different organizations are working to ease the suffering of the poor, both locally and internationally. But not all organizations are created equal. Do your homework — read whatever information the organizations have made available to you and review its finances to ensure that the money entrusted to it is well spent.
4. Remember that spiritual issues call for spiritual solutions. Since poverty is ultimately a spiritual problem, we would be wise to partner with organizations that understand this reality. Look for organizations committed to the local Church and faithfully preaching the Gospel, even as they minister to the poor’s physical and relational needs.
5. Pray and trust God for the results. Our duty is not to end suffering, but to minister to those who suffer while we are here. A day is coming that Jesus will return, and on that day, He will wipe away every tear from every eye. Sin, sorrow, death, etc. will all be gone. Poverty will no longer exist (Revelation 21:4). So, do what you can, pray, and trust God for the result.
So, because God has graciously chosen us in love to be set apart to Him, we need to treat others with compassion, kindness, modesty, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness. God’s gracious, caring treatment of us should be the basis of our treatment of others.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Where do I get started?” You may need to start by reflecting on your relationship with God. Have you accepted Christ as your Savior to fully experience His grace, mercy, and love? You cannot love others as you should until you have the right relationship with God.
Then write these verses to the card and read them every day. Take stock of the quality you need the most to work on and place it on your prayer list: “Lord, make me a patient man.” This is a delicate prayer, as the Lord will send you some challenging people to practice being patient with! Act obediently, not with emotions. When you ruin it, confess it to the Lord, and seek the forgiveness of those you have wronged. You can start by going to those you have already wronged to make things right. Cultivate a habit of putting on these “new clothes” and enjoy the blessing, not of a perfect relationship, but of substantially healthy relationships.