When Denise and I lived in Maryland, our church collected clothes from the members and invited the needy in our community to come pick up what they needed free of charge. The response was overwhelming. Within a couple of hours most of the clothes had found new owners. Those who came were deeply moved by our church’s commitment to help meet their needs. New relationships were begun. The church found people who were open to us. It helped us connect to our community. Such acts of kindness and charity are the kinds of expressions of love and compassion that can help churches and communities develop deep, enduring bonds.
As people begin coming out of their COVID-induced seclusion, we are about to find out the extent of the pain many of them have been living with. We who name Christ as our Savior should look for opportunities to reach out to those whose lives have been turned upside-down by a year of closures and isolation. Acts of kindness done simply for the sake of doing something good for someone are some of the truest expressions of genuine love.
Some people wonder if Christians should be involved in human needs activities and ministries. They worry that the church could be sidetracked from its primary purpose of evangelism. The key to maintaining a proper balance between evangelism and meeting people’s physical needs is keeping the Bible central in our lives. The Bible makes clear that helping those in need is a central tenet of the faithful Christian life, but it also makes clear that the most important Christian ministry is sharing the message of salvation. In other words, we can do both.
Jesus shows us that it is a both/and proposition, not either/or. You can’t read the gospels without becoming aware of this. Throughout the gospels Jesus heals, feeds, comforts, and encourages in addition to challenging people about spiritual matters and preaching.
To those who say that Jesus was just meeting physical needs to demonstrate that the Kingdom of God had come, I say, “OK.” Jesus was demonstrating that the Kingdom of God is characterized by such things as compassion, mercy, and love. Sure, He denounced sin and preached repentance, and we should as well. But He also engaged in acts of kindness. In the Apostle Peter’s short but Spirit-anointed message in Acts chapter 10, he said that among Jesus’ other activities, He “went about doing good.” Yes, Jesus was the church’s first “do-gooder.” It’s not only alright to engage in loving acts of kindness and compassion; it’s Christ-like. For Jesus, meeting physical needs opened the door for spiritual conversations. If it was good enough for Jesus, there’s probably something there for us to learn.
Where Do We Start?
So, what could you do for someone in need? What could your church do? Let me encourage you to do more than give some money to a needy cause. Compassion by proxy just isn’t the same thing as getting yourself involved. For sure, give to trustworthy ministries that specialize in helping those in need. But also do something yourself for someone in need in your area. That is the best way to establish relationships that can lead to spiritual conversations.
Jesus met physical needs. That was a sign that the Kingdom of God had come. We can send the same signal by meeting needs today. We should be saying, “The Kingdom of God is here. Here is the proof.” There is no end to what people in our communities need. We can provide meals, job training opportunities, clothing for new jobs, gas to get to work, transportation to doctors or stores, and a thousand other things that make the gospel message concrete for people in need. If your church needs some money to get something started, let me know. I’m sure the MTSBC can help with that.
We’re going to start to see the needs all around us as people start trying to reclaim their lives. Let’s be there for them. What you do isn’t nearly as important as that you do something. For a person in need, and there are plenty all around us today, any act of kindness is an encouragement. Choose to be the hands of God reaching out to someone in need. And if someone asks you why you’re doing this, tell them you’re doing it because God loves them and you do, too. May we who proclaim Christ be known for our love as well as our truth.