Heavenly Love On An Earthly Plane
Some years ago, I purchased tickets to a Talent Show to help raise funds for a church ministry that was really focused on helping those who were in need within their congregation and also within the community. Assistance in the form of diapers, food, payment of medical and general household bills, bus tokens and cash gifts were given to those in need. The feedback they got clearly showed that those who received help were truly grateful and became more hopeful. As I pondered this act of love that this Talent Show supported, I was inspired to search the Scriptures and find out what it stated about practical love. Here are two of the Scriptures that I found:
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” (I John 3: 16~23 NIV)
Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone. Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, “Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all—it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” I say, “I can’t see your faith if you don’t have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds.” (James 2:14~18 NLT)
As we see in the above Scriptures, we please God by having faith in Jesus Christ and loving each other in practical ways. Good deeds don’t save us or give us brownie points with God. Rather, they are the visible expression of our hearts as we grow in faith in Jesus Christ and draw closer to our loving Father in heaven. The desires of our heart, how we spend our time and money are all good barometers of the state of our Christian walk. As we willingly yield our lives more and more to God, to his plan and purpose for our lives, we are more likely to see the ways in which we can serve others in love.
The guideline for giving to those in need, is clearly written in Matthew 6:1~5. We should not do good deeds to get the praise and recognition of man. Our motivation to do good deeds must be born out of our love for God and a genuine desire to please Him and obey what He has commanded us to do. Here are some guidelines from my own life experience. I would venture to state that there are many more that can be added to this list ~ it is by no means a complete list:
- When you see a person with a need and find a desire to help them in your heart, always pray and ask God for His love and wisdom to fill your heart and mind before you approach the person who has the need.
- Always ask the person who has the need if you can help them and tell them how you intend to do so. Never offer to do more than you can truly do. Sometimes asking a question or two can open the door.
- Never take offense if your offer to help is rejected. Always be open to accept the refusal of someone you want to help even if you feel strongly God has moved your heart to help them. Remember God is in control; we can let go and let God. In my own experience, some of the best results have come when I have let go and let God do the work that brings a person in need to a place of receiving or asking for help.
- Never judge why another person has a need or try to probe and find out more than what a person is willing to share about why that need exists in their lives. We are all “works in progress” on the pathway of becoming more like Jesus. Some of us have bad habits that bring consequences. If God moves you to help someone financially who is suffering the consequences of, for example, poor financial planning, then it is His mercy that has moved your heart and it is not your place to judge the person in need nor try to fix how they manage their finances in the future, unless they seek your help to do so. But we can always pray for God to intervene and help them further.
- As Jesus taught in Matthew 6: 1~5, do your good deeds in secret. Don’t let anyone else know what you have done.
- Never hold the person you help in debt to you. Giving help, whether in cash, material possessions or our time, should always be a gift with no strings attached. There should never be an expectation that the person you helped should help you out should you happen to have a need at a later date.
- Never do good deeds with the expectation that your good deed should be acknowledged with a “Thank You”.
Some years ago, I had the privilege of spending some time in the home of a young couple from the church I was attending at the time. They had a baby, a toddler and a slightly older child and I was moved by the struggle of their lives. The demands of looking after their kids, growing a career, minding a home and trying to take care of their spiritual needs were simply overwhelming them and took up all their energy. It had been a very long time that they had spent an evening together free of the kids. My heart was moved but I lived too far away to offer any help myself. And then the idea came, what if another young couple in the church who had young children and lived closer to them would partner with this couple and spend one Saturday a month minding their children so they could have one day together without the kids. The partnership could be reciprocated so both couples had a break one day a month from the kids. A wonderful opportunity to grow the love that brought them together in a bond of marriage. Perhaps this could also become a partnership of prayer.
I made the suggestion, and to my delight, they were encouraged to seek another couple. I think there are many ways we can lovingly partner with others in this body of faith that God has placed us in. A young person who drives can partner with a senior person who walks and give them a ride to church in the winter. A healthy person can partner with someone who lives alone and has an illness like Arthritis or is a senior and help them with a physically demanding task, etc.
In my own experience, I found that random acts of kindness were not limited to my family, circle of friends and acquaintances, or co-workers. I could prayerfully befriend and assist complete strangers whose path crossed mine in the neighbourhood where I lived. In one case, befriending a neighbour, whose spouse worked away from home with their only vehicle for several weeks at a time, opened the door for me to provide a ride to the grocery store when I shopped, or a ride to pick up her five year old from school in bad winter weather. The most unexpected delight was that I not only gained a new friend but I also found my heart so joyful that I dare say that what I received outweighed anything I did.
In closing, it is my deepest hope that your heart will be inspired to go on your own journey of seeking whom you can serve so you may truly live His command to love others not just in words but with deeds.
Here is a prayer that you may wish to pray:
Please forgive me for the times when I have been selfish and self-centred. Help me fulfill your command to love others by using the gifts and resources you have given me. Lord, give me a heart that desires to only please you and bring glory and honour to your Holy Name. Fill my heart and mind with your wisdom and love so I may love others in a way that is pleasing to you, Lord. I thank you for the many ways you have blessed my own life. In Jesus name, Amen.