Are you the kind of Christian the world really needs? I’ve been walking with God for over 16 years now as an adult, and in that time I have learned so many things, both helpful and not.
I did not truly begin my walk with the Lord until I was 18 and leaving my home to join the Navy. Over the course of the next 16 years, my journey with Him was a rolling valley of high points and low points. Each new season taught me so much about humanity, and where believers fit into the mix. Yet, I have also received confusing doctrine many times over.
It seems that confusion abounds these days.
We live in a time when the harvest is ripe, yet few comprehend how to pluck healthily from the garden. It is a delicate operation that requires a tender hand. This is the reason for this post today because, truly, the world needs a better Christian.
How to be the Kind of Christian the World Really Needs
Some people contend that Christians are hypocrites and liars. Sure, this is true. The problem that I find pointed out by non-believers or the disenfranchised believer, though, is not so much that Christians struggle with the standard issues of anger, sadness, and pain in suffering, but rather that so many lack the basic tenets of love, compassion, empathy, and support.
In my own church-going time, I have found this to be true. So often over these past six years of my life, after the time of my son’s auto-immune onset all the way through our current predicament of finding employment after separating from the military, there is a hum (if not a loud blast) of judgment and criticism from within the Body. We have received accusations of hidden sin, been told we have generational curses, been ignored and belittled in the face of our plight, and quieted from speaking of the sorrows of our hearts.
Friends, in the face of utter despair and misery, the world needs a better Christian
So, if you are the person who has struggled and suffered much, you are blessed. You have a vantage point to empathize with the suffering like those who have never known suffering can comprehend. If you have been ridiculed and falsely accused, then you have the blessed opportunity to speak hope and Life into the heart of those in the seasons of pain and sorrow.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” ~ 2 Cor. 1: 3-4
Do not be quiet. Speak encouragement and uplifting Truths. Let not the antagonists of the Body, the spiritual teenagers, who think they know everything but still have much to learn, be the loudest voice in the hearts and minds of the mourning.
Speak. I implore you. Speak.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of how to be the kind of Christian the world really needs. There are plenty more, but we must first connect with the true heart of God established and made firm through the life and works of Christ. We have our established example, and He did not attack and accuse the weak and lowly, but rather lifted them up. Who were the recipients of his firm correction? The Pharisees. The ones who knew everything.
May we all learn the imperative lessons of humility so that we may bring forth love and Truth into this world mixed with compassion, empathy, and understanding. The world needs these things now more than ever.
Talk Less, Listen More
If you are ever in the blessed position to listen to the struggles and sorrows of another, recognize the privileged position you hold. You are on sacred ground. Navigate your words carefully and with dependence on the Spirit for wisdom. Your words will make a mark in the heart of the receiver, whether for their blessing or their burden.
Love First, Evangelize Later
Evangelism has a mighty place in the Kingdom, but it has been shown repeatedly with gifts tests that only a small percentage of the Body is purposed for this ministry and strengths set. Though, yes, we all have a call to share the Gospel, the means by which we go about it ought to be intentional and centered on the Spirit, rather than the ways of man.
Like it or not, we live at a time when many people have been hurt by the foolish choices of professed believers. The name of God has been taken in vain, and we are the ones who now must move forward to restore the pain of the past.
How are we to do this? To love others through relationship building, coming to a true heart for them and their situation, rather than talking at them about God’s love.
If we truly want the world to know God’s love, it begins with us doing loving things with a humble heart and quiet life.
Be patient with the process. For many, you are the first example of true and pure love that they have ever experienced. The initial response of disbelief and distrust is natural, so persevere. Do the good things that this world needs, even if the rewards are not immediate or quick. Trust the process and hold true to love. It takes time to build trust. If we hope to have the opportunity to speak about the hope we have, we must position ourselves as trustworthy lovers of others long before the time of opportunity arises.
Love well. And do not give up.
In today’s fast-paced world, it is easy to get distracted with moving from one thing to the other, but we must build margin into our lives so that we maintain the space to be available to love and serve others in their times of need. As best as we can, it is ours to be the Light in this world. Let not your value be held in your busyness, but rather may you internalize your place of value to this dying world.
Trust God for YOUR Life and Provision First
Whether or not you recognize it, people are looking at you to see what you do in your life. Do you take action in your trust of God, or are you all talk? Do you go where He leads, or do you make excuses?
If you are making excuses, recognize your sin, repent, and take action. Grace is full of forgiveness, and every day is full of new mercies. Learn, and then do better step-by-step. That’s what growth looks like. It’s okay to grow.
Empathize with the Hurting, Mourning, & Sorrowful (even if you don’t agree with why they’re struggling)
I mentioned this before, and I will mention it again: it is critical to grow in compassion without judgment. The voices of this world have taught judgment as a baseline for compassion. Do I agree that this struggle is worthy of my empathy? This seems to be the thought process of many. Such lines of thinking place the approval of man over the heart of God, and miss the opportunity.
Let’s be clear: it is not your or my place to agree with someone else’s plight. It is not our job to judge, but to love.
I mentioned once that to be the hearer of struggle, pain, and sorrow is a sacred place. You have been given sacred access to the inner hurtings of the heart, to the most vulnerable and weak places of another person’s life. This space requires tender care. Handle it as such.
Stop offering simplified solutions to the problems others face. Offer literal help to their needs without advice.
This piggybacks off of the former point. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have solutions to their problems that are advice or opinion only. How can you help? Take action. If they are struggling with hunger, feed them. Are they sorrowful and in mourning? Serve them. If they are broken in poverty, pay a bill. Set up a meal train for them, and bring a meal. Do they need someone around to help with things like laundry, cleaning, or a good babysitting night? Set up a day to come to do those things. Be the hands and feet in this world with a generous and happy heart. Love freely and without judgment.
Interact with God
Before we can truly serve with the purest heart, we must come to know the love and heart of God in Christ. This means that we must have our own personal walk with God, full of engagement, prayer, and reading His Word to increase and challenge our perspectives. Prayer especially is to be our guide, but this concept has been twisted into a formulaic method for many.
I contest, though, that we can talk with God in the same way that we might converse with one another.
See the example of David in the Psalms, Moses on Mount Sinai, and Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Every one of these examples shows a vulnerable, hurting, weak place of the heart poured out in total vulnerability to God, while believing that His goodness would cover them.
There is no right way to pray, but rather than we pray believing that God is real and truly present, even when our feelings press us to lie to us about our circumstances. Know Him yourself and you will experience incredible fruit that can be handed out to benefit others, too.
Defend the Rights of Others (even if you are hated because of it)
Again, looking to Jesus, He set the example of protecting the defenseless and fighting against abusive powers. We have plenty of abuse occurring in this world, and many, many hurt and sorrowful people bear the weight of such abuse in their lives in many ways. Love them with action.
Fight the good fight to defend the weak, mourning, shamed, and defenseless. Do not err by being a further bully against them, and repent when you are. Learning is a process, and surely we have much within ourselves that the Spirit seeks to uproot for our betterment and the benefit of others.
Learn Healthy Boundaries
The world needs people who understand the difference between self-control and others-control. This is the heart and soul of boundaries. Make no mistake, God has incredible boundaries, which is why He is not a puppeteer and does not overstep in our destruction of the world. But, when we invite Him into our issues and circumstances, we are extending access to Him into our lives, inviting Him into our sacred space of vulnerability, where tender grace and mercy must thrive.
It is not easy to be perfect in this, but that is the goal: to be perfect like God. May we continue to work in that progress as every opportunity and lesson arises.
Give Freely to Others in Love (not just a tithe to your church)
The principle of giving was in action long before the time of Abraham, and it is greater than any law of tithing. But, generosity and freely giving to others out of a heart of love is a blessing that comes straight from the heart of God.
Look for opportunities to give freely. Can you make someone a meal? Offer twenty dollars? Buy a gift card? Buy some shoes? Whatever it is that God presents before you to help someone else in their plight, look for ways to fulfill the need. If we will not help others, who will? If we, who are called to live as little Christs in this world, will not love freely and generously, what hope does humanity have?
Read the Bible for Yourself
I know you’re busy. I really do, but you are not doing yourself or others any favors by neglecting to dig into the Word for yourself, rather than eating small crumbs of the Word through other sources. Open the actual bible daily, even if only for a few minutes! I promise this is a habit that you will never regret, and one that truly will bless your life so greatly.
Be Available to the Hurting (learn to see them)
We have SO many hurting people in our world today, and it expands much, much further than we generally even see. We have racism, sexism, elitism, anti-nationalists, ageism, and then of course all of the mental health, emotional health, and auto-immune condition isms, and even the emotional struggles that happen in the midst of great disappointment and suffering. Basically every other -ism under the sun. What does that tell me?
It tells me that we have a LOT of people who cannot do life within normal expectations, and that is not their fault.
It means that those who are not in the midst of a true upheaval to their existence must learn to tune into the emotional workings occurring in another person, instead of listening to the inner critic that analyzes and critiques something that is out of the ordinary.
Even such simple engagements as offering an encouraging word to the mom in the supermarket whose kid is throwing a major tantrum, or a pat on the arm to the dad with the stroller rubbing his head as his kid tries to escape. Every day presents opportunities to be a presence of Love and peace to someone else in the midst of their pain. It doesn’t take much more than a moment most of the time, but you will never truly know how deeply that moment means to the recipient.
We Can Do Better
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ John 13: 34-35
Friends, I know that we are all busy and crazed, and life is chaotic and overwhelming, but truly there is a world full of hurting people all around us, all the time, both within the Body and outside. But, we can never truly impact lives when we are busy being consumed with our own lives, plans, and judgments.
If we really want to be the Little Christs in this world, we must learn how to see people for who they are: sheep in suffering. And if we are human and have lived any reasonable amount of time, then we know what it’s like to be a sheep lost in the woods. We know what it is like to suffer struggles and trials and difficulties.
And, that’s a gift. This is what the Pharisees lacked. The Pharisees had “law.”
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” ~ Matthew 23: 23
They had the “answers” for “what to do” (i.e. works), but they had no love, emotional intelligence, or wisdom and connection to the heart of God.
May we not make the same mistakes, but rather learn from their poor example.
Sweet sister, if you are the person in the place of suffering, I am giving you a virtual hug right now. As much as I know it is a lonely and treacherous place to walk, God is with you. He may feel distant, seem silent, and it may be the loneliest feeling you have ever had, but it is a lying feeling. Feel it, and then lay it into the hands of our Abba. He will help you through even this.
And, if you know someone who is struggling, even if you don’t know them well, pray for how you can be a Light in their dark season. How can you love them at this time? Then, follow through. This is how we change the world from darkness into Light. Shine your Light.