My atheist friend You Zhuan put up a Facebook post about how Christians tend to respond to a friend's situation, as compared to a non-religious person. Many Christians tend to say things like 'I'll keep you in prayer', while the non-religious might say 'Let me know if you need anything.'
My initial response to that was 'No, that's not true, we're supposed to help them practically!', but the truth is that we tend to simply stick to prayer, and think we've done enough. Keeping someone in prayer is an easy way of helping. A friend whose mum is sick? A cousin who needs a job? A sister in Christ facing tough family issues? Will our friends in need feel more comforted and helped when we say we'll pray for them, or when we actually make the time and effort to meet their needs practically?
I never see the point into going into any sort of religious debate or addressing theological issues / believers-related issues with a non-believer. There's just no point. At all. Debates never made anyone see God's love. But I took this post against Christians seriously, because we Christians tend to fall into laziness even with love, and it's not what it was supposed to be.
What did Jesus do when he met a blind man begging to be healed? He healed him. What did Jesus do when he saw Simon Peter and Andrew trying to catch fish? He asked them to cast their nets out again, and this time they caught so much that their nets were on the verge of breaking! What did Jesus do when they ran out of wine at the wedding? He turned water into wine. What did Jesus do when the 5,000 needed food? He broke bread and they ate their fill.
What did Elisha do when the widow had nothing left in 2 Kings 4? What did Peter do when he came across the lame beggar in Acts 3:6? What did the people of the church do to help their poorer brothers in Acts 4:34?
'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me...inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'
For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.
A lot of us forget that what Jesus commands as a response to practical needs is, primarily, practical help. What's the use of knowing about people stricken by poverty, illness, disability and tragic family situations, and simply saying you'll pray for them? Will that comfort them? Does that make them feel loved? Is it a genuine heart of compassion and sympathy you have, or are you just trying to feel better about yourself?
Thank God for His love that moves people to open organisations, shelters, food programmes, orphanages and more. People who let God's love flood their heart enough to lead them out of their comfort zones are the ones who display true love. Hey, I'm nowhere near there. I'm also guilty of falling into the Christian laziness. When my cell group members went to visit a sister's or brother's sick relative, I was never there. When my cell group members need homework help, I say I'll help but rarely do. Time is a big factor and also a huge excuse. Letting God's unconditional, selfless love for people flood our hearts is a process that takes more than a lifetime.
Having the love of God means really loving each person like we love our best friends, ourselves, our children. When you really, really have a compassionate and understanding heart, it shows in the effort you put in to help that person, or just be there. Effort is something a lot of us can't afford, though, especially because in this day and age we know a gazillion people; there are too many people to look out for, too many needs to be met within your social circles, too many things going on, and we can't attend to them all. So prayer becomes a 'cheap alternative'. It should be in everything we do, but not in place of everything we do!
In JC, my best friends happened not to be Christians. The ones who let me pour out everything from my heart to them - Wei Liang, who patiently sat and listened while I ranted to him every single time we met; Pau, who skipped lunch just to be with me even though I was done crying; Justin, who took a day off to sit in silence with me even though the Prelims were just around the corner - weren't Christians. Alex was a great friend in times of need, really showing me God's love, skipping breaks to sit with me while I cried, messaging me every day to make sure I was okay, memorising the quotes of an author I loved so that he could use them to cheer me up wherever appropriate. But most of the friends who gave a lot for me happened not to be Christians.
See, it's easy to let Jesus be our Saviour - our help in times of need, our blesser, our provider. It's not easy to make the decision to let Jesus take control over our lives - let Him discipline us, mould us, take us through tough lessons. What's even harder, though, is the very simple Great Commandment: loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, and loving people as much as we love ourselves.
We try to adopt the love of Jesus, but it's not just about obligatory actions. It's about a heart that is really moved by others' situations; moved enough to want to do all you can for it.
I'm nowhere near that kind of love, and I hope more of us realise that we're nowhere near God's love, and we're never finished with that job.
The biggest mistake we Christians make, and the biggest trap we must prevent ourselves from falling into, is assuming that we're any less fallen or weak, or any more righteous from our own strength, or any better a man, or any better morally. Being a Christian means recognising that we're nothing. So weak. So sinful. So terrible in every minute of our thoughts. Our strength for good and the ability to lead a life towards purity comes solely from the grace of God through Jesus. Like, nothing else. And we would not be counted as righteous in God's eyes if not for Jesus - our works do nothing for salvation.
Ask me. I'm a terrible person. My heart is always weak and mean inside. Sometimes I look at my thoughts and wonder what's wrong with me. I'm not a good person at all. Proud. Unsympathetic. Hot-tempered. Impatient. Bitter. Fake. Angry. Envious. Even at worship, my heart strays from God. I'm not righteous by my own strength. It's God's grace, and only His grace, that will justify me in the end. In the meantime, I try my best to let Him take over, because when I'm my own man nothing turns out well.