We live in a time where everything seems well organized. Sickness benefits, social benefits, unemployment benefits, housing allowances, health insurance, district nursing, etc. But it often only concerns formally regulated matters by the government or by governmental departments. However good that minimal, inadequate safety net seems: we no longer see each other as persons / individuals in need or with needs because of it. And even less we see, that there could be a personal task for yourself! It is often seen as difficult and time-consuming and "there is professional help for that" people often say. Would that professional help be a suitable solution or rather the cause of the problem and further problems?
Whatever the case: as a Christian you should be there for your neighbors, have an eye and an ear for your loved ones and take care of them. And "them" are at least your fellow Christians, but certainly also for the poor, needy, disabled, sick, elderly, etc. but also for people that may have made wrong choices in their lives such as prostitutes, homeless, thieves, and so on. And especially those who come into contact with you in your world.
It starts with making contact
How do you know about your loved ones? Of course by seeing, listening or feeling, by actively recording what the needs of those others are. Having such a capability or developing that capability is therefore important. And even more: wanting to actively use that ability to your possibilities.
Usually we do that quickly with the people we love and / or are close to us. Yet in the case of Christians it is precisely the intention to step outside that limited circle of people and be there for people outside that circle even when they are your enemies! Jesus encourages Christians to do this in Matthew 5: 44-48.
- In the schoolyard with parents or children;
- On the parents' evening;
- At work;
- In the supermarket;
- In the consulting room;
- During a neighborhood meeting;
- On a terrace;
- In the hospital;
- During the birthday visit;
- At the sports club;
- During hiking;
- During a dinner party;
- At a funeral;
Commitment for the relatives in the biblical past
In this way there is very likely to be reciprocal contact and being there for one another. And exactly that is really being there for your neighbor! Jesus always made contact with people and the needy and they with him as you can read in the Bible; for example:
Matthew 15: 22-28 - The woman from Cana;
John 9: 1-12 - Jesus & the blind man at the Temple;
Luke 18: 35-48- Jesus & the blind man at Jericho;
John 5: 1-15 - Jesus & the paralyzed man;
John 4: 1-27 - Woman at the well in Samaria;
Luke 5: 27-32 - Jesus & the tax collector Levi.
So Jesus made contact with people, engaged with them in short or longer conversations. This often led to healing, changed behavior/thinking / acting or even to permanent contact or a relationship! Jesus also commanded his disciples to go out likewise (Mark 3:15) and this could only be done by making contact with people and creating some bond and trust. After all: you get to know each other through contact. That way you know where someone stands, what he/she does, believes and what is possible. Making contact is therefore really the condition and starting point for commitment to your loved ones. And through that contact to come to a sort of basic relationship.
Commitment for fellow men in the present
How do you deal with that necessary effort for thy neighbors in the present tense? Not through formal institutions, not through door to door activities, not through a general approach. It is exactly the opposite: by making personal contact in an equal environment and doing just that. And not based on your points, your vision or your needs. And even less to improve yourself. Even clearer: dedication for your fellow men is not about you, but about the needs of your fellow men. It is very important to have that in mind and to keep it that way! Moreover: making contact will be about a topic close to the neighbor and where you want to offer the help. Call it a reason or introduction to get there. Pray and ask Jesus or God (silently) for that topic of that person; just before or during your contact with that person.
Simple example 1.
You see someone at or outside the supermarket who has trouble with loading or boarding his/her car. You greet that person, let him/her know that you also had similar problems and offer your help with keeping the door open or carrying. No big stories, no sermons, no drama and no thanks! Just as you would have liked to have it yourself.
Someone is in grief or agony, but really does not want to talk about it and wants no help. Yet you can offer that person a cup of tea or a handkerchief or chair. Often contact arises after all, and later a relationship ...
Someone has problems, but does not want any help. Only that you offer a listening ear and that you share his/her pains. Then being patient, listening and having a cup of tea together is great. Or a walk together with conversation. And maybe even several times where contact, relationship and bonding can grow from ...
Someone is knocking at your door for help; for example a service, request for administrative assistance, for transport, and so on. Are you willing to make time for that? Do you want to take the time to discuss possibilities for this? Do you want to help and thus clearing that problem? The great thing about offering help on the basis of contact and a growing relationship is that it provides the basis for more! To tell something about your faith is possible and about other valuable information or ways from that belief. This is how the relationship and joy of it grows again. My experience is that 'dropping something small' can often lead to great curiosity where big stories mostly lead to bored listeners quickly ... Even if that 'small message' does not land: the personal growth and joy is certainly there and growing. Being there for your neighbor is thus the embodiment of the Gospel and faith that is based on love!
Finally this ...
In order to keep your Christian commitment and established contacts and relationships alive you really have to create a balance in being there for those neighbors. Set your limits, ensure balance in the relationship and strive for “self-providing” instead of a totally dependent relationship. Make sure you do not collapse or get sick.
Especially for Christians who face persecution!*
For all those Christians that face persecution, violence and other threats: always pray (silently) for Gods Guidance, Protection and Insight before you contact someone or when someone contacts you. Take special notice of what God can show you on that person (face, eyes, colors!) or tell you through your thoughts about that person. When what you see on that person looks scary, dark, black, green, odd or mean: try to end that contact in a friendly but firm way. Do not comply to anything and walk away from that person. Don’t give him/her information about yourself or your faith. Neither refer them to others you know and/or share faith with! When you get thought about that person concerning his or her life you have to decide to take it as a starting point for conversation/questions; or not. Whatever you experience: be careful. Do not jump to conclusions. Don’t do things hastily. Do not give away you address or names or addresses of others. Meet on public ground where you can have some privacy but help when needed too. Keep praying God shows you the truth and insights about that person. And act accordingly. Especially have eye and ear for the small things to see the big picture about that person.