Jesus’ entire adult life was characterized by a deep concern for the spiritual condition of the nonbeliever. He saw them as desperately lost, and His heart was broken because of that. His compassionate purpose for their well-being was deep-rooted, and He showed this concern specifically in the way He met them where they lived, fed them, taught them, and healed them (Matthew 9:9-11; Mark 1:33-34; 6:30-42; Luke 5:1-11).
The example Jesus set for us is to build relationships with people who don’t know Him. When we meet a person who has not yet experienced God’s saving grace, we are to have the heart of Jesus and extend a helping hand at their point of need. If they are thirsty, we can give them a cup of water; if they’re hungry, we can feed them (Matthew 25:35-40).
Let’s not forget that Jesus came to our rescue when we were lost. So now, out of gratitude and love, we can find opportunities to do what we can to help others who are separated from God. Isolating ourselves from sinners misses the point of sharing the good news of Jesus, and it feeds into a self-righteous attitude.
Nonbelievers are spiritually sick (like we were), and they need saving faith in Jesus. They need His love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. And it’s important to remember that the only difference between a believer and a nonbeliever is the condition of the heart. He who has a redeemed heart should be broken over the one who has the sin-sick heart. Matthew 9:10-13 reads,
“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and “sinners”?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ ”
We won’t be much good to the spiritually sick, however, if we ignore our own spiritual health. Just like getting enough rest, exercise, and nutritional food will help build strong physical bodies, meditating on God’s Word, praying, and listening to God will strengthen our spiritual lives. It’s equally important to make sure our closest friends are Christians who encourage us in the faith. It matters who we spend most of our time with, because friends can either make us stronger or bring us down (1 Corinthians 15:33).
I think it’s clear that we, in countless ways and opportunities, can and should reach out to non-Christian people. We can show them love by offering them a meal, a job, or friendship, and most importantly, we can introduce them to Jesus, the Savior of our souls.
Some people don’t think it is very important. Since leadership requires flexibility, some think that a person with high ideals and deep moral convictions will be less pragmatic or realistic than a person with fewer scruples.
In the short term it’s undeniable that unscrupulous people sometimes have an advantage. People often find personal accountability and a long-range vision less appealing than immediate advantages and an opportunity to fall in line behind a charismatic leader.1
The psalmist eloquently described the temporary success of the wicked ( Psalm 37:35; 73:3 ). Jesus also recognized the short-term advantages of the unprincipled ( Luke 16:8 ). But although unprincipled people in power may gain quick success, they and their followers always reap the consequences of their immorality and opportunism. The Old Testament writers vividly described the results of evil leadership ( Psalm 7:11-16; 9:15; 37:7-15 ; Proverbs 28:10; 29:6 ; Ecclesiastes 10:5-9 ), as did Jesus ( Matthew 6:23; 15:14; 23:15 ; Luke 6:39-40; 11:34 ).
In the long term, however, a person of integrity has the advantage. Good character may limit a person’s options at times, but wisdom flows from good character (In the long term, however, a person of integrity has the advantage. Good character may limit a person’s options at times, but wisdom flows from good character ( Job 28:28 ; Psalm 1:1-4; 111:10 ; Proverbs 3:3-4 ). Furthermore, a good person doesn’t have to be naive. Jesus told His disciples to be “as wise as serpents but gentle as doves.” Because they live as sheep in the midst of wolves ( Matthew 10:16 ), Christians need to be able to understand the mind of a predator (“wise as a serpent”), while remaining gentle and uncorrupted within (“harmless as a dove”). A truly effective leader — and especially a Christian leader — won’t be characterized by inflexibility but by his steady, underlying motivation ( Matthew 20:25-28; 23:8-12 ). Dedication to principle and genuine concern for others may on occasion be a short-term disadvantage, but in the long run it will attract loyal followers, create lasting success, and earn the blessing of God (Psalm 37:34 ; Isaiah 40:31 ; Galatians 6:9).
- This is why the people of Israel insisted on having a king, against the counsel of the prophet Samuel ( 1 Samuel 8:7-8,19-20 ). Back To Article
No one wants to be a doormat. But if we haven’t put healthy limits in place, we can easily end up feeling used up and stepped on.
Biblical service is not mindless, robot-like obedience to the demands of others. It is intentional and life-giving. The giver and receiver are better people because of the act of compassion. It cultivates unity, closeness, and goodness in others that moves relationships in a positive direction.
It doesn’t always work that way, though. Occasionally, other people won’t appreciate us or they’ll take advantage of our kindness. We can ignore some of these instances, but we shouldn’t close our eyes to a pattern of disrespect or abuse.
We should be honest and, out of love for ourselves and others, refuse to give in to selfish demands or egotistical attitudes. Let’s not mistake Jesus words about turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) to mean that we overlook sin. We should refuse to accept disrespectful or abusive treatment so that we can restore our dignity and the other person has hope for change through repentance (Romans 6; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5).
Both Jesus and the apostle Paul are known for standing up for what is right and resisting evil. Jesus didn’t passively stroll through the temple while it became a “den of robbers” (Matthew 21:12-13). Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen and asked for a public display of regret when he was illegally arrested without a trial (Acts 16:36-40). He also advised the Corinthian church to kick a man out of their congregation who was sleeping with his father’s wife! We can’t pretend that a pattern of serious sin won’t affect our ability to serve.
Jesus set limits on his service to others by paying attention to his own needs as well as the needs of others. He healed the sick and fed the hungry, but he also made sure he got the food, rest, and time with his heavenly Father he needed so that he would be healthy to care for others (John 4:5; Mark 11:12-13; 6:30-32). We simply can’t ignore our own needs if we want to be available to help others. We must have physical nourishment, exercise, rest, relationship, and time for personal reflection on the Word of God. If we regularly neglect these areas as we serve others, we may begin to resent the very people we want to help.
Another way to limit the chances of becoming someone’s doormat is to keep in mind the scope of our talents, opportunities, and time that we’ve been given, and to seriously think twice about those things that do not fit into the unique purposes of our lives (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). Volunteering for things that you aren’t capable of or gifted for may not be a sensible stewardship of your time or resources. Find opportunities that accommodate the position in which God has placed you and that fit with the dreams and passions God has set on your heart. Performing only obligatory duties will drain us because they aren’t in line with who we were created to be.
And yet, we can’t base our service solely on how comfortable we feel. There are times when we feel the nudging of the Holy Spirit, asking us to do something completely out of our comfort zone. Often, the Lord is asking us to trust Him. On these occasions, pray fervently about it and ask God to confirm the direction. If you go ahead with a heart of gratitude and faith, the Lord will be delighted with you. He loves it when we trust Him.
Serving others involves personal sacrifice, but it is not without appropriate limits. We have physical requirements for life that we can’t ignore, and gifts and opportunities that distinguish us from the next person. But equally important is the disrespect or abuse from another person that may require us to limit our service.