The rewards are worth it
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)
Have you ever had someone open up to you to share something they are struggling with? What was your reaction?
As Christians we see verses like the above, but it’s hard sometimes to actually put it into action. I know sometimes I am very motivated to try to keep to myself. I have enough problems. I don’t need to hear about anyone else’s. It’s easy to keep our heads down and just try to coast along, minding our own business. Besides, it’s rude to butt in, right?
In some cases that may be true. In fact, the Bible also speaks to that:
But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.
1 Peter 4:15 (ESV)
Notice Peter lumps “evildoer” and “meddler” in the same group. When I want to help someone with something, it’s certainly not my intention to be an evildoer!
So how do I reconcile these two scriptures?
In my experience, there are a few ways this can be done:
Be approachable, don’t approach.
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
1 Peter 4:9
Hospitality can mean listening willingly when someone approaches you with a request for help. Being hospitable doesn’t mean you requested the person come to you. It means you accept them. So wait for the other person to come to you.
This might seem obvious on paper, but plenty of people don’t get it, sticking their noses in things and trying to help when help was not requested. This only drives people away. The desire to help is admirable, but it has to be done the right way. Stepping in when someone asks you for advice? Helping. Stepping in when no one invited you? Meddling.
This is an important distinction.
When you are approached, don’t be judgmental.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Luke 6:37–38 (ESV)
The fastest way to lose a person’s trust is to look down your nose at them. And what right do we have to do that, anyway? We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and we all need help sometimes.
Jesus points out a very important reason for not being judgmental here: because we just might find ourselves in need of some help, encouragement, or forgiveness.
When that day comes we would like to be given compassion, not judgment.
Viewed more widely, Jesus also includes a general principle in the above scripture, which leads me to my last point:
This will benefit you.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:12–14 (ESV)
That perfect harmony Paul is talking about? Part of that comes from the close friendships you will gain by being there for people.
My best friends, the ones who I can always count on, the ones who would do whatever they could for me or my family any time we needed something are the people who I have been there for at one time or another.
Following Jesus’s example and being a non-judgmental shoulder for someone makes lifelong friends. These friends will likely bless you for your entire life. There is nothing better than having a network of true Christian friends at your side when you need them the most.
You can be a big reason those friends are there for you.
Be there for them.
See more of David’s works here.