O ne Sunday evening an elderly Christian man was driving two elderly Christian ladies to their various homes after the church service they had all attended. As he drove, he noticed a cyclist fall off his bicycle, so he stopped the car, got out and went to offer help. In response, the cyclist produced a baseball bat he had been carrying and began to attack the Christian. All this was seen by the horrified ladies in the back of the car. The Christian was so badly beaten that several bones were broken and it was months before he had fully recovered. This happened in a town in southern England in 2022.
The cost of caring can be very high. Because he cared, this Christian suffered appalling injury from the very one he cared for.
Should we stop caring? Or should we go on caring whatever the consequences? Yes, we must care, as Jesus our Saviour cared.
A friend of mine asked, “Why should I care about persecuted Christians far away in Africa? Why should I help them when there are millions of poor people here in my own country who need help?”
My answer to him was that the faraway Christians were his family, his brothers and sisters. That was why he should not neglect them but care for them.
In the New Testament epistles, believers are usually referred to by the Greek word adelphoi, which literally means “joined to the [same] womb”, i.e. brothers. The context shows that almost always adelphoi includes not just the men of the church but also the women, so we could translate it “brothers and sisters”. 1
Other groups also used “family language” like this in the first century, for example, Greek trade guilds. It is interesting to note how often Paul started his letters with reference to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, perhaps to emphasise exactly which family the brothers and sisters he was writing to were part of.
Such family language carries great weight in cultures where it is expected that an individual will care for their relatives, sacrificially if necessary, so that an extended family is a network of loving and practical support which ensures no one is left to struggle on their own.
The loss of this family support is a common experience for converts to Christianity, whose unbelieving families reject them. In Central Asia, Christians normally refer to fellow-believers as “brothers”. How deeply meaningful this is for the many who have left Islam to follow Christ!
Perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible is John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
This wonderful verse speaks of the amazing love of God for His creation and for humanity itself. What is so significant about this text is that the greatness of God’s remarkable love is seen in that He gave what was most precious to Him. Such was His care for those whom he had created that He gave His only Son, knowing full well that humanity would reject Him, abuse Him and ultimately crucify Him. But this enormous cost did not stop God from caring. As we face an increasingly difficult world, fraught with uncertainty and trouble, there is a growing temptation to draw in upon ourselves and shut out others, to stop caring because caring hurts. But if God so loves the world, we must love those whom He loves, those for whom His Son died. We must go on caring, knowing that caring is costly ‒ for that is what true caring is about.
DR Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director, Barnabas Aid
1 In normal Greek usage, masculine terms and grammar are used for plural nouns when referring either to male or to both male and female. It is the same in several other European languages.