Romans 15:1-6 ‘…Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us…’ (From the Message translation of the Bible.)
This years’ student leadership team have devise a fitting theme to base their focus for 2017; ‘My strength is your support’. A pertinent theme as the need for men to learn to connect with each other and support one another is becoming increasingly important to all. During recent chapels, the notion of avoidance has been discussed, notably how it is the enemy to genuinely helping others as well as genuinely being helped; either we feel inadequate to help or we feel like no one will understand should we require help. Several of Jesus’ interactions with various characters in the Bible have been shared during chapel, noting that He never avoided people’s problems, but rather made the point of directly interacting with people who are entangled in problems, with the desire to lend a hand and help out.
The passage from Romans 15 (above) highlights some practical principles on how we use our strength to support others;
- ‘How can I help?’, ‘Are you Okay?’, ‘Do you want to chat?’ are simple, yet helpful questions that invite others to open up during times that require support. Although some might find such questions initially imposing, they do match Jesus’ words in this passage, and are exactly the type of questions we should be asking each other, particularly amongst our close mates. The renowned actor, Hugh Jackman is an ambassador for the ‘R U OK’ Day initiative, namely because he believes asking these kind of questions, particularly with our mates, can make the difference in providing the support that our friends need.
- ‘Jesus didn’t avoid people’s troubles, where the passage above states that He waded right in and helped out’. Too often we wait around for someone else to ‘fix it’, when we could be asking ourselves ‘who can we support?’ This involves thinking about how we can be a help to others, starting with those around us, rather than worrying about what people are doing for us.
- ‘Jesus took on the troubles of the troubled’. This is the definition of empathy and compassion. There’s something about shouldering someone’s burden, through genuinely understanding how they feel, that gives people the strength to overcome and to recapture a strong sense of hope.
- ‘My strength is your support’ is aptly reinforced in this passage with the words; ‘Strength is for service, not for status.’ This is a principle that God is wanting us to adopt in regards to understanding how to genuinely make a difference in caring for others. Strength for most means power, influence and status. It elevates individuals to something better. But the problem with this line of thinking is that it does not take into account the purpose of utilising our strengths to help others. It’s safe to say that Jesus was strong; in fact omnipotent is the superlative often used to describe His strength, which is translated as strong in every possible way – and yet He continually chose to draw on his strength to lower Himself so as to be able to teach and connect with those in need.
As we all grow stronger in many wonderful ways, consider the principle highlighted in this passage of scripture; ‘Strength is for service, not Status’.
Rev Geordie Barham