Are you ever tempted to play Superman?
I don?t mean dressing up in blue tights and a cape. (If you do that, I?d prefer not to know about it.) No, I?m talking about playing Superman in ministry and care for other people. It looks like this.
You have a tender heart that loves and cares for people and wants to extend the love of Christ to them. The needs of others weigh heavily on your heart, and you are moved to help. So you fix the meals, you loan the money, you listen to the stories ? in short, you try very hard to love your neighbor as yourself. But ? and this is key ? it?s always you doing the caring. It?s your cell phone on this person?s speed dial, your shoulder that gets cried on, your wallet that becomes a revolving line of credit. And, intentionally or not, you end up carrying people?s woes, worries, and wants. Strap on your cape, friend, because you?ve become Super-Christian.
Now let me pause here to clarify: it?s a good thing to care for the needs of others, and to be willing to sacrificially give of your time and resources! In fact, most of us need a bit more of this willingness to lay down our lives. If God has given you this kind of tender heart, which Romans 12:8 calls the gift of mercy, I don?t want anything I say in this post to make you feel condemned. Let me say it one more time: the willingness to sacrificially serve reflects the very heart of God, and it is a beautiful thing.
But here?s the catch: you and I are not God. And God, in his wisdom, did not give a scattered collection of superheroes to minister to the world. He gave the church, created by the work of Christ and filled with the power of His Spirit. Because of that, no one individual can meet all the needs of any other person. Needy people don?t need you (or me); they need the church. (And incidentally, we?re all needy people.) Listen to how Paul describes the church in Colossian 2:19: ?the whole body [of Christ], nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, [which] grows with a growth that is from God.?
Here?s what this means for the tender-hearted among us: if you want to see the deepest change and the greatest growth in the people you care for, enfold them into the community of faith. A body needs all of its joints and ligaments, and needy people need all of the gifts of the body of Christ. So yes, take the homeless person on your street into your home if God gives you faith for that. But ask others to cook some of the meals, connect him with a man in the church who can help him find work, and get a group of people praying for him. Use your gifts, but also use those of the whole church. When the children of your single parent neighbor need babysitting, don?t say ?yes? over and over until you?re burnt out and can?t continue. ?Ask if you can introduce them to some trusted friends from church who can share the load with you. This isn?t merely practical wisdom to keep your sanity; this is living out the reality of the doctrine of the church.
Until Jesus comes back, the church is the visible expression of his ministry on earth. No one Christian can possibly fulfill that whole ministry, even though every single Christian is a part of that ministry. This means there are no Super-Christians ? just the ordinary and supernatural church. So use your gifts of mercy and love, but see yourself as part of a larger community, the body of Christ, the place where God through every joint and ligament mends broken people by the gospel.
And please, take the cape back to Goodwill.
Image by Loresjoberg.