One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry while on earth was His uncompromising and unalloyed commitment to meeting the needs of all whom He came across, whether those who were afflicted by sickness, hunger, or captivity. This trio of circumstances is often associated with or familiar to the vulnerable/needy, people who do not have the means to change their situations; although these cases are not exclusive to the poor.
It must be said, and it is clear that God placed an unlimited premium on the lives of brethren who fall into any of the three categories aforementioned. In our day and time due to terrorist attacks, domestic conflict, injustice, corruption of human hearts through rebellion against God, and many other factors, there is so much suffering and so much hurt which has made poverty endemic.
A VERY HUNGRY CHILD
While communities need healing and care. But who talks about this in this era? Who cares about the community in this time of individualism where people are living for their own interests and are not caring about others? Instead of communities, we have encouraged factions and divisions; broken into tribes and tongues; erected cathedrals and monuments while the communities bleed and decay for want of care and diverse kinds of interventions.
Kent Hodge, in the book entitled, Community Reconciliation Kingdom, writes about the community in this way: “the overall aim of God’s salvation: to graft us into His caring family. “The dictionary gives the meaning of community as: “a people who are considered as a unit because of their common interests, social group or nationality”. (dictionary.cambridge.org). So, the community I am referring to is the family of God made up of Christ and His brethren.
Sometimes we are tempted to believe that if we were to see Jesus physically tormented by poverty, sickness, sin, imprisonment, or captivity, we would give Him everything we have. Well, you may never see Jesus physically in a way that you can provide Him with anything, but you can look after His brethren physically.
One of the most explicit passages dealing with this issue is Matthew 25:31-40 (KJV), Jesus taught His disciples about the final judgment, and the reward the righteous will get for their good deeds done to this person. In the story, the righteous were surprised at the good Jesus said they have done to Him, so they inquired from the King “… saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? Matthew 25:37 (NKJV). The King’s answer to them is very instructive, He said “… Assuredly, I say to you, since you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40 (NKJV). By the way, who are these brethren of Jesus that received the good deeds done by the righteous? They are simply human beings like you and me who are in need of help, food, clothing, shelter, love, or encouragement. Jesus by taking on the human form has identified Himself eternally with the universal brotherhood of man.
To God, failure to meet the needs of these brethren incurred severe repercussions such as curses. Proverbs 28:27 states, “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses”. When we reach out to these persons and love them and care for them because of Jesus, we are doing it to Jesus. Another dimension to ministering to Jesus is the issue of ministering to fellow saints in need, under persecution or trapped in poverty. These are brethren of Jesus that have been reconciled to Him. The Bible teaches that “Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10 (NKJV).
Fortunately, we do not need to go far to find them. The needy live near us; some are living under severe persecution not far from us. Others wander around without going to school, possessing no skill for earning a livelihood. Some, yet to be reconciled to Jesus have been deceived, brainwashed, and initiated to cults to embrace a false religion that thrives on hatred for the reconciled brethren of Jesus.
The point that Jesus makes in Matthew 25:46, concerning our infirmed and sick brethren in the Lord, is that our love for the Master is only recognized by Him when we diligently seek out, looking carefully at the physical condition and needs of those in distress.
Looking at the afflicted in our midst as the brethren of Jesus should take away the hypocritical attitude that causes us to spend hours in public prayer for a situation that requires practical action. And the practical action is meeting them at the point of their need. What will Jesus say to His servants who are found caring for His brethren in this manner? Fortunately, what He will say and do is recorded in the scriptures. The Bible says “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and you gave Me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” (Matthew 25: 34 – 36 NKJV)
There is an opportunity now to show to the persecuted Christians in the Northern part, and the Middle Belt of Nigeria and elsewhere that Jesus cares and that we are brethren. This is critical because many of Jesus’s brethren can become very cynical, discouraged, or angry with God, and may even backslide due to the pressure of their afflictions if they have not been discipled on how to handle suffering.
I had some very dark, discouraging years when we got married newly because of lean resources. We could not afford one decent meal and faced the risk of being ejected from our rented apartment because we could not provide the rent. But God raised those who treated me like the brethren of Jesus, who did not wait for me to beg, but heard God concerning me and raised help. Through these precious believers, I have learned the value of the expressions of mercy, love, care, compassion, sympathy, encouragement, and much more. Someone expressed in his testimony after being helped thus: “I feel the Spirit of Jesus through their words, and their prayers, and I know they feel the same spiritual kinship in the Father’s love, through our mutual identity in the sufferings of Christ. (Graig Bluemel)
May the Lord help us to return to the preaching of the holistic message of the kingdom in our time, where spiritual renewal of our lives will lead to social change. This is what is needed to change Nigeria and the world. ARE YOU READY? THEN START FROM YOUR JERUSALEM!
By Dr. Mrs. Ekaete Ime Ettang-National President, Association of Christian Schools in Nigeria; General Coordinator, Daughters of Sarah Ministry; Proprietress, The Unique Schools in Jos, Plateau and Uyo Akwa Ibom.