There is a natural desire to be cared for. The deep need to be loved, wanted, and appreciated is felt by most of us, even in this fallen world. Yet how often loneliness and rejection bring sorrow and misery to many hearts. This is all the more evident in the harsh and impersonal world of computer science when real people become mere numbers in a machine.
Adam’s isolation is the first and only thing which God said was Â•’not good” in a perfectly good creation. In making a perfect human being, in His own image, God made a man who needed a wife, a friend, a companion; one of his own flesh and bone exactly suited to his need. This need was felt and satisfied before sin entered man’s experience! It is still not good that man should be alone, and an ungodly world is proving the sad consequences of breaking up relationships. The mental and physical distress which follows such disruption of intimate relationships, like those of marriage and the family, causes almost impossible problems for all involved.
God, the Father in heaven, is not alone. In heaven’s beauty and glory there is eternally, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. This glorious trinity of Persons enjoys the utmost divine intimacy, love, and interrelationship in Himself, and yet it was determined also to make man for communion with this triune God, for it is still man’s chief end “to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever.” Friendship, companionship and love can then be seen as an expression of the character of God who is love.
It is hardly surprising that Paul in Ephesians 5 should liken the relationship of Christ and the church to that between husband and wife. Here is the highest expression of divine care, “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” That amazing and precious self-giving was seen in His coming to this sin-ruined world, living in such an alien environment, receiving sinners and eating with them, living a life of utter perfection amongst those who walked in darkness, giving Himself on the cross as a ransom for many, and passing through death itself to “save his people from their sins.”
This spirit of care in Christ Jesus, our Lord, is to be found in all those who love Him. The greater the sense of His mercy to us the greater will be the desire to be like Him. This is the high calling of His church, to be His body and members together in that one body, the Church.
A reflection of Christ’s care for His church is seen in the example of Paul, the Apostle, when he speaks of the daily burden he bore in ‘the care of all the churches” (2 Cor. 11.28), and as he insists that a
bishop should be a man who can “take care of the church of God” (1 Tim. 3.5).
The early Christian church demonstrates the same caring spirit. In Acts 6 the believers and apostles evidently cared deeply about murmurings in the church. They took action to deal with justifiable reasons for discontent. They appointed seven men to care for the widows in the daily administration of the caring gifts of the church at a time when there was no other organisation to care for those in special personal need. At the same time they took good care to see that the men appointed were of honest repute and full of the Holy Ghost. It was the collective concern of the church that the apostles should be free to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word of God.
This same church cared deeply about purity of doctrine and practice and after “no small dissension and disputation” (Acts 15.2), the apostles and elders of the church at Jerusalem sent advice and encouragement to churches affected by the dispute over circumcision. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians expresses the same intensity of concern over what some may have felt to be a relatively small deviation from truth.
This care over doctrine was not unbalanced but at Antioch there was real and practical care shown for the brethren in an area struck by famine and they sent relief, “every man according to his ability” (Acts 11.29).
It is surely a truly happy and truly Christian church which shows such care today. Let this be one way in which she is a light in the dark world of the late twentieth century.