God's word in today's world

Having a heart for others


One day when I get to heaven one of my first appointments will be with Paul. I would really like to get to know him personally; he was such a remarkable man. He cared a great deal for others. He stressed because of others. He did not found the congregations in Colossae – on the contrary, he did not even know the people in Colossae, but he still cared about them.

1I want you to realize that I continue to work as hard as I know how for you, and also for the Christians over at Laodicea. Not many of you have met me face-to-face, but that doesn’t make any difference. Know that I’m on your side, right alongside you. You’re not in this alone.

Certainly the world would’ve looked very different if all of us could do that. But we only care about ourselves. We are at the centre of our lives and we focus only on what we can get from the world. Nearly everything we do is tainted by selfishness. We are not even prepared to suffer for people we know, so we would hardly do it for those strangers who stumble across our paths now and then.

I wish I could flip a switch and make people be like Paul, having a heart knowing no boundaries. I wish I could push a button to change my own heart so that I can put other people on top of the list in my life. I don’t always succeed in doing that. All the time I lean towards the own self, putting myself first in line.

How did Paul do this? He wasn’t like that from the start! On the contrary, for the first part of his life he persecuted Christians and even killed them! Then he became the exact opposite.

I suspect it was on the road to Damascus that Paul’s life changed irrevocably. When you run into the loving God, the proverbial apple cart is overturned and you are changed forever. When God touches a murderer, he turns into a lamb, suffering for those he doesn’t even know.

We cannot change our own hearts. I cannot just take a decision to start caring for others to such an extent that I can suffer deeply for them. We are not made like that. But when we allow God’s Spirit to move through us, change can happen.

Without realising it, Ivan can do it:

I was having a lovely braai with the neighbours and really enjoying it. The other guests were a young couple and the young man talked about his unhappy relationship with his dad (his parents are divorced). He said his dad had invited him to his birthday party. I suggested that he go to the party and tell his dad that he loved him and that he would like to become reconciled with him.

When I later asked him how it had gone, he told me that things went unexpectedly well and that for the first time in a long while his dad had given much attention to him.

My neighbour also had a lot to say about her unhappy life. I simply listened and assured her that God loved her and reminded her that He was looking out for her. I cried with her. I stayed much longer than I intended to.

I hoped it meant something to her – even though I simply listened.

Simply being there when people need it. Having a heart for others like Paul did. That is what we must do too.

Scripture

Colossians 2:1-5

Reflection

How much do you care for others?

What can you do to help?

How much space do you give God to work in you?

Prayer

Lord, the story of Paul’s life has been recorded for us so that we can learn from it. May his example touch our hearts and may it motivate us to also have a heart for others, because that is what You ask us to do. Amen.

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