Earle D. Treptow
Maybe that sounds a bit arrogant, but I have it on good authority. The American Red Cross regularly tells me so—by personalized e-mail. I know what you’re thinking: “I hate to burst your bubble, but all the Red Cross really needs is your blood.” True enough. However, since they need something from me, they still need me. I’m needed.
You are too—and not merely by the Red Cross.
Even if no one has expressed that thought to you directly, it’s true. People all around you need you—and that’s exactly the way God designed it to be. In each of the callings the Lord has chosen specifically for you, be that as friend, neighbor, congregation member, sibling, employee, spouse, parent, or child, he has surrounded you with needs. The needs vary dramatically. Your employer needs an honest day’s work. Your child needs a ride to her piano lesson and your insistence that she practice. Your grieving friend needs your support and a sympathetic ear. Each of those needs is a God-given opportunity to glorify him and bless others. While God doesn’t need your good works—“[God] is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything” (Acts 17:25)— your neighbor definitely does.
Sometimes the needs of others overwhelm us, because the opportunities far outstrip our time and abilities. We want to be needed, but on a more modest scale, with needs that are more easily met. We desire opportunities to serve, but would prefer to schedule them at more convenient times. As the needs of others pile up around us, the sinful flesh proposes the logical solution. “Withdraw,” the sinful nature suggests. “Let others deal with those needs.”
The one who masquerades as an angel of light chimes in: “You need to step back from the needs of others and focus on your relationship with God. Those stressful interactions demand energy that really should be spent on prayer and meditation.” The devil is oh-so-sneaky, offering what appears to be a pious reason to disengage from the needs of the people around us. But the devil is an inveterate liar.
While God invites us to spend time with him in his Word each day so that he might bless us with his love, he never describes it as an “either-or” proposition. Allow God to serve you through his Word, absolutely, just as Mary did while sitting at Jesus’ feet. But then, because you have been served by the One who loves unconditionally, you are eminently qualified to demonstrate that unconditional love to others. The people God has placed around you need you and the unconditional love you have experienced in Christ. Desperately.
You are needed even by people who think they don’t need you; they may have told you so in no uncertain terms. You’re needed by the coworker who belittles Christianity because he had a bad experience with the church in the past. He needs your patient, persistent love. The friend who stridently speaks against the Bible’s “outdated teaching on morality” to justify his sin needs you. He needs your gentle instruction in the Word of the God who loves him in Christ. The neighbor who insists that Christianity provides nothing more valuable than any other religion needs you and your positive witness to Christ her Savior, who died that she might live.
Disengaging from people in their need, even when they plead with us to do so, is simply not an option. Christ stopped to serve us in our need, though by nature we wanted nothing of the sort. We who bear Christ’s name can’t help but do the same for others.
Contributing editor Earle Treptow, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Calvary, Thiensville, Wisconsin.
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Author: Earle D. Treptow
Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017
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