Towards a transformative ministry – Part 6
Social concern is the second aspect of Christian Ministry in our discussion. Let us begin by acknowledging Jesus as a Master of human relationships.
Jesus’ attitudes towards people provide a model for the ministry of pastoral care. Taylor (1983:pg.13), in his book, Tend My Sheep, succinctly points out how “Jesus showed a deep concern that people should live the best and fullest sort of life.”
Taylor goes further to show how Jesus was concerned with obedience to God’s will and with everything that affects people’s lives.
When a ministry lacks the propensity ‘to set men and women free from all that enslaves and oppresses them,’ such ministry cannot be holistic and cannot transform the society.
Taylor citing Matthew 9:35-36 shows how Jesus felt a deep compassion for all people, especially those who were harassed, helpless and adrift in their lives.
Jesus needs missionaries who know how to deal with people’s problems. We can comfort others and show them the way to live because we have been helped with our problems by God and His labourers (2 Cor. 1:3-7).
The gospel of the Kingdom was that the promised and long-awaited Messiah finally came. His healing miracles were a sign that His teaching was true.
In His ministry, Jesus was not concerned only with People’s spiritual needs. In His earthly ministry, Jesus healed people in order to make them whole in body, mind and spirit. The healing of a paralytic lying on a bed shows how Jesus backed up His words by healing the man’s legs. Jesus’ action showed that His words were true; He had the power to forgive as well as to heal.
The words of pastors lack meaning, if their actions do not back them up. We can say we love God or others, but if we are not taking practical steps to demonstrate that love, our words are empty and meaningless. Our actions must always back up what we say if we are to bring others to Christ.
Jesus exercised His divine power in all areas of need. “He emphasised the importance of spiritual health, as when He told Nicodemus ‘you must be born anew’ (John 3:1-10); and also the connection between physical well-being and spiritual rest and peace: come to me, all who labour and are heavy-laden… and you will find rest to your souls” (Matthew 11:28-30). It is pertinent to mention “Jesus was quick to offer encouragement and praise, especially when He discovered hidden spiritual qualities in people.”
For example, in the case of the centurion’s unquestioning trust and obedience. Another example is the humble faith of the Syro-phoenician woman (Matthew 8:5-13; 15:21-28). We must note here that Jesus did not praise people to gain their favour; rather “He gave honest praise to people whose actions deserved commendation and equally honest criticism to those whose faults prevented them from truly knowing or doing God’s will.”
Social concern in the ministry could, therefore, be seen as the demonstration of the good news of Jesus. It is the embodiment of kingdom ministry, full of compassion and justice to the poor, oppressed and the marginalised. However, the rich cannot be left out.
Jesus exposed the barrier that could keep the rich young man out of the kingdom of God (Mark 10:17-22).
Social concern will help a pastor to know the barriers that are capable of keeping people from entering into the Kingdom of God. Jesus gave great importance to helping and counseling people.
Social concern must, therefore, be demonstrated not simply felt. In demonstrating social concern in the ministry, we should take into consideration the relief for the poor, development and empowering of the youth and structural change in our society.