How Can I Help?
by Ryan Gageler
‘How Can I Help?’ is the generic introductory line used by just about every retail worker. In that shopping environment it’s used as a throw-away greeting, however, it is a question I’ve seriously been asking myself.
About six months ago I came on staff at Riverview Community Services as the Project Coordinator, and since that time I’ve been exploring what it actually means to ‘help’ and how I, individually can do it!
I like to consider myself a ‘pretty good Christian’. I attend church frequently, I read my Bible as often as I can, I listen to the occasional song of worship, but the reality is I’ve let the convenience of life get in the way of compassion for those in need.
The truth is, it’s often easier for us to turn a blind eye, than it is for us to roll up our sleeves.
I believe part of the problem is simply that we don’t know where to start.
I love the story found in Acts 3, where Peter and John (two disciples of Jesus) found themselves in a situation we often find ourselves in – on our way somewhere, getting interrupted. Now, I think we can we agree from the outset, someone requiring help never comes at a ‘convenient’ time.
Acts 3:1-8 (NLT)
Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.
Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.
In a single moment the disciples decide to offer the beggar something far better than some silver coins. Acts 3 records that Peter and John ‘took him by the hand and helped him up’. They help transition him from his current situation into a future ‘walking, leaping and praising God’
The call to love others demands more than just meeting an immediate need. It's about us realising God's plan to restore humanity through Christ. As followers of Jesus, we are called to provide a 'full' solution. You see, in this passage - Peter and John realised that by helping this man in need, they would empower him to live a life 'to the full'. The beggar is now in a position to thrive under the fullness of God's restorative power.
I’m still on the journey of figuring this out. I don’t feel like an expert, but nor were Peter and John. Scripture records that they were two ordinary men (Acts 4:13), but they equipped with a powerful knowledge of the Good News of Jesus.
Here are some practical ways we can help someone in need:
1. Listen. Stop and listen. Choose to give your attention to someone who really needs it. Look them in them in the eyes – show them that you value them! Offer to buy them lunch or a coffee and listen to their story. Chances are they’re more like you than you realise.
2. Be prepared. Keep helpful items in your car or backpack. Recently, I started making sure I always have a spare sleeping bag (you can get them for about $10 at department stores) in the back of my car. You can do the same with clothing, grocery gift cards or even flyers (for relevant programs). Give them something that could ‘help them up’.
3. Offer them something greater. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying, go commanding people in need to ‘GET UP AND WALK’, but what I am suggesting is that money isn’t always the solution. Peter and John didn’t say… ‘I don’t have any silver or gold… so go away’, they had a better alternative, and we as Christians have that in Jesus. Use your intuition to possibly share the Good News of Jesus with them or ask if they would like prayer (you’d be surprised how many times people say yes).
I’d love to invite you to join me on the journey of exploring ‘How we can Help?’ Please leave your thoughts to some of the questions below OR we'd love to hear your stories and experiences.
How have you dealt with the balance of convenience and compassion?
What are some practical ways you've been able to help someone in need?
As followers of Jesus, what do you think our responsibility is for those who are in need?