Interesting question. If we have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, and then desire to follow Him with all of our heart, why, over time, do we lose our joy and wonder if we are either really Christians or if we really know how to follow Him?
Co-dependence is not just behavior. It is a way to see the world. If people need me, then every problem in every person I meet is my problem. I have actually dreaded phone calls in the past; I was certain it was yet another person needing me and depending on me to fix a problem.
Maybe a good comparison is a firefighter. You sit at home or you are at work, and the phone rings, a text or email comes through and off you go to fight a fire. You might even arrive and see the person throwing gasoline on it, but you will still hunker down and help the person, because that’s what following Jesus is all about. Right?
Let’s open this up with a key scripture about what makes a follower and what does not:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt. 25:31-46)
These verses are our inspiration for serving Jesus for as we serve others, we serve Him. That is very straightforward. The “least of these” is a clarion call to us. Look at the categories:
· Needing clothes
In all the years I was assisting others, none of them fell into these categories. Perhaps a sister in law who needed money for my nieces because my brother was spending it all on drugs, but that’s as close as I got.
Look at these for a moment. These are people who are lacking the bare necessities: food, drink and clothing. They are helpless for they are sick. They are the ones who have wandered in, and need a community connection. They are isolated from the community, for they are prisoners. James will later comment:
For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?
Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law... There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. (James 2:1-9 & 13 NLT)
Makes sense, huh? We like to associate with people who look and sound like us. Or, we enjoy hanging out with those we admire: ones with money, status, celebrity. The poor? Not so much. But James reminds us in the words of Jesus to love others as we love ourselves. Because in the face of others is Jesus Himself. So, in loving the lowest of the low, we are loving Him.
The rich do not need the bare necessities of life. When they are sick or accused of wrong, they have enough money to remedy their situation. The poor? No. Mercy and love are the hallmark of those who follow Jesus. Otherwise, if we favor the rich and disdain the poor, we are no different in our behavior than the rest of the world.
James goes on to talk about faith without works. Again, he is being very biblical—you can’t earn salvation but you can certainly demonstrate it by what you do in Jesus’ name:
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” (James 2:14-18)
As CoDeWo’s, we are always eager to show our faith. Yes, some spiritual pride gets laced into what we do, and we believe if we don’t help that person, that person will never change.
Here’s my question after pondering these verses: Was I helping those who were lacking the bare necessities—food, drink, clothes? Was I helping those who were sick and needed me to be by their side? Did I make someone new in my church or community feel welcomed? Did I help by visiting someone who was in prison?
My answer is mixed. I saw need and I tried to meet it, but mostly I helped those who could have helped themselves. I simply took over, making me feel good about all the good deeds I was doing. Those I helped were appreciative, yes, but they also started acting entitled to my help. So, I was caught up in feeling needed and yet seeing no way to stop what I was doing.
In other words, I was trying to out-Jesus Jesus. I was doing more than He asked for; more than He told me to do; I was on auto-pilot and felt I didn’t need to check in with Him. I was doing His will! Following His teaching!
No. I never asked Him, “Is this Your will?” I just assumed it was, for helping others is always His will.
This is where my co-dependence slid over my faith, and melted my faith into unhealthy behavior. In the oceans, the gigantic plates the continents sit on slide under one another in what are called, “subduction zones.” The plate sliding under its neighbor gets pushed further and further into the earth, and it goes from hard rock to melted molten rock.
This is what I think of when I consider my faith back then. It was pushed under others’ needs and melted into what I thought I needed to be. I lost myself in those years, and didn’t have the rock-hard faith to say, “No,” or “I will get back to you.” My guilt and wanting to serve Jesus motivated me to serve unhealthy people in unhealthy ways. I lost who I was. I didn’t stay in touch with Jesus but rolled out every morning on a mission.
So, if we follow Jesus, do we know His life intimately enough to really model Him in what we do?
So, let’s look at Jesus’ life in how He interacted with others. I will recount His dealings with others per the Word, and then reframe the incident in how I would have done it. No, comparing my response and Jesus’ response will illuminate where I was. Remember: “The Word is a lamp onto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps. 119:105)
I need illumination in how I behaved then and how I can truly follow Him now. I was so in the dark back then. But His Word will give me the alternative to a co-dependent way of seeing life.