The Gospel calls us to live as if people matter. It calls us to live lives of selfless concern. We are to pay attention to the needs of others (Deuteronomy 22:4). We are to demonstrate concern for the poor (Psalm 41:1). We are to show pity toward the weak (Psalm 72:13). We are to rescue the afflicted from violence (Psalm 72:14). We are to familiarize ourselves with the case of the helpless (Proverbs 29:7), give of our wealth (Deuteronomy 26:12-13), and share of our sustenance (Proverbs 22:9). We are to “put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and longsuffering” (Colossians 3:12). We are to become “a father to the poor,” and are to “search out the case of the stranger” (Job 29:16). We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31) thus fulfilling the law (Romans 13:10). It is only as we do these things that we are able to earn the right to speak authoritatively into people’s lives.
In writing to Titus, the young pastor of the pioneer church on the island of Crete, the Apostle Paul pressed home this basic truth with persistence and urgency. In the midst of a culture marked by deceit, ungodliness, sloth, and gluttony (Titus 1:12), Titus was not only to preach grace and judgment, he was also to make good deeds a central priority in his ministry. He was to exercise charity. Paul wrote, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
This was a very familiar theme for Paul. It wasn't aimed exclusively aimed at the troublesome Cretan culture. For instance, he had earlier written to the Ephesian church with essentially the same message, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
God saves us by grace. There is nothing we can do to merit His favor. Because of our sin, we stand utterly condemned. Thus, salvation is completely unearned and undeserved. But, we are not saved capriciously, for no reason and no purpose. On the contrary, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. We are His own possession, set apart and purified to be zealous for good works.
Our concern for others begins right in church pew—as we greet one another, extend hospitality to one another, and meet the needs of one another. As the Westminster Confession asserts, “Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offers opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.”
In addition though, we are to extend the love and care of Christ to others as well. We are to love as Christ loves, sacrificially, substantially, and sincerely. In other words, we are to live as if people really do matter.
May God grant us this kind of love. May this, the final apologetic (John 13:35), be the hallmark of our lives, our families, and our churches.