I spent last Saturday walking around Anthem, Ariz. It’s a strip of outlet malls and a Wal-Mart 30 miles north of Phoenix in the desert, and it’s as bad as it sounds. It’s hot and boring, and I was walking around all day because my new truck was broken and the mechanic wasn’t going to get to it until Monday. And it was going to cost $1,600 … which I don’t have. So I walked around and felt miserable and it sucked in a Big Way.
Saturday night my friend drove 30 miles to come and pick me up. He let me eat dinner at his house, and his mom made steak and it was delicious. I got a ride back home with some other friends that night, and for the rest of the weekend, I was driven around by my girlfriend. In addition to this, my family lent me money. Some family gave me money. I was stranded in Anthem, Ariz., where I didn’t know anybody and didn’t have any money in my bank account and I was worried and bored and scared, and maybe I cried a little bit. But I talked to my family and my friends on the phone and they helped me. They cared for me. And they are still caring for me.
I don’t have a hard life and I’m grateful for that, but in this time of mini-crisis, the people who love me have gone out of their way to care of me. They’ve asked me exactly what I needed and given it to me without thinking twice. In some cases, they’ve seen that I’m too proud (or stupid) to ask for what I need and given it to me anyway. And it has punched me in the stomach. It is humbling and it is touching, and it makes me want to be a better person.
You see, Christian brothers and sisters, that’s what caring looks like.
My mom could have called on Saturday as I was walking around dusty, terrible Anthem, and she could have told me the importance of paying down your debt and saving money. My dad could have said “I love you, son, but you haven’t called home in three months and you suck at returning my emails until you need something, so tough luck.” My girlfriend could have made a thousand excuses to not drive me around, instead offering some emotional support or soup or something.
But they didn’t.
Because they care for me.
And you care for somebody by giving them what they need.
You care for somebody by pulling them out of the pit they’re in.
You care for somebody by giving them food when they are hungry.
You care for somebody by giving them clothes when they need them.
You care for somebody by offering what you can, regardless of how you feel about them in that moment, regardless of what you think about their behavior, regardless of whether they believe what you believe or are ever going to believe what you believe.
When you love somebody, you care for them. Period.
Christian brothers and sisters, we’ve been failing at this. Somehow, we’ve come to believe that what matters is truth above all else — that you care for somebody by being honest with them, no matter how much of an ass it makes you look like, regardless of whether the person you’re trying to help will even listen to you.
And that’s a cop out. It’s a cheap excuse to change nothing in our own lives yet feel like we “did our part” for “those sinners over there.”
That’s not what Jesus did.
I believe that love requires honesty. As Christians, we are told to love the world, which includes being honest with the world. But truth without care isn’t love. It’s an easy, trendy way to feel good about ourselves.
So can we stop, please?
Can we take the high road?
Can we care first, and talk truth second?
It’s not like we’ve been making great progress and have something to lose. It’s not like people listen to us, or even like us for that matter. I think it’s safe to say that whatever we have to say about the morals of our society is going to fall on deaf ears for a while, because we’ve gotten really good at telling truth and sounding like assholes.
Maybe that would change if we learned how to care for those we claim to love. Maybe that would change if the world saw that we aren’t, in fact, assholes. Maybe that would change if we dared each other to love like Jesus loved, radically and until it hurts, without reservation.
What’s the worst that could happen? Less ‘Farewell’ tweets and a little more insecurity?
That sounds refreshing, and I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way.
Austin Thomas lives in Flagstaff, Ariz. He writes at austacular.com/blog, and has also written for Thought Catalog, The Burnside Writer’s Collective, and Red Letter Christians.
Image: Caring hands illustration, Zurijeta / Shutterstock.com