“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:9-12, 14-15)
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
Christians are forgiven sinners who are called to forgive and help those who have descended into poverty and self-destruction by their sin. Rather than enable them to continue in their bad habits and choices, we forgive, teach, pray, and provide for them. Christian rehab centers, crisis pregnancy centers, and counseling are examples of how some help both believers and unbelievers to know Christ and thereby be transformed into new creatures who have the Holy Spirit to help them overcome the destructive effects of this world. Jesus knew that many of the Jewish Pharisees were self-righteous and judgmental. Therefore he taught them that men’s sins must be forgiven, whether or not they were repentant or seeking forgiveness. Our forgiveness for others is indicative of our appreciation and thankfulness for God’s forgiveness of our sins, and his help to reform our lives.
James expounds on the need for our works or deeds toward others to reflect the faith Jesus Christ has given us. The basis for James’s philosophy is the doctrine that our faith is a gift from God, not something that is generated or created by our effort. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1-5, 9-10)
Christian workers in rehab clinics and crisis centers need much prayer and encouragement, as well as financial support and rest. I worked in a twenty-four-hour crisis intervention center when I was younger, and will never forget the emotional drain of the work. The only relief comes when clients recognize their need for forgiveness, and they and their counselors turn to Christ. But even those who don’t come to repentance need material and spiritual help, and especially forgiveness while they are still enemies of Jesus.
How do you help and support those who are reaching out to the most troubled in crisis?