By Summer Stevens
If the pandemic taught us anything, we don’t quite function properly without people. Even simple face-to-face interactions, like saying good morning to a security guard or tipping the barista, contribute to a sense of well-being. Turns out, there are a lot of people we need in our lives. For the Christian, those relationships are unique—people that we need in our lives so that we can live out our purpose and experience Jesus’ promise of abundant life now.
Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, offered him a piece of well-timed advice: after witnessing Moses mediate the disagreements between the Israelites from sunup to sundown, Jethro advised him to appoint godly and capable men to rule over the thousands, the hundreds, the fifties, and the tens, and to have the people bring only the most difficult cases to Moses. Surely Moses was exhausted, spending all day every day solving people’s problems. The Israelites went to him to hear from God and learn from God’s law what they should do. Jethro’s solution was that Moses was to raise up leaders—to teach them God’s laws—so they could share the burden of conflict resolution. We all need a person like Jethro in our lives: someone with more life experience, who knows God, and who will give us good advice, even when we don’t ask for it. Interestingly, either no one suggested this to Moses, or he wasn’t willing to heed the good advice from anyone else. As growing Christians, we need to have a Jethro in our lives; when that person speaks into our lives, we will do a full stop and listen.
Paul called Timothy his “true son in the faith” and his “beloved son.” Both epistles to Timothy reveal Paul’s heart toward the young man he mentored—he entrusted him with significant ministry tasks and encouraged him in the areas of life in which Timothy needed advice and care. The relationship begins in Acts 16 when Paul chooses Timothy to accompany him on his missionary journey. I can only imagine how much Timothy learned from observing the greatest missionary in the world! This was an intentional mentoring relationship. These types of relationships are characterized by a time commitment and an investment so deep it can parallel the obligation to a biological child. Every Christian should be able to name at least one person he or she is regularly spending time—being a “Paul”—for the spiritual growth and maturity of a “Timothy.”
Are you the kind of person who always cares for others but never accepts help? I’m so humbled by the fact that our Lord and King Jesus Christ allowed people to minister to Him. Mary Magdalene is at the top of the list of women who supported Jesus’ ministry, and she’s the first at the tomb on Resurrection Sunday with the plan to anoint His body with spices. If Jesus allowed people to care for Him, we surely need to be willing to let other people minister to us in times of need. Who in your life has tried to care for you—perhaps to bring you a meal, give you a ride to the airport, provide you with money when you’re broke, or be a listening ear? Let the person. You don’t always have to return the casserole plate with cookies in it. Just be grateful for people who love you and minister to you.
The friendship between David and Jonathan is one of sacrifice, honesty, and love. On paper, it was the friendship that should have never been. As Saul’s son, Jonathan was heir to the throne. But God had anointed David. Jonathan could have followed his father’s obsessive quest to eliminate the threat in David, but he did the opposite—he protected David at his own personal risk. First Samuel 18:1 tells us that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” A true, deep friendship is supposed to be like that. Unlike a Timothy or a Jethro friendship, a Jonathan friendship is unique in its mutuality. You reveal your soul to a Jonathan, as he does with you, knowing that your joys will be celebrated, and your losses will be grieved together. You give of your time and your life in sacrificial ways, but it’s with gladness, knowing that he or she would do the same for you. As Christians, we were created for this type of soul-knitting. It takes vulnerability, commitment, and time. But the rewards of a sweet friendship will last throughout eternity!
THE TAX COLLECTOR
Now of course we don’t have the same relationships to tax collectors today as people did in the first century, but you get the idea. You need people in your life who don’t know Jesus. All Christians are called to fulfill the Great Commission. If you don’t know any unbelievers, go out and meet some! Do what Jesus did, and hang out with them. Sometimes we forget how fun Jesus was. The “tax collectors and sinners” actually liked being around Jesus—and that must say something about Him. He was witty and gracious and kind and funny, and He could tell a great story. He was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton! Jesus was the life of the party, and people loved being around Him. I think that’s supposed to be our model for our interaction with unbelievers. People were attracted to Jesus because He was full of Life! People should be attracted to us for the same reason.
Who is your Jethro? Your Timothy or your Mary? What about your Jonathan? Do you have a “Tax Collector” in your life? If you do, be thankful! If not, ask God to bless you with those relationships so you can live faithfully and wholeheartedly for Him.
Summer Stevens is married to Nathanael and they have five children. She has a Master’s in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and enjoys running (but mostly talking) with friends and reading good books to her kids.