By Jason Hiles
Dean, College of Theology
Jesus suggested that trials and tribulations are to be expected for those who choose to follow him. As a result, it is important to slow down at times in order to consider the ways that faith, hope, and love can equip us to focus on the needs of others rather than becoming overwhelmed and burdened by our own struggles. In a prior post, I suggested that the Christian worldview offers us some unique “Kingdom treasures” that are of incredible value to those who want to be faithful even in the midst of difficulty. One such treasure is the ancient principle sometimes referred to as cura personalis.
The principle of cura personalis or “care for the whole person” serves as a reminder that we are to care for the entirety of each individual. While we may be tempted to focus on connecting with others conversationally or through the exchange of ideas. But this principle reminds us that loving our neighbors must go deeper than that. We are embodied creatures who have been blessed with talents, abilities, a physical body that must be cared for. We also have distinct personalities and desires, hopes, dreams, and desires. And although we are unique individuals we always find ourselves, and identify ourselves, within the context of families, friendships, and various communities that provide opportunities for relationship and service.
As needs arise among those around us, we must be attentive to the whole person and the complexity of what it means to be human. Many are dealing with stress and discomfort personally and within a broad range of our relationships. When we see others suffering or in need it’s important to remember that the Christian faith provides much that we can offer by way of comfort.
In a powerful passage from the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul encourages those who have been encouraged by Christ to share what they have been given with others. He writes:
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:1-3, ESV).
Paul did not offer this encouragement from a position of comfort or ease. He was in a dingy prison awaiting trial when he wrote the letter to the church in Philippi. But in spite of his personal challenges he had personally received great comfort from Christ and was reminding a young church to comfort others just as God himself had comforted them.
In just a few verses Paul makes some incredible statements that, honestly, are difficult to put into practice. He reasons that those who have enjoyed Kingdom Treasures should offer those treasures to others. They should be of one mind, one love, and fully in alignment with one another in loving others. Our culture may value selfish ambition just as those living in the ancient world often valued such things. But Jesus has called us to set aside selfishness and vain conceit and to follow his example in humility.
What then did Jesus model for us? He lived a life of selfless sacrifice, placing the needs of others before his own. He did not deserve the persecution and difficulty that accompanied his ministry, but he endured everything including death on a Roman cross for the sake of others. Paul exhorts us to love others in the same selfless and sacrificial way by putting the needs of others before our own. The principle is cura personalis and the prime example is Jesus Christ.
We too are called to love as Jesus loved and to care for others holistically. The needs are many in this moment, which means that opportunities to grow in Christ are also plentiful. I am simply encouraging those who have been blessed with much to remember that we have much to offer others. The gift we have in Christ is ours to give, not ours to hoard and keep to ourselves.
Grace and peace,
Dean, GCU College of Theology & Seminary