You’re a caring person. You care. You’re a Christian—the heart of Jesus is beating in your heart.

But you’re also a human person, with limited energy, limited vision, and limited resources. This means that you have limited affection. I mean, how much can a person care?

And we live in a world of affection-overload. Think back just two-hundred years in this country: what news would you have heard in a week? A little local gossip. You might get a newspaper, but the news it reported was a week or two old (at best). And it would be print—no video, no sensational full-color photographs.

But now we are submerged in emotionally charged “news.” “If it bleeds, it leads.” And now that we’ve got eyes everywhere, all the news seems to be bloody. I picked up a Christian magazine recently and it had two different articles about persecuted Christians who feel like no one cares about them. Well, in truth, I didn’t know about their situation, and it is pretty awful. But it just goes in the inbox. Add it to the stack. It wasn’t Voice of the Martyrs. It wasn’t our own missionaries. It wasn’t American woes or regional injustice or local conflict or church needs.

Sometimes I feel suffocated by layer after layer of bad news; I can’t feelanymore. We “care.” But really, we can’t really care. It’s too much. Our affection shrivels and so our love fades.

We need to protect our affections.

Meanwhile, faith is at work in our lives. The Spirit uses the Gospel to turn our faith into obedience, into love. But the work faith is doing in our lives stalls because of affection-fatigue.

We arrive at an inversion of 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels… give away all I have and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I am nothing.” Only now we say, “What if I have love, but I just can’t deal with the fatigue involved in trying to talk to someone about Jesus, or give anything to that cause or put myself in harm’s way… is that okay?”

It’s understandable. But Peter pushes back: “supplement your…affection with love.” What does this mean? It means it’s not love if it’s immobile. The Spirit wants to energize us to help. A Spirit-shaped heart wants to help. Care and concern ought to become service and help. In other words, let your care communicate. Express your concern. You don’t have to “save every starfish.” You don’t have to stop working and join a “mission.” But something, right? Let affection become love; let your heart communicate. Help.

And let Scripture guide you, not the bleed-leading news. We get in trouble when we ping-pong from need-to-need, crisis-to-crisis. We gain safety and clarity when we listen to Scripture.

The Bible clearly lays out our key, covenantal, relationship callings. First, we are called to Christ—nurture that connection; do not neglect it. Second, we are called in covenant to our spouses (and the children we have with them)—protect your emotional-self for their cares; do not be so burdened by work, etc., that they get emotional gruel. Third, we are called to a covenant local church community—sometimes our fellow-church-goer’s concerns seem petty or uninteresting, but we are called to love them so that by that super-natural love Jesus' love appears and gets praised. Fourth, we are called to the real relationships of the workplace and in our physical neighborhoods—Jesus uses the word “neighbor” to describe the objects of our love for a reason; even though neighborhood-community has deteriorated in our culture, Christians ought to be a little old-fashioned in this regard. And in our neighborhoods, we are called to the “sojourners” and outsiders or minorities especially—God has always cared preferentially for the outsider, the underprivileged, and so ought we.

The news—including Christian media outlets—runs off a “bleed-lead” philosophy. The problem is that while we may feel good about feeling bad about these things, we’re powerless. And ultimately subjecting ourselves to this reports makes us unstable, misguided, or numb. Notice when this happens. Reject faux-guilt. Don't care. Protect your affection. Say a prayer, but preserve your affections for the real-relationship love that the Spirit wants to work through you.

God runs off a “reality, people” philosophy. Look around. Shut off the tube. Pull out your earbuds. Unsubscribe from that email. See where you are, who you're among. And in this way God makes it possible for our affection to become love. Because this is what His Spirit is at work to produce: real help, real love. The Spirit gives energy; the world saps it. But we have His power: His power for His purposes. Spirit shaped hearts want to help. So let your heart-of-care communicate.

Christians have calloused hands, not calloused hearts—we have hearts filled with compassion, and hands thick as the fruit of service. Protect your heart. Then pour it out in hands of service and love.

To Consider and Discuss:
Think through God’s covenant-callings on your life. What comes up that seems surprising? What or who do you tend to communicate with and care for and worry about that isn’t on that list?
What have you been made to feel badly about lately, by the media? How do you feel about those feelings?
Who have you been given power to love, in your life? Whose life does the Spirit want to interrupt with hope, by you?

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash