Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners

The church should be a place where people find comfort, where people find a family and where people are cared for. Caring for others within the church is not a job reserved for the paid staff of a church. Caring for each other is the job of every Christian. We are one body, called to labour alongside each other and act as a family should. This will man that you’ll be confronted with situations and people who need care but you might feel out of your depth. Here’s something to help…

In this book Emlet, a Christian counsellor with CCEF, helps you think about how to love the people that God has put alongside you in church. The book is written to equip Christians to love one another better. The target audience of this book is those in ministry, however, I think that every Christian who reads it would find it very helpful. Emlet begins by saying that in the Bible God reveals that He ministers to His people as;

  1. Saints who need confirmation of their identity as children of God,
  2. Sufferers who need comfort in the midst of their affliction, and
  3. Sinners who need challenge to their sin in light of God’s redemptive mercies.

“Saint, sufferer, and sinner. All three of these are simultaneously true of every Christian you meet. If this is the way God sees and loves his people, then we should do the same, using these broad biblical categories to guide our overall approach to the people in our lives. They are signposts for wise love. They help you to prioritize one-another ministry, whether it’s to your friend, husband, wife, roommate, child, coworker, or counselee.”

The book is split into 5 parts. Part one give you the foundational work on how to understand people and it unpacks the ‘identities’ above (saints, sufferers and sinners). Part two explores how to care for other Christians as saints. Part three is all about how to care for the sufferer, filled with examples and helpful advice throughout. Part four is about how to love fellow believers as sinners. Part five is about how to maintain a balance as you care for others and to not focus too much on one particular ‘identity’.

Parts 2-4 each take the same pattern;

  • Speaking of how the Bible addresses the person as saint, sufferer or sinner.
  • Biblical examples of how God loves the person.
  • The particular priorities that would help each individual person.
  • Everyday examples of what that could look like.
  • Counselling examples of what that could look like.
  • An exploration of some of the barriers to loving each person.

This book is very practical, it’s full of sound biblical advice and it’s got so many stories of how the Lord has done wonderful things in people’s lives because Christians stepped up and cared for one another. It’s so easy to look at other people and think that there situation is simple, easy to fix. However, that can be the result of an over simplified view of humanity. The reality is that we are messy people and that doesn’t stop when we become Christians. This book is a call to love each other well. Something that we definitely need reminding of often.

As I finished this book I wanted there to be more, it got the balance just right of giving you enough information and insight without overloading you. It was a really helpful read and I would recommend it to you if you’re in ministry and you’re confronted daily with caring for church members in a wide variety of situations. Buy a copy here.

Michael R. Emlet, MDiv, MDpracticed as a family physician for over ten years before becoming a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He currently serves CCEF as their Dean of Faculty.

One thought on “Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners

  1. Hi Alistair I hope you are feeling better and stronger! I’ve been praying for you. Good to see these blogs haven’t stopped!! I can’t open the blog today fir some reason – can you check and send again. It’s saying that the page can’t open. Have a blessed day – Kim x

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