Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:1-4


In this letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul calls for them to follow Jesus—to be like Jesus, having the same love and humility, not considering themselves above others, watching out for others’ interests.

This is the way God calls us to live among each other. As children of God. Brothers and sisters in Christ. As a family. And maybe we should think especially of those who have mental health problems or other disabilities, those who are not easily understood.

Much has been done to build better mental health awareness in the church. Yet there’s room for better understanding. And a lot more needs to happen than acceptance alone.

People with mental health issues are no different than others in wanting to be considered having equal worth. And yet it’s common for them to  be looked down on, preventing them from building the confidence and strength needed to survive. Is this strength not what Jesus would want them to have? Is that not what he wants us to encourage in others?

When people are looked down on, they start looking down on themselves. The result is low self-esteem and a feeling of powerlessness that prevents them from optimum wellness and a fruitful life.

It’s natural for a caring individual to make the mistake of taking a needy person “under her wings,” like a mother might. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much for a person’s feeling of self-worth. In fact, it often leads to over-reliance and dependency—even a clinging behavior. When this behavior becomes evident, the reputation of the “needy” person is damaged, causing others in her community to avoid her—even shun her. Hope for recovery is reduced, as is her acceptance by the community.

The best approach to giving support is always the one where the person with difficulties is looked on as being like any other. Not strange, or different—but unique. Not set apart in any way. Not less than, but equal under God. One of God’s children, part of his family in the way all we who believe are part of his family. Worthy to be known and understood. Worthy to have friends.

Do we treat those with mental health issues among us as a mother or father might, holding them as helpless children? Or will we treat them as brothers and sisters would, walking alongside them in fellowship as they grow? How would Jesus treat us?

The Bible says he is our brother. Our friend. And we who follow Jesus should treat each other as a brother and friend as well.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29)