The Ministry of Presence – (in)courage

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 John 3:16 (NIV)

I haven’t watched a full broadcast of the ten o’clock evening news in years.

I realized the news was giving me nightmares. It seemed that each night, the news became darker, more saturated with gloom and despair and evil. And there came a point when I decided that I simply didn’t have to watch it. Instead, I read the Sunday newspaper, scanned my Facebook and Twitter feeds for current events, and occasionally tuned in when there’s a special report or something that I wanted more information about. But for the most part, I was well into an old episode of Frasier by ten p.m.

On the rare occasion that I catch the news, I look for the one thing that makes watching bearable for me: stories of folks laying down their lives for others. Often in the tragedies reported at ten, stories of beauty follow in their wake. Stories of generosity, of blessing, of kids helping other kids in hugely significant ways, of strangers saving lives and doing good deeds, big and small. Stories of everyday ordinary people literally handing over the shirt on their back, the shoes on their feet, their paycheck in donation.

Often in the aftermath of crisis, the good comes out of the woodwork. The light shines through each crack, piercing the darkness.

Maybe we can’t do earth-shattering good. Maybe we can’t afford the time or money it takes to make a “real difference” in our community. Maybe we’re “just one person,” overcome by doubt before we even start.

But no matter our time or finances or status or life stage, we can lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Oh yes we can because sometimes it’s as simple as showing up.

Jesus showed up — among the sick and dying, amidst the prostitutes and shunned. All up in the wrong parts of town, Jesus showed up. There was no “other side of the tracks” to Him. Jesus befriended sneaky thieves and shady tax collectors and smelly fishermen. Jesus joined folks for meals, invited Himself into their homes, and mourned side by side with friends. Jesus talked a man down from a tree. Jesus invited the children to come to Him. (Kids. Kids tell it like it is and make themselves comfortable and cause a ruckus, and still . . . Jesus invited them right up front alongside Him.) Jesus made conversation with a woman fetching water at a well, and that conversation changed the rest of her history. Even unto His death on the cross — the ultimate laying down of life — Jesus was present, asking forgiveness on our behalf.

Jesus’ ministry was of presence, and presence can be our ministry, too.

A few years ago, a thirty-one tweet thread went viral on Twitter, with thousands of retweets and shares and news articles following. This Twitter-storm wasn’t about the latest political moves or anything scandalous. It was about Mr. Rogers. Yep, THAT Mr. Rogers — the kindhearted, soft-spoken children’s television show host. The man behind the tweets shared a story of when, during a difficult time in his adult life, he actually ran into Mr. Rogers in an elevator. And in his classic kind style, Mr. Rogers invited the man into a conversation. Mr. Rogers made space. Mr. Rogers listened actively. Mr. Rogers invited and sat still, undistracted.

For an hour, Mr. Rogers laid down his life for a stranger who desperately needed a warm welcome.

This kind of presence offered is a gift and an inconvenience and an interruption and a blessing to both sides. We too can lay down our lives in such ways, can’t we? Giving up our afternoon to babysit, picking up the phone and calling a lonely friend, popping next door and visiting a neighbor (a particular sacrifice for me and my introvert homebody sisters!) — all of these examples of presence add up to one thing: love.

Laying down our life for another can mean many things, but it always ends up in selfless, sacrificial love.

Today, consider this: In what ways could you allow
the ministry of presence to become your offering?

Jesus’ ministry was of presence, and presence can be our ministry, too. -@annaerendell: Click To Tweet