“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.”
The Ministry of Presence
I haven’t watched a full broadcast of the 10 o’clock news in years.
It seemed to me that each night, the news became darker, more saturated with gloom and despair and evil. And there came a point where I decided that I just wouldn’t watch any longer. I do read the newspaper, and my Facebook and Twitter feeds are plenty full of current events, and occasionally I’ll tune in when there’s a special report or something that I want more information about. But for the most part, I’m well into an old episode of Frasier by 10 p.m.
Stories of folks laying down their lives for others are rare. And yet . . . in the tragedies reported at 10:00, there are stories of beauty in their wake. Stories of generosity, of blessing. Stories of everyday ordinary people literally handing over the shirt on their backs, the shoes on their feet, their paycheck in donation.
Often it appears that 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 earthshaking good. Maybe we can’t afford the time or money it takes to make a ‘real difference’ in our community. Maybe we’re ‘just a mom’ or ‘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 widowed and shunned. All up in the wrong parts of town, Jesus showed up. There was no ‘other side of the tracks’ to Him. He befriended thieves and dreaded tax collectors and smelly fishermen. He joined folks for meals and invited Himself into their homes and mourned side-by-side with His friends. He talked a wee man down from a tree. He let the children come to Him. (And kids, man. Kids tell it like it is and make themselves comfortable and cause a ruckus, and still. . . He invited them right up on stage alongside Him.) He 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 His life — He was present, asking forgiveness on our behalf.
Jesus’ ministry was of presence, and presence can be our ministry, too.
Earlier this week a 31-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. He made space. He listened, actively. He invited and he sat still, undistracted.
For an hour, he 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 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?