“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?Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
I struggle with this on two levels: I tend to feel as if I’m intruding rather than helping; and, if I manage to overcome that and actually get “involved,” I forget that I’m not supposed to try to solve the person’s problem, necessarily. The gift is to be there and to listen and to attend to the person’s words and the feelings they carry.
Thanks for this wisdom in living out Jesus’ “my-life-for-yours” kind of love.
carol leboeuf says
I too struggle like this Michelle, thanks for sharing. I’m learning…..
Michele Morin says
Carol, thanks for the “me too.”
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
When I think of being present, I immediately think of Jesus just being present with his friends when He hears about the death of Lazarus. He didn’t launch into a sermon, give advice, offer cliche phrases or pat answers, no, He was just there and He wept. I believe that sharing others feelings – whether it’s joy or deep, deep sorrow is one of the best offerings we can make. In order to do that we need to stop, be still, and be present in the moment. It’s saying that for that point in time, “Your life is more important than mine.” Oh, that I would be better at sacrificing my own self-interests to be present for someone in need of a listening ear. Love Mr. Rogers (I knew he was a good guy when I watched him as a kid) and loved this post, Anna. Thank you.
Beth Williams says
God sends interruptions into our lives. We might call them inconveniences. I think it is His way of getting us to slow down and look at the world around us. There is so much crazy, madness in this world today. A lot of people are hurting and just need someone to listen to them. We need to start thinking like Jesus did and make time for others. Job’s three friends came and sat with him for seven days without saying a word. More often than not that is just what people need/want. Someone to say “I care about you-you matter.” Let’s all take time to slow down some and really hear people and share in their pain or joy. It will make the world a little brighter.
Wherever we are someone needs a kind or simple gesture.Thank-you for this gentle reminder Anna, and your touching post.
Have a blessed day all,
carol leboeuf says
Thank you, Anna!
Thank you! The presence shared when a life laid down for others without a thought for oneself. The reminder of Jesus helps us refocus on others. What a good reminder. Also what a good way to share on this memorial day weekend, so many had laid their lives down for us so that we can live another day.
Nancy Venuti says
I too am becoming disheartened with the news and like you, am turning it off more and more. Think of how our grandparents had relationships with their neighbors and rushed to help when needed. More of that please. Let’s try and pay more attention. I try exposing a little something about myself and often that opens the door for the person I am with to do the same. It works. We have just opened the door for Jesus to come in and be a part of the conversation.
Pearl Allard says
Well said, Anna. “Maybe we can’t do earthshaking good. Maybe we’re ‘just a mom’ or ‘just one person’, overcome by doubt before we even start. But…we can lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters…because sometimes it’s as simple as showing up.” This. So much, this. Thank you.
I love this. So often I find the news dark and scary too. Love this reminder of Jesus shows up in the darkness.
Beth Negrey says
I’ve never really thought about “laying down one’s life” in quite this way before. Thank you, Anna. God bless you and yours!
Rebecca L Jones says
One of the first people I heard of laying down there life for someone years ago. He had run in front of a car to save a child, the child live but he was struck, As a young woman I wondered if I could do that. Today, knowing that I have His presence, as you say the ministry of presence, I know I do it all the time. Maybe not to that extreme but still making a difference.