I know, I know, I shouldn’t be writing about this because it shouldn’t exist. But, having experienced it firsthand, I happen to know that it does exist and it is a real threat to effective and Christ-like ministry.
When I say I have firsthand experience, I mean I have personally seen the people I was serving as different than me or even (gasp!) less than me. It’s hard not to think of people dressed in rags with no teeth that haven’t had a bath in months differently than I think of myself, a friend from school, or a kid from church. But if everyone really is our neighbor and we are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves, we should see them as just as worthy, important, and lovable as anyone else.
The most powerful ministry we can ask the Holy Spirit to do through us is purely loving people at their worst and not asking or expecting them to change at all. After all, our only reason to live the lives that we do is because He did that for us. Loved us at rock bottom. Poured grace over our broken and sin-stained hearts.
When people feel unconditional love from someone who has experienced it so fully themselves, something inside them says, “Where can I get me some of that?” And then you have the awesome opportunity and privilege to tell them about the Well of Living Water that can satisfy them forever. A Well where it doesn’t matter what they look like or what things they’ve run to instead of running to Jesus. A Well that knows they’re going to get ungrateful and cheat on Him with substances and relationships and what not, but still offers the Water anyways.
I am so far from perfect at this, but I know by some of the reactions of the people I’ve ministered to that I do get it, at least a little bit. I know that when an African-American kid from the government housing project opens up to me about his greatest dreams, it is because I looked him in the eyes and told him I was trusting him to be responsible for a task. You know, I think sometimes the reason people under-achieve is because no one ever expected them to achieve. Sometimes all you have to do is believe in someone.
I also know from the warm smiles I receive that looking someone straight in the eye is so incredibly powerful. It shows that you aren’t afraid of their smell or their lack of teeth or their past. You just care about their heart.
And then my personal favorite: touch. TOUCH them. Germs schmerms, I say! Placing a hand on someone’s shoulder while you pray over them, hugging someone after a good conversation, squeezing a hand after you give someone a sandwich – these gestures will mean more than 10,000 words of even the most heartfelt encouragement.
Miss the first post in Michaela’s mini series? Read it here.