Last week I started writing about the most basic ministry of a Christian, which happens simply by being present. Wherever you go, whatever time of day or night it is, the king and savior Jesus Christ is with you by the power of the Holy Spirit. So ministry does not happen in a designated spot (whether a church building or food pantry) or a special time (Sunday morning, Wednesday night, or on certain Christian days), rather it is all of life. As I’ve continued to think about the ministry of presence I see what a privilege it is to simply live as a Christian wherever I go and “exude Christ-likeness,” as one man puts it. Three categories come to mind as I think about the privilege of the ministry of presence: the privilege of being ambassadors, the privilege of loving what I do, and the privilege of suffering.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2Co 5:18-20 ESV)
1. An ambassador represents her nation’s interests while on the soil of another. She must know both the ways of her own country and be conversant with the country to whom she is sent. In the above passage the apostle Paul describes himself, along with the other Christians among whom he serves, “as ambassadors for Christ.” The Christian is among those who are distant from God living as an agent of reconciliation. Simply by being reconciled to God every Christian first displays this incredible reality (v. 17 being a “new creation in Christ”). Furthermore, the Christian actively represents God who wants people to be reconciled to him imploring people to become right with God. You are not a bystander, a cog in a machine, or someone waiting in line, but an ambassador, everywhere you go. Yes, there is a responsibility tied to this role, but first and foremost it is a position of privilege. Wherever your day takes you, there you are representing the reconciling God.
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1 Thessalonians 2:8
2. As our Jesus lives in us by the Holy Spirt and we express his love for others we will find our own hearts warmed with affection and commitment towards those he has called us to serve. We do not function only in an official capacity as ambassadors, but more often as friends, as those who deeply love, the ones we are called to minister to. As we are with people we see them through God’s eyes, have God’s heart for them, and then find increasing joy in the role God has given. This makes me think of someone who loves his job, and despite the difficulties that crop up day by day, is truly grateful for what he does with his life. If our primary ministry is presence and this presence is one that depends in love it is an incredible privilege to live as a Christian. While we may not feel the affection or the emotion moment by moment it is so good to be able to step back and say overall, “I love what I do.”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs– heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Rom 8:16-18
3. What did Jesus’ presence in our life cost him? Everything. If we, in some small way emulate his ministry of presence among sinners it will hurt. It will hurt because we love people and it will hurt because people will mistreat us as they mistreated Jesus. The Christian faith though, says that it is a privilege to suffer for Christ. It is necessary to suffer with him and when we do so we realize how small those sufferings are in comparison to the greatness of our redemption. When you love people, their pain becomes yours and you understand more deeply what God has done for you. When you love people and they do not love you back, you understand more deeply what God has done for you. A life that deliberately seeks to exemplify God’s presence in a world tainted by sin, will be a life of suffering, but this does not exclude it being a life of privilege.