Thanks Paul Tan for making this available … I’ve know Dr. Goh Chee Leong since we were teenagers serving as Christian Fellowship Presidents in our respective schools. Now, he’s a psychologist and I’m a pastor. Both of us learning these precious lessons he so well put in his article.
The following episode from Jesus’s life has always struck me, more so, since I started studying psychology.
A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, “if you are willing, you can make me clean”. Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
#1: Ministry is fueled by compassion.
In a marketplace filled with so many competing voices and messages, each trying to sell their product or services or ideas, the Christian voice is distinct because it is truth accompanied by genuine love. An old Steve Camp (Christian Musician) song went “Don’t tell them Jesus loves them until you’re ready to love them too.”
There are many days when the leper is a but a nuisance to me. A potential problem. An added burden to an already busy life. There are many days, I walk past that leper, because he is not high on my list of strategic priorities.
I need the eyes of Jesus that sees each human being as precious and recognizes each opportunity to demonstrate love as a gift from God. I need the heart of Jesus that amidst the cruel realities of this world has not grown so hard that it cannot feel for the suffering of one poor man. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision once prayed, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”
#2: Ministry is a choice.
In a world full of fiercely independent people, it is surprising how prevalent the “fatalistic” attitude to life is. Many people are fatalist, even though they are not aware of it, in that, they drift through life, unwilling to make decisions about how to use their time and energy, preferring instead to “go with the flow” and let external currents (like circumstance and other people) take them wherever…… Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be.
But we learn from the Bible that ministry is a choice. “I am willing” says Christ. Willing to heal, willing to love, willing to die. His entire ministry was a series of choices, to be obedient to God, that “Thy will not my will be done.”
I need to stop drifting into a self-centred and ultimately, meaningless existence. I need to make a decision, either to stop pretending to be follower of Christ, or to take up my cross and follow him.
Each week brings with it new opportunities for ministry. People in need cross our paths and at that moment, we come to the crossroads where we need to make choices; to help or not to help. But we must remember that walking on pass them, is a choice in itself.
#3: Ministry is connection
I don’t mind serving others as long as it does not affect my personal life. In fact, as long as I’m not duly inconvenienced, I’m open to whatever ministry God has prepared for me.
The problem is, that such an option does not exist. Talk to anybody who works among the needy in our society, who is involved in any form of social work or community service, and they will tell you that ministry involves a profound cost. This is not to say that the worker has no personal boundaries or personal space, but the truth is that ministry will require major lifestyle adjustments, simply because ministry means making personal connections with the people we are ministering to.
Jesus reached out and touched the leper, the untouchable, the forgotten of society, and in that one simple act healed not just his leprosy but years of emotional and social suffering and isolation.
We too are asked to connect with the world we are meant to save. The examples of Mother Theresa and the many like her who work among the poor are powerful for the simple reason that these people chose to enter in and live amidst the people they were serving. In her own words;
“Without suffering our work would be very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Christ. Jesus wanted to help by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony, our death. Only by being one of us has he redeemed us. We are allowed to do the same; all the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed and we must share it. Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself.”
May God grant us the heart of Christ that loves and the mind of Christ that chooses to be kind and the hands of Christ that reach out and touches lives.