Ministry Moment: Seeing the Invisible

IMG_0451They are there if you really look. They have seen your eyes glance over them as you go about your day. In Christian vernacular we call them the least of these. Seldom do we ever ask, “who are they really,” even as we encounter them on a daily basis.

I remember many such people as I walked the streets of New York City on vacation. Some have begun to accept that they are not worth even being noticed, much less engaged with. On one specific occasion my wife and I were walking back to our room with some leftovers from dinner. I saw a man trying to stay out of the weather and more importantly out of the way. It wasn’t much, but we took our food down to him at the bottom of the subway stairs. The most striking thing had nothing to do with us giving him food, but how he lit up when we began talking with him like a human being. It was only a very brief conversation, and a quick prayer, but for one short moment he was felt valued, and you could see it in his face.

In Scripture, we see time and again that Jesus talks to the ones that are looked over- there’s the lame man, the children, the Samaritan woman, and Zacheus, just to name a few. Jesus showed many that they are treasured by God, and that no one can take that away from them. It is odd to think that we can get so caught up, even in ministry tasks, that we miss the essential part of Jesus’ own ministry. Especially since we hate when it happens to us.

Think with me to a time when you were doing something and someone forgot to say thank you, or to a time when you were passed over for a raise or promotion, or to a time when your spouse came home and completely neglected to say as much as a hello. Another example is the many areas of our lives in which we are expected to do a certain thing, and that thing is thereby seen as less. In my own life I can say that when I was younger my mom would try to cheer me up by telling me that it didn’t matter that so and so didn’t like me, because she thought I was special, and she loved me. I would respond, “but mom, you’re supposed to love me, that doesn’t count.” Not only was that an incredibly insensitive thing to say, it didn’t take into account her worth as my mom, or the worth of her love and care for me, regardless of her incumbent duty to me as my mother.

Now let’s imagine this “being looked over” or disregarded as our every day reality. Imagine, if you will, what it might be like for a simple word of kindness, or even a real interest taken in you to change your whole mentality. Those of us who have some sense of self-worth, even if it’s very low, may find it hard to imagine this kind of existence. Our lives protect us from the full brunt of the feeling of complete dejection and worthlessness, but they also afford us a great opportunity to share our value with another, and thereby multiply our own sense of value. Although we should never do it for the purpose of adding to our own value, this is a natural result of showing others that they matter, and are valued.

If you’ve never seen the change in disposition of someone who is used to being disregarded or looked past, try it. See for yourself the good you can do in the lives of those that the world couldn’t care less about, but fair warning, you might just find new friends, and it may change your entire outlook on viewing others.

I plan on continuing this series in future posts by contemplating hearing to the unheard, responding to the ignored, as well as other similar subjects as the Lord puts them on my heart. Until next time, be kind to one another.