February 18, 2014


When I worked in a nursing home in New England, a woman faithfully visited one of the residents every Friday morning. She always brought little gifts: books, food, flowers, a new clothing item—always something the resident enjoyed. “Are you her daughter?” I asked her one day.

“No. I’m a friend of her daughter’s. When Marjorie and her husband had to move out of state for three years because of his job, she asked me to visit her mother and do for her what she could no longer do herself. I mend her mother’s clothes; make sure she has what she needs; and of course, try to do a little something extra for her—as if she were my own mother. Marjorie provides amply, and I always tell her mother that the gifts are from her loving daughter.”

31 1 1What a blessed friend! Rather than viewing Marjorie’s request as a burden, she saw it as an opportunity to be an ambassador of love on her friend’s behalf. It helped mother and daughter accept their separation and strengthened the bond between them.

I like to think this is the kind of ministry that Christ asks of each of us. I’ve always felt challenged, intimidated, and inadequate in the face of what is often referred to as the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:19, 20.

Have you ever thought about what the Great Commission really means? Is it meant only for the trained and talented few who scatter to all parts of the world to teach, preach, and baptize? What about the priesthood of all believers? Is not the Lord’s commission meant for them, also—for homemakers, office clerks, farmers, students? Are we not all commissioned to His service when we call ourselves Christians?

Words—powerful and necessary as they are—have no strength for good without the greater power of love. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, our efforts, our skills, even our utmost sacrifices, are useless and without value if devoid of love.

Marjorie’s friend would have been amazed if someone watching her loving ministry had said something to her such as: “Your sermon this morning really moved and inspired me.”

“What sermon?” she might have asked. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Oh, but you did. I heard you say to your friend’s mother: ‘I brought you roses from the garden, and I made your favorite cookies.’ You kissed her cheek, hugged her shoulders, and listened to her stories. You laughed with her and felt sad with her. Before you left, you said, ‘There’s a little rip in the sleeve of your blouse. Let me help you put on another one, and I’ll take that one home and mend it.’”

“But,” she would have argued, “that’s not a sermon. That’s just standing in for her daughter, doing what she would do if she were here.”

That woman certainly inspired me. I don’t know if she ever realized that her life really was a powerful message. In most cases we don’t think of our day-to-day lives as sermons for or against the gospel of Christ, but if it is His love working in us, there will be an eloquence that emerges that words alone can never convey.

“As the Father loved me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:9-12, NKJV).*

* Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.