Whatever one’s place in life, whatever age or influence, all Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit’s power, endowed with the Father’s wisdom through Scripture, and energized by the love of Jesus. As such, all Christians are called as Christ’s ambassadors into the places where they live, work, play, and worship, with the glorious purpose of leaving it better than they found it. This is, we might say, the universal Christian job description.
As a father of two daughters, I sometimes offer them advice on their various endeavors. One endeavor for our oldest daughter was to build a thriving babysitting business in her mid-teen years. Since my wife, Patti, and I had previous experience “employing” babysitters to keep watch over our home and children, I felt qualified to offer constructive advice that might help our daughter succeed.
My advice about babysitting focused on two, simple actions. First, she should resist the urge to be on her phone and social media, and should instead actively engage and play with the kids until their bedtime. Second, after putting the kids to bed, she should tidy the house or apartment—especially the main living space, sink, and kitchen—so that when the parents arrived home, the house would be in better shape at the end of the evening than it was at the beginning.
Thankfully, our daughter embraced and implemented this advice. Before long, she was getting so many babysitting opportunities that she had to start referring some parents to her friends. These two, simple actions of playing with the kids and cleaning the home made her the favorite babysitter to the kids and the parents of virtually every family that she served. Even now, when a break from college is on the horizon, parents will line up to “preorder” her babysitting services for the weeks she will be at home. You might say that she has positioned herself, from a consistent commitment to be fully present with people—and to consistently care for places and things—to enjoy “the favor of all the parents.”
In a similar way, Christians are called to serve the world as engaged servants, fully present and always looking for opportunities to leave people, places, and things better than they found them.
This dynamic was pervasive especially among first-century Christians, whose life of love toward one another, toward their neighbors, and toward the towns and cities in which they lived, caused them to enjoy “the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:47). Their neighbors, whether Christian or not, came to value and esteem them as a life-giving part of their own lives.
These Christians did not feel a need to become a powerful “moral majority” in order to impact the world around them for they realized, as Jesus had clearly told them, that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Rather than control the world through coercive and politically partisan force, Jesus’ method was to win the world through the persuasive power of kindness and neighbor love.
Indeed, Jesus and his tribe of followers gained favor and influence by living among their neighbors and colleagues—including those who were poor, marginalized, and forgotten—as an intentional, creative, love-driven, and life-giving minority. As they freely gave to their neighbors the gift of love, service, and presence, they seized every opportunity to leave places and things better than they found them. It would be fair to say that if these Christians were taken out of the world, their neighbors would have sorely missed them.
Sadly, we in the 21st-century West have in many ways let this universal job description for living as a love-driven, life-giving minority slip away. Rather than denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus, many of us have instead opted instead to deny our neighbors and take up our comforts…all in an attempt protect our own interests and follow our personal dreams.
As the haunting lyric from singer-songwriter Jason Isbell reminds us, “Your creature comforts aren’t the only things worth fighting for.”
Perhaps lyrics like these can function as a clarion call to Christians to return to our roots and to once again live as Jesus’ ambassadors, aroma, and “sent ones” for the healing and restoration and rejuvenation of our tired, sin-sick world. Now is the time to repent of the ways we have contributed to the world’s sorrow and brokenness, and instead seek to be a healing agent of the world’s sorrow and brokenness.
Let’s begin today, shall we?