I want to understand how to minister, not just as a preacher, but as a friend. According to the Gospels, what do I do?

“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”—John 13:15.

Jesus not only gave us examples of what to do, but also of what not to do, especially when it comes to ministry.

Last time, we left off with Jesus taking Peter, James, and John into Jairus’ house, leaving the other disciples and thousands of people outside to wonder.

“And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. / And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. / And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.”—Mark 5:41-43.

I love that line: they were astonished with a great astonishment. Jairus’ daughter had died. She was lost. When Jesus brought her brought back to life, through the power of her father’s faith, her resurrection made them believe Jesus was supernatural.

When something awesome happens, what do you want to do? Tell someone!

But he ordered them to not tell anyone. He allowed only three disciples and Jairus to be present. While Jairus was family, Peter, James, and John were like nurses-in-training, making the rounds, learning what to do, and what not to do.

A miracle had taken place. What else could they believe, except that he was the Christ? Since he had taken those specific people with him, the experience must have been meant for them alone. Therefore, what they believed was also for them alone.

Later, as the twelve were walking between towns:

“…he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? / And they answered, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets. / And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. / And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.”—Mark 8:27-30.

Jesus got specific here about what we shouldn’t be telling others during our ministry to them. It’s a subtle point. Peter believed Jesus was the Christ, an ultimate and heroic figure written about by the great prophet Isaiah (referred to as Elias in the text).

Think about what happens when you try to share your beliefs. Of course, you have no proof, only your understanding, and your interpretation. If the other person has an opposing belief, it’ll become a debate, one that neither of you are likely to win. The exchange might become heated, passionate displays on both sides. Then, arguments ensue, maybe for years. If we look at this on a scale of nations communicating with each other, the arguments could easily turn into wars.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”—John 14:12.

As we minister to each other, and comfort one another, what is more important: that we insist others accept our beliefs, or that we be kind and provide comfort? Beliefs are necessary to the person who has them; to everyone else, they are just ideas.

“And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. / And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; / And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.”—Mark 7:32-34.

When I can no longer hear the truth or speak it, I need faith instead of belief. Faith comes (or flees) in the moment; belief is always with you. Those we minister to have faith in us that we will do what’s right for them, that we will help them according to what they need, not what we need.

This is a fascinating scene because we get a close look at Jesus working one of his miracles. Ministry is private. He took that man to the side, away from the crowds. For a better understanding of what he did next, consider the opening to the Gospel of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. /…. / And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father), full of grace and truth.”—John 1:1, 14.

So the Word of God entered that man’s ears and touched his tongue. He was closed off from others, and the Word opened him to the truth, the way, and the life.

“And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. / And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it.”—Mark 7:35-36.

No longer deaf and dumb, that man had to celebrate his good fortune. He had to tell everyone who would listen. Even if he didn’t tell others what he believed, and only shared that he was healed, they would still draw their own conclusions, believing according to their interpretations. And then they would tell others. Even if all those people believed Jesus was the Christ, and there was no disagreement on that point, their collective beliefs would threaten to transform the nature of his ministry.

When Jesus first spoke in Nazareth, he shared his purpose. It was part of Isaiah’s prophecy.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”—Luke 4:18.

He didn’t say he was King of the Jews, David’s rightful heir, or that he was the Christ.

“And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”—Luke 4:21.

What did he mean? Whatever he meant was whatever you believed. The people of Nazareth interpreted what he said as blasphemy, and that he was claiming to be the one Isaiah wrote about. But what he said was what any of us might say, if we wanted to comfort the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, and the bruised.

After he had fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two small fish:

“Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. / When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.”—John 6:14-15.

He didn’t want to be King of the Jews. And he didn’t want people to share their belief that he was the Christ. If we are to live by his example, then we must be aware of this, and meditate on what it means.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”—John 13:35.

That was his new commandment, the reason for a New Testament, the message written in the Word that became flesh: Love one another. He didn’t want us to teach with our beliefs; they are private, applicable to your journey, not mine. Instead, he wanted us to comfort each other. That’s the point of ministry.

You might be wondering, as I did, if this is too restrictive. Should we limit what ministers have to say? And I can’t help but remember this warning:

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. / But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”—Matthew 10:32-33.

When I’ve helped people, I found the less I said, the better. They don’t need me to fix their problems. Chances are that I can’t. What they need is understanding, dignity, and the respect that comes from my undivided attention.

As for confessing Jesus to others:

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? / Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. / This is the first and great commandment. / And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. / On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”—Matthew 23:36-40.

These aren’t just two separate commandments. Jesus equated them with the phrase “like unto.” He combined them, as if to say: Love your neighbor with all your heart, soul, and mind. Our part of the new covenant is to love each other as we would love God, or as we would love ourselves. His part is to provide an example that will overcome the evils of this world.

Who did Jesus come to save? That is, as missionaries, whom do we seek to help?

“For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.”—Matthew 18:11.

And how do we save those who are lost?

“For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth.”—Luke 22:27.

We serve them, comfort them, and give them what they need—which is someone to love—not what we need, which is verification of our own beliefs.

I know what it’s like to have a belief transform my life, giving me hope when there was only despair. I know that I want to shout it from the mountain tops, so that everyone can share in the joy of my good news. The joy is natural, but so is the tendency to minister by our will, instead of God’s.

When Jesus healed a leper, and told him to tell no one:

“But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.”—Mark 1:45.

His skin, his connection to the world was healed. How could he not spread ministry like a wild fire? Our natural tendencies aren’t always the best, because, by natural, we really mean without thinking. This is how and why we sin.

We forget that we need to show love and compassion, that we need to have forgiveness and mercy in our hearts, even (or especially) to our worst enemies.

Our lives are busy; we got a lot going on. Sometimes we don’t want to think, or we’re feeling vulnerable and don’t want to care.

The Gospels are here to remind us that we are not alone, even if we think we want to be.
When we interact with each other, or merely have the potential for interaction, we become a part of each other’s lives, a part of everything.

So ministering with love and comfort, instead of what I believe about Jesus, is not restrictive. It is actually the thread that connects everything. Love spreads, its ripples intersect with others, combining, growing stronger.

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”—I John 4:8.

That’s probably my favorite quote in the whole Bible. It’s simple, and it explains God with an emotion that we’ve all felt. The problem is that the emotion isn’t simple. Love can be a crazy mess; its absence is sin; its presence is heaven.

Therefore, as ministers, we go forth to fill that void, to remove the sin that is the absence of love by giving our own love freely. We do this to follow Jesus’ example, as he gave his own life.

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”—John 10:11.

We “give up our lives” when we stop insisting that others accept our beliefs as the truthful, guiding principles we believe them to be.

I shouldn’t need someone to verify my personal belief. And, if I do, then my faith in them and me is weak.

When I’m trying to comfort someone, I want to lower their defenses, not raise them by putting our personal beliefs at odds. Even if they and many others shared my beliefs, they could try to change the nature of my ministry.

“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”—John 6:38.

Just as Jesus took that deaf and dumb man aside, and miraculously healed him, my beliefs are between me and God. What someone else believes is the miracle between them and God. It is a sacred connection, a personal covenant.

“But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. / Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”—Matthew 26:63-64.

Just as Jesus never specified who he was, I should not specify my belief, because it is mine. Though I need to strengthen my faith in myself by becoming more comfortable with my beliefs, I cannot achieve that by “converting” others. I can only accomplish that by following God’s will, not my own.

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. / For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”—John 13:14-15.

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