Think about it this way. God didn’t shout His love from heaven. What did He do? He showed His love by coming to earth. He stripped Himself of all heavenly glory, and became one of us. God became flesh in the Person of Jesus. One of Jesus’ names is Immanuel, “God with us.”
He lived with us. He loved those that others rejected. He poured His heart into those the religious communities said were not worthy. He ate with, tax collectors, and sinners, and prostitutes. God didn’t shout His love from heaven; He showed His love on earth. There’s something about presence that is so powerful, and yet, so many of us settle for something less.
Be like Jesus. Be present with one another. Why? Because
- My Presence is Powerful.
Paul said this, in Romans 12:9, “Don’t just pretend to love others.” Let’s not let it just stay at the shallow level, really love them: “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Love people, really love them. Be present in their lives.
Let’s suppose you have a friend, or a family member, that’s hurting right now. They just received bad news: bad medical news, their girlfriend broke up with them or there was a death in the family.
What is an acceptable way to show love? Most of us today would pound out a text: “Hey, thinking about you” or better, “I’m praying for you.”
Let’s take it up a notch, because we are followers of Jesus, and really want to show love. There is something else we can do with our phone. It is not just something we type on. We can call them and talk to them! Ask them, “How are you doing?” and listen to the tone of their voice. And we can not just pray for them, but we can pray with them over the phone. Then we can ask them some questions, and the conversation can go places that it will not go in a text. We can hear the tone of their voice and respond with emotion.
What’s another thing we could do to show love? We could go see them! We could get in our car, go to them and sit down face to face, and listen to them. We can ask them questions, have a cup of coffee with them, put your hand on their shoulder, or hold hands, and pray with them. If they’re crying, you just wrap an arm around and hold them. There’s something powerful about being there. There’s something powerful about presence.
In fact, I learned this early on as a minister. There was a death in the church where I was first a pastor. Worse, it was a suicide. I felt helpless. I went to do the pastoral visit with the family. And I was really young, nervous, and I was praying, “God, help me to do this right. Give me words to say. Don’t let me mess up.”
I walked in to be with the family. I never will forget, the sister just started crying, I then could see the face of her sister who was gone, who attended our church, and wondering what kind of pain she must have had to end her life. I wondered if I could have done more, then I started crying. And we just sat there for I don’t know how long, and we just cried. That’s all I could do.
And at the end of it, I thought to myself, I’ve got to do something pastoral. I’ll pray some prayer. It was simple – child like, “God, help them. Amen.” And I went out to my car. I felt so small and insignificant, and like the biggest spiritual failure. I didn’t say anything. My prayer was pathetic. Here they are, in their greatest time of need, and I messed up.
Well, a couple of days later, I got the nicest note from this family, and it said something along the lines of, “When you walked into the room, we just felt like God’s love walked in with you.” And then, they said, “Every word you said was just perfect.” I didn’t say much! And it was all perfect.
And what I realized is that my presence said more than any words could say. Presence alone … There’s something powerful about that. And back then, we couldn’t text, but had I been able to text, and I’d said the perfect thing, the perfect text would not have meant nearly as much as presence. There’s power in presence.
I remember in the formative years early ministry, feeling called but not knowing what that meant. There were some times in my licensing and when I got married and for ordination where some of the men in church, the staff, the deacons prayed for me. There was something powerful about praying with – not just someone praying for, but praying with and laying hands on me. I try to pray like that as often as I can.
I don’t know what it is, but God is a relational God, and He created us to love Him, and to love one another. And we can love each other from a distance with technology, but we can do so much more when we’re face-to-face. And when we put a loving hand on each other.
So, I don’t know what this would mean to you. It might mean that you ask somebody to lunch that you would normally just check on and say, “Hey, let’s do lunch sometime.” But you actually do it, and you sit across from someone, and you just let the conversation go, and you just listen, and you pray, and you laugh, and you tell stories, and you love them.
It might mean you do something crazy. In our society today, we wall people out. You’ve made it when you’re in a gated community. We live to keep people out. Maybe you’ll be more like Christ, and you’ll let people in. You’ll invite them into your home, and you’ll make dinner for them, and if you can’t, you’ll order takeout. But you’ll sit across a table with someone – and there is something holy about breaking bread together with other people. It might be, you invest in someone who’s younger. It might be you invite someone that you know nobody’s going to invite.
Some of you, right now, you’re longing for something more, spiritually, and I’ll just tell you what you’re missing: You’re missing the joy and the blessing of Christian community, of opening up God’s Word with other people, and doing life together, and encouraging one another.
And does it get messy? Heck yes, it gets messy. It does. You can control it and keep it clean from a distance, but the risk is worth the reward when you open up your heart. We call it a “Growth Group.” Life is better together. Not only is my presence powerful, also:
- My Engagement is Life Changing. Be engaged. Don’t just be physically present, but be emotionally, completely engaged and present.
Peter said this, “Most important of all continue to show deep love for one another” 1 Peter 4:8. A deep, spiritual engagement, where we’re all in. Where the person in the room is the most important one to us.
Parents, you’ve done this. I know I have. My kid’s begging for attention – “Dad!” “Dad!” “Daddy!” Look at my drawing! Momma! Momma!” We’re busy. What are we doing? I’m responding to an email, thinking it will change a life, but the life I can really change is begging for my attention.
Think about how incredibly rude it would be, if we are out having coffee, and we’re engaged in a conversation. You’re pouring your heart out to me, and I reach into my backpack, and I pull out a book, go to my place – I’m on page 32 – and I read two pages of my book. And then, I put it back down and say, “Okay, keep going.” Like, “What’s your problem?”
And then, you’re back into it, and you’re talking to me, and I’m listening to you. And then, I reach down, and I pull out my to-do list: “Got to get butter. Got to call the repair person on the air conditioner.” Then, I put it back down – “Keep going. Keep going.” And you pick back up.
And then, about 10 minutes into it, I walk off. And I go up to someone else, say, “Hi, what’s going on? And then, I come back and sit down with you. You’d think, Who is this stupid guy?
But what do we do? We’re face to face with someone that matters to us, and the whole time … we’re checking our phone. Be engaged.
Every time my phone buzzes, whistles, chirps, beeps, there’s something in me that thinks. “Who said something? What is it? What do I need to know? In fact, there’s a new word that just hit the dictionary, called F-O-M-O. It stands for “fear of missing out.” And there’s a generation that fears, What am I going to miss? What am I going to miss?
I might miss someone’s funny turtle picture! I may miss someone liking my picture – Did they like it?
At the end of your life, it’s not going to matter how many likes you have, but how much love you showed.
What I really should be afraid of is missing out on the person in front of me. Missing out on my children growing up.
So, I don’t know how you apply this, but for us, phone goes down during dinnertime, face down; nobody picks it up. At Growth Group – face down. At night, on the charger in the kitchen. If you’re in bed with your spouse, and you’re both on your phones, and you’re tempted to text to her, and ask her if she’s in the mood, she responds #Headache; you’re done.
First John 3:18, “Dear children, [let us] not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” Don’t just pray for them; pray with them. Don’t just like what they post; like who they are. Get involved in their lives.
My presence is powerful. Your’s is too.