“…and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, and heal the sick.” Luke 9.2
This is our goal in ministry here. We respond to Christ’s call to proclaim the kingdom of God by lifting up the name of Jesus, who has declared that, if he is lifted up, he will draw all people to himself (Jn 12.32).
We encounter “the sick” and seek to heal them… people who are sick in heart and sick in spirit. The violence, the stress, the crime… human trafficking, drugs and gangs… social injustice… the struggle to survive these things is real. In revealing God to the world Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal the sick. People came from all over the country to be healed by Jesus, and then his by disciples. And they heard the good news preached.
We distribute healing in many ways: addressing felt and basic needs, advocacy, counseling and prayer, but the main way God works in this ministry is by befriending people. The impact of relationship on a young person’s life cannot be overly esteemed.
Last week I drove by a construction site here in the neighborhood and someone hollered “Chris, Chris!” I couldn’t see who it was but I waved anyway. After completing my errand, I came back to see who it was. It was Junior, a child we befriended thirty years ago. He was active in our ministry as a child, but we’d lost touch as he became an adult. He wanted to tell me about how well he was doing, how God had blessed him and his family, and how much influence we had had on his life.
Jesus gave his disciples the power to heal the sick in order to draw them near to the kingdom of God. The Lord allows us to cultivate life lasting relationships with young people for the same reason. I see Junior in the eyes of a young boy I spent time with this week playing basketball who was so obviously thrilled to spend some time with me… he was so starved for attention from a positive black man. Little things can have a huge impact; an impact of which we may never be aware. God uses that stuff!
I see Junior in the face of the young man who we’ve known since he was a child who diligently worked hard to be able to go to college and make something of himself despite the long odds of growing up black and male in north Minneapolis. He writes in his college application essay of how positive influences like ours helped keep him out of the streets. We proclaim the gospel at every opportunity… at church, basketball practice and games, camps, visits, etc. We comfort the grieving and sad, we encourage the desperate and hopeless, we befriend the lonely and alone… we lift up Jesus at every turn. Through friendship and presence, through relationship and longevity, and through genuineness and openness. And we see the kingdom of God arising around us in this place, growing and flourishing.