When I started out as a volunteer at my local pregnancy center, I’d been a sheltered church lady for a lot of years.
I reached out to people in my community by inviting them to church or Bible study. I struck up conversations on the bleachers at Little League practices and looked for ways to bring God into the conversation. I was purposeful about developing friendships with my neighbors.
These were not bad approaches, but something was missing. I longed to be more effective in sharing the good news of Jesus, and with that, help people in my community in a practical way.
It was my search for a justice/mercy kind of ministry that initially brought me through the doors of our pregnancy help center. As I delved into training materials and began preparing to talk to clients, my excitement grew.
This is my chance, I thought. I get to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the young women and men who visit us—and to their babies as well!
Over the years, I’ve seen many clients and had numerous significant conversations.
I’ve witnessed young women changing their minds about abortion. I’ve seen despair fade away and hope rise up in its place. I’ve stroked the downy heads of sleeping newborns who probably wouldn’t have survived their time in the womb if not for our clinic. I’ve shaken the hands of young fathers proudly taking responsibility for—and joy in—their sons and daughters.
Despite the many challenges of pro-life ministry, I’ve been greatly rewarded as I’ve reached out to distressed parents in Jesus’ name. There’s been a tremendous sense of satisfaction, personal fulfillment and even honor in doing this work.
As I read the following Scripture, though, I’m struck by the fact that perhaps I’ve looked at this “hands and feet of Jesus” thing in the wrong way.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations… Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
”And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25:31-32, 34-40
It’s not those who minister to others who represent Jesus in these verses; it’s those who have a need. In other words, it’s the people we serve who fill the place of Christ.
To put this in terms of life-affirming work, it’s not so much about us being Jesus to the abortion-vulnerable woman; it’s about her being Jesus to us.
Tweet This: "[I]t’s not so much about us being Jesus to the abortion-vulnerable woman; it’s about her being Jesus to us." @SusanneMaynes
That’s a radical change in perspective, isn’t it? It helps us let go of honor to grow in humility. Truth is, we’re all needy and broken.
Here’s how I said this in Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion:
“Remembering that those I serve allow me to do so helps me to honor each person’s uniqueness. It keeps me from treating people as commodities. The temptation to collect ministry trophies is always a danger, whether it’s notches on our evangelist belt or the number of distressed pregnant women we’ve helped.
“Jesus has no interest in a ministry machine that produces results. He always sees the individual and cares about him or her personally.
"This truth brings us full circle. If we’re truly life-affirming, we’ll honor, value, and cherish every human life, regardless of his or her challenges, demeanor, or history. We’ll treat everyone with sensitivity and grace.”
As I reflect on my years at our center, I recall many times when clients have expressed gratitude to me and to others on our staff—gratitude for giving them comfort and hope, for helping them through a rough time, for providing needed resources.
It’s lovely to be on the receiving end of gratitude, but again, the parable above gives me pause. If the abortion-vulnerable woman represents Jesus, and my ministry to her means I have an opportunity to do good to Christ himself—a deed for which He will eternally reward me—well, then…
…shouldn’t I be the one thanking her?