When I think of a church community, I typically think of people doing those things that James mentions in today’s passage: praying for the sick and troubled, partnering with the joyful to multiply their joy and supporting the sorrowful to help lighten their burden of grief. While it certainly is good to do these things for others, there’s another part of being a community of faith that is often overlooked: that of allowing ourselves be ministered to.
Allowing ourselves to be ministered to provides three benefits to the faith community:
1) It provides an opportunity for others to put into practice those actions God calls us to. For example, if I’m hungry but don’t let anyone know it, they have no opportunity to feed me. By letting others know of my need, I present an opportunity for others to respond to that need.
2) It provides me the benefit of help in my area of need. Continuing the hungry example above, by letting others know of my need, I will have the opportunity to be fed. We may have many areas of need but we seldom reveal those to others thereby preventing us from receiving the help that could address those needs.
3) It provides an opportunity for me to practice humility. This is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of allowing others minister to us.
Many of us are willing to provide for or tend to the needs of others but we often balk at making our own needs known. In some cases, it may be downplaying the severity of the need but in other cases it may be a matter of pride and not wanting to admit a need, acknowledge a fault or reveal a weakness because doing so puts us in a vulnerable position. We run the risk of being misunderstood or perhaps being understood all too well and not wanting our real selves to be so openly known.
I believe that’s part of the reason James tells us the sick are to call upon the elders of the church and that each of us is to confess our sins to, and pray for, each other. Failing to do so limits the benefits listed above but by making ourselves vulnerable we can help each other so that everyone benefits and grows in God’s love.
Dear Lord, grant us the humility to allow ourselves to be ministered even as we minister to others... Amen