Who was the most important person in the ministry of Jesus?
Whoever was in front of him at the moment.
A Roman Prefect in his mansion or an adulterous woman at her well; a Pharisee in the dark of night or a mother in the throes of grief. A child, a soldier, a leper. Unknown to them, the one who captivated them was the one who created them and would soon die for them.
Most are familiar with C. S. Lewis’s thoughts in Mere Christianity about our frequent daily encounters: “There are no ordinary people,” he reminds us. “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
Just the past few days I have spoken with . . .
. . . a young Filipino woman who was the desk clerk at my hotel in Mississippi. She told me she was a Catholic and then apologized because she believed in ghosts.
. . . the man next to me on the plane judges dog shows. He isn’t very religious and his wife started reading Heaven in for Real and he is interested in what happens after we die.
. . . a Muslim woman works in the restaurant I stopped in. She is desperate to make friends for herself and her son.
Most people are willing to open up their lives if they know there is someone who will really listen and care. Paul says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6 NIV).
My absolute favorite thought on this truth comes from Walter Wangerin’s book, Ragman and Other Cries of Faith. Every time we meet someone, he says, we have a unique opportunity. He writes:
“It’s a chance at holiness. For you will do one of two things, then. Either you will build him up, or you will tear him down. Either you will acknowledge that he is or you will make him sorry that he is–sorry, at least, that he is there, in front of you. You will create, or you will destroy. And the things you dignify or deny are God’s own property. They are made, each one of them in his own image…There are no useless, minor meetings. There are no dead-end jobs. There are no pointless lives. Swallow your sorrows, forget your grievances and all the hurt your poor life has sustained. Turn your face truly to the human before you and let her, for one pure moment, shine. Think her important, and then she will suspect that she is fashioned of God.”
We get to do this.