Being in pastoral ministry for the last several years, I’ve noticed something about the types of informal ministry that men and women engage in most often. When a woman in the church is hurting and in need of some compassion from the body, women do a better job of obeying the command to “comfort one another” (2 Corinthians 13:11). Upon hearing the distressing news of a sister’s pain, they are often there with a shoulder to cry on, a meal, or a word of encouragement. Men are generally different. When there is manual labor to be done, count us in – getting someone moved into their house, volunteering at the church workday, moving tables and chairs, etc. I’m not saying that men and women don’t engage in other ministry, but these ministries seem like ones that each gender is more comfortable with.
With this observation in mind, I want to give a call to Christian men to step it up in regard to comforting others in the family of God. You can argue that God makes women with a nurturing spirit that you don’t have, and I get that, but we’re called to this task the same as they are. When someone is hurting, they often feel a greater need for the body of Christ, but that is often when we want to keep them at arm’s length because getting involved in people’s troubles is messy. It’s easier for us to look for ministries that involve less emotion and sympathy… less personal investment… ministry where we can get in and get out.
Men, let us remember the extent to which Jesus came into our mess so that we would know the comfort of God’s salvation. In order to sympathize with our weaknesses, he was tempted as we are in every respect, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He willingly left his perfect home in heaven to come down here to our sin-wrecked world as one of us, to live a humble life and die the shameful death of a criminal (Philippians 2:5-8). In his death he took upon himself our griefs and our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). He gave himself up for his own Father to put him to grief and crush him for our sins (Isaiah 53:5, 10). In order to redeem us from the curse of the law, he became a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).
There are so many more texts to use, but the point is that Jesus did not shrink back from getting messy so that we would know perfect comfort. In fact, he hurt more than anyone will ever hurt, so that we would know comfort in our suffering now, and one day know the reality of comfort without suffering in heaven.