Your Presence Speaks Day 4: What Does Your Presence Say in Your Community?
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:15-16, ESV)
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27, ESV)
Many years ago, my brother’s friend from up north came down to visit us in North Carolina. While he was here, we all hopped in the family van and headed to church. As we drove through our neighborhood my dad would wave at people walking down the road. After a few waves, my brother’s friend turned and said, “Do you guys know all these people?” I said, “No, why?” to which he responded, “So then why does your dad keep waving at them?” I couldn’t help but laugh. I had never really put much thought into the action of waving to neighbors or strangers, but had always made a point to do so as they walked or drove by me. However, as he was from the north where it’s not so common, this practice may have seemed a little odd to him. Even now, I catch myself waving when visiting family in New Jersey, which typically inspires confused looks, and I am reminded of how different communities can be. Why do we wave? Because it’s polite and welcoming. It’s a simple gesture that leaves people feeling seen and cared for, even if for a moment. It may seem silly to some, but even this act speaks to one’s community.
Much like with your work and school relationships, you must establish a good presence in your community. While you may not have a personal relationship with everyone or even be acquaintances, whenever you are out in the community people see you and take note, especially if they see you often. I think of grocery store cashiers, doctors, hair stylists, plumbers, baristas, and waitresses. We interact with these people more than a few times and some rather frequently. What does our presence tell them? Do they think we’re rude and unfriendly? I hope not, but even these small interactions are opportunities for us to be a light. Keep in mind that you are representing not only God but your local church when you are out in the community. If the Walmart cashier randomly decided to show up to your local church and saw you seated among the members, would they second guess staying or would they feel comforted?
Often when we think of community, we think of our next-door neighbors or the waiter at our favorite restaurant, but community is so much more than that. Think of people that Christ was frequently found amongst: tax collectors, people with disabilities, widows, lepers, homeless people, outcasts. He purposefully put Himself at the center of crowds full of people that society deemed worthless because they were the most likely to listen to Him. What are we doing for the outcasts of our community? Social justice and charity should start with the church. We are called to support the orphans and widows. We are meant to share the blessings of God with those who need it most. We should be known in our community for being a support for the downtrodden and a light in the darkest of places.
My challenge for you today is to reflect on your presence in your community. Are you representing Christ when you interact with the barista at your local coffee shop? Are you sharing your blessings with the community? Are you connecting with the outcasts? All these interactions are opportunities to share the gospel, so we must be present in our community so we can be His light.