Scripture – Matthew 8:14-15, “And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.”
On two occasions in 2013, I had the opportunity to be a part of celebratory programs for my father-in-ministry and mentor, Dr. Cecil L. ‘Chip’ Murray. Both times, I was honored to participate. He has been and still is one of my leading influences.
On both occasions, I shared with the listening body a very important ministry principle that Dr. Murray taught me and that I believe Dr. Martin Luther King also represented in his mission and ministry. He called it, ‘See the people.’
When I entered ministry at First A.M.E. Church of Los Angeles, Dr. Murray had this saying to “see the people.” Whenever we were in his office and a guest came in, he would say, “Get up and see the people.”
He wasn’t speaking to those of us in training to just visually see the people. But, we had to get up and see to their needs, no matter how great or small. And if one of us 30+ ministers didn’t move fast enough, he’d give you this look and say, “Oh, you too good to see the people?”
As the newcomer in ministry, I didn’t understand what this was all about, but I quickly learned the invaluable lesson that Dr. Murray was attempting to show us, the lesson of care, compassion and hospitality. Dr. Murray was displaying for us what real Servant Leadership should look like.
Two years ago, I attended a lecture by Dr. Walter E. Flucker of the Boston School of Theology. In that lecture, he said, “Soft skill qualities like compassion will be required of every leader to possess (especially faith leaders) who expect to make change and impact in the 21st Century.”
With his radical compassion for the ignored, overlooked, overstepped, least, lost, left out and left behind; Jesus also always had a way of seeing the people. He saw the poor, the broken, the lame, the blind, sick, infirm, diseased, and the demon-possessed, the dispossessed, downtrodden and desperate, but He didn’t just see the people visually.
His seeing always led to some kind of social action through healing, deliverance, redemption, restoration, reconciliation, renewal, reinstatement and rebuilding.
The question then, for those of us who are leaders, and more pointedly servant leaders, maybe, “What do we see when you see the people?”
What do we see when we see people in our churches, neighborhoods, and community meetings or simply while we are going about our daily business? Do we see the needs, possibility, opportunity, struggle, pain, heartache, impact of poverty, inadequate education, and list really can go on.
I think, in part, this was also the message of Dr. King, who we celebrate each January. His message and mission challenges us to think and live outside of ourselves and effect change for the people we see!
The Rev. Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard is the pastor of Family Ministries at Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church in Irvine led by Pastor Mark E. Whitlock, Jr.