We know from the Bible that God is always present, and that He always cares about us (Psalm 139). We’re never away from His protection (Psalm 91). But sometimes we wish for a tangible contact from Him, something we can physically see, hear, and touch. This story is one way of expressing that wish:
There was a child who was frightened of a thunderstorm, and didn’t want his parents to leave him alone in his room to sleep. They reassured him, “Don’t be afraid. God is always with you, even if you can’t see Him.” He answered, “I know, but right now I want someone with skin on.”
How Does God Work?
Each Christian is commissioned to be God’s ambassador, representing Him to the world. We have skin on, so our actions can be tangible indicators of God’s presence and love. One description of the church as a whole is that we are the “body of Christ“. Our hands reaching out to help someone are His hands, Him working through us. Our feet, going out of our way to be where the need is, are His feet going to meet people wherever they are.
I stopped once to help a woman who was having car trouble 1. When thanking me, she said, “You’re an angel.” In hindsight, I wish I had thought to answer, “Maybe in a sense. Angels are messengers from God. Maybe He is using me to give you the message that He loves you!” Sadly, that didn’t occur to me until too late to say it, but hopefully she did get the message at least a little.
What really happened that day is that I followed a nudge from God’s Spirit and acted as His hands and feet for a few moments. In a way, it’s kind of sad that the incident stands out in my memory: Following nudges like that should be so common that it’s not worth mentioning. That goes to show how far I fall short of the goal. 🙁
Why Does God Work That Way?
That leads me to wonder: Why does God choose to do things this way? He could have kept her car from breaking down. He could have sent a real angel in human form to help her. He could have done any number of things to let her know of His love and presence without using me. Why would He attempt to work through an unreliable human who often doesn’t hear (or ignores) His nudges?
The whole world belongs to Him, “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10-12). He could end poverty instantly. Why does He instead nudge His people to contribute their money, time, and other resources to help hurting people? He could splatter His gospel across the heavens for everyone to see. Why does He instead rely on His people to spread the news person-to-person, one at a time? He doesn’t need my hands and feet. He would be just fine without me. So why does He insist that He wants me? Why does He say, “…as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21)? He also says:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.Matthew 28:18-20
Why commission His followers to do something that He could do Himself? That would be quicker, easier, less risky, and less messy. But He chooses to work through human hands and feet. Why?
- He gives people a choice.
- People who haven’t accepted Him yet can still ignore His evidence. They can point to fallible Christians like me to say that He’s not there. If it were unmistakeably written across the skies instead, those folks would not be able to use their free will to make their own choices.
- Christians can choose whether or not to obey and follow a Spirit-nudge. Our cooperation with God’s plan is also a free choice.
- He loves us and wants to be involved with us.
- God’s main goal is a close, free, loving relationship with us. Working together on the things He wants done in the world is a way to enhance that relationship.
- He allows us to be part of something bigger, more important, and more lasting than our own human horizons.
- God gives us a huge gift by having us participate. Think of the alternative: Sitting quietly in a corner while God does amazing things without us? Ick.
What Happens When We Do God’s Work “With Skin On?”
This “hands and feet” relationship is behind all the great Christian ministries. It drives the work of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritan’s Purse, World Vision and many other evangelistic and humanitarian ministries. It powers Shoes for Orphan Souls, the Moody Bible Institute, and Compassion International. But it also is the force behind each local church and its ways of reaching out. Every pastor, musician, Sunday School teacher, groundskeeper, nursery worker, and janitor is doing their part to work with God and share His love and hope with the world.
That relationship also shows in simple, everyday things. A smile, a hug, a “Have a nice day!” … Even things as easy and common as this can share God’s love. An invitation to visit a worship service or a craft fair or a bake sale or a breakfast lesson is an invitation to share in God’s family.
Why Do Christians Go To Such Effort?
Jesus said that how we treat others is taken as an indication of how we are treating Him (Matthew 25:31-46). When we do our best for the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the sick and the imprisoned, we are doing so for our Savior. In that case, maybe the best explanation I have to that “Why” is this story:
Several years ago, I was on the hospitality committee at our church. I was running around on a Sunday morning getting tables set up for an event to be held after the service. At the same time, one of the youth-group leaders was cleaning up after a pre-church breakfast meeting. As we crossed paths — again — during our separate tasks in the kitchen and serving area, I laughingly asked her, “Why do we put ourselves through this?” 2 She answered my joke very seriously, “You know why. It’s because we love the Lord Jesus.”
Hmmmm…Yeah, there is that!