Eight years ago, when I became a full-time pastor, I could never have imagined how many tears I would shed over people—or how God would use those tears.
A good friend who has pastored for almost three decades in one of the most violent neighborhoods in our country introduced me to what he calls "Jesus' ministry of tears." "Coach," as everyone knows him, is one of the most vulnerable pastors I know. "A week does not go by in which I do not weep aloud with people at their brokenness," he told me.
Our church is in Little Village on Chicago's west side. It is the largest Mexican community in the Midwest. We also have the youngest demographic in the city. Unfortunately, many of our young neighbors end up involved in gangs and victims of the violence that comes with it.
One afternoon I was invited to lead a prayer vigil for a young man who had been gunned down by the rival gang. As I made my way to the house where I would join the family who had lost their son, I noticed a large group of young people—many apparently gang members—were walking that way as well. Feelings of fear and doubt started creeping up my spine. "Where are they going?" I wondered. "Was something dangerous happening around the corner?" Turning the corner I realized they too were headed to the vigil. They were joining with me to honor and mourn their fallen friend.
Matthew tells us that when Jesus sent the 12 on their preaching assignment, he told them, "As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near'" (10:7). In the very next sentence, he prescribes the actions that should accompany their preaching: "heal the sick, ...