Monday, February 17, 2014

Touching A Mess

Matthew 8:3
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said.  "Be Clean!"  Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.

When my sister and I were little we would often end up at my dads church to play while he worked.  They had an electronic super powered stapler that we were absolutely not allowed to touch.  It was the kind that you didn't push on, you just slid something in the slot and "BLAM!"  Staple in.  We had been told on multiple occasions how playing with it would lead to big problems.

Clearly, I was the well behaved child, so I listened and followed these instructions.  My little sister did not.  She stuck her thumb into the slot and had a staple shoot right through her nail and into her flesh.  At the time no one knew.  Though she was in great pain, she was sure that the pain of her impending punishment for disobeying would be far worse.  She couldn't get the staple out on her own so she just sat around whimpering while holding her thumb in her hand so no one would see. 

Being the sensitive and caring soul that I am, dripping with empathy clearly, I didn't even notice that she was so upset.  She acted fine enough that we got home without anyone noticing and it wasn't until my mom got involved that she recognized that my sister was not acting normal.  After holding her in her lap and gently asking what as wrong and telling her that she could share anything, my sister, through tears, showed her thumb while begging to not get in trouble/spanked.

My sister did not get in trouble at all(I am still bitter about that).  Instead my parents took her to get it taken care of right away.  They were sweet and loving with her as she dealt with the great amount of pain she was going through.

It's funny seeing how we can become so concerned about what people will think about our problem that we don't even share it with those who can help.  Though she was in excruciating pain the driving logic was that admitting she had done wrong and possibly getting in trouble would be worse.  Obviously, the logic of a child didn't think through the long term consequences of having a thick piece of metal jammed into her thumb.  She was too concerned with the fears of what COULD happen if she asked for help.

Leprosy is a disease you can't hide.  It is literally written on your face.  Arguably, the worst part of leprosy is that your disfigurement could make all personal relationships change radically.  You were disgusting, possibly contagious, dying.  Who wanted to be around you? 

In Jesus, this leper sees hope.  That someone would see him, not as a diseased and deformed monster, but as a hurting person with a condition that he couldn't fix on his own.  Would Jesus finally give him a life not defined by his problem?

What is powerful about this passage is not that Jesus healed the man.  We have already seen multiple occasions where Jesus is able to do the miraculous regarding disease.  What blows me away is this:  Jesus reached out and touched him!

The leper did not ask to be touched.  He asked to be healed.  A leper was not someone who could expect human contact.  Their flesh was literally rotting right off of them.  Who would want to touch that? 

Jesus healed the man.  But He did something even more profound.  Even before the leprosy was gone, even before the ravages of this mans problems were erased, He touched him.  He was not turned away and cringing at the sight.  There was no statement of, "Sure, I'll heal you, but can you stand a bit farther away??"  In the very midst of this mans mess Jesus touched him.

We are messes.  Absolute rotting, disgusting messes.  And often, when we are honest, that mess has a lot to do with our own choices.

So we hide from people.  We shut down.  Instead of transparency, we present the image of ourselves that we wish was true.  Like my sister was, we sit nursing great pain, but the fear of actually asking for help, and what might come from that confession, causes us to try to just endure.  And we never endure.

Jesus loved the leper enough to not be turned away by the mess that he saw in front of him.  No, he showed tenderness, love, intimacy.  He touched the disease with his own hands.

God's people are called to be Christ's hands and feet. 

Are you touching peoples messes with love?  Or, are you averting your gaze because it disgusts you?

Are you willing to trust that the hand that touches your mess is the tender hand of a loving savior?  Or, are you still believing the lie that you are no longer worthy of being loved like that?

We need to start touching messes.  And we need to start letting people touch our own messes.  Healing comes from being touched at our deepest level.  Stop hiding your face.  God calls you beautiful.

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