“Everyone needs compassion, a love that never fails.”
We live in a world where there are hurting people everywhere. Failed relationships, death, the economy, and loss of self cause people, including ourselves, to feel disconnected and in pain. We have lost faith with our communities. We have lost faith in our government and the officials that run it. We have lost faith with our families and our social circles. Unfortunately, we have even lost faith with the church and our spiritual foundations. Where do we turn?
How many of us have more friends on Facebook that in real life? How many of us have phone numbers for people we don’t really know? Do we still send cards or letters to people we have not seen face-to-face in many years? Why do we text rather than call? We claim efficiency and progress. We tell ourselves that we can communicate more information to more people even more quickly. We are quickly becoming a society of digital hermits and paranoid recluses. We are scared to touch. We are scared to care. We do not choose to love beyond what we know. It is easy to love something or someone you know or that loves you back. It is harder to love what no one else loves.
Do we love enough? Are we caring enough? Are we taking the time to get to know our fellow man? Do we still know our neighbors like we used to? Or, are we more concerned about what is happening in our own world? Are we more concerned about what people might say if they saw us spending time with “those” kind of people? Look at how far, we Christians, we believers, have fallen. We used to be “those” people, but God still loved us.
We need to learn how to reconnect and re-engage with this world and it’s people. We need to spend less time determining who has what or who has more. We need to spend time figuring how to get people what they need. We need to love, need to learn, need to lead. The church, us, we, are in a unique position in today’s world to love the unlovable, to care for the “un-careable”, to befriend the friendless, to bind up the broken-hearted, and to set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1).
Our story in today’s Word for us addresses that very issue. In Mark 1:40-45, Jesus is preparing to continue traveling and ministering to people. He is packing to leave and a man comes and kneels before Him. We are told in verse 1 that he has leprosy. Leprosy then, and still today, is more than a disease. It is a social condition. At the time of this story, if someone had leprosy, they would be required to stay away from people. If someone were to get near them, they had to call out, “Unclean!” People avoided them. Families disowned them. Society did not have time for them. They did not have a place for them. They were exiled to colonies filled with other people with leprosy. They were exiled there to wait to die. There was no reacceptance, no chance of parole, no pardon. They were cut off from the world and forgotten about. This man who knelt before Jesus could have been related to one of his close followers. Everyone probably knew him and his family. But, in their eyes, he was less than human. The government could do nothing for them. Sadly, the priests of the day avoided them for fear of becoming unclean themselves. They were not necessarily concerned with contracting the disease. They were concerned that it would make them spiritually unclean. It would hurt their standing at temple. It would lower their social status. The man asked Jesus for two things that day. We make a mistake if we see them as the same thing. He asked to be healed and to be made clean. It is true that leprosy is a disease that harms the body and can cause death. But, what was different and possibly worse, the social disconnection also harmed and caused a kind of death, separation.
Jesus looks beyond all of that. Oh, how He loves! He loved beyond the physical. He was willing to help. He was willing to heal. He was willing to change the situation. Oh, how He loves! He was willing to reach out. He was willing to touch. He was willing to break through the social barriers. Oh, how He loves! He did what no priest would have ever done. He reached out and touched him. He touched his leprosy, his disease. He didn’t see the disease. He didn’t see the situation. He saw the person who needed love. He saw a person who needed to be touched. Oh, how He loves!
After the physical healing, Jesus tells the man to go to a priest and make the required offering. Although Jesus had removed the problem, the disease, he still knew that the man needed more. The man had asked Jesus for healing and he asked Him to make him clean. I am struck by an interesting thought. Couldn’t Jesus have removed the social stigma from the man? Didn’t His own authority exceed the authority of Moses? The answer is yes! He could have made the man clean. But, as He said many times, He did not come to destroy the Law. He came to uphold and validate it.
We need to follow Jesus’ example. We need to reach beyond how we feel about something or someone. We need to reach out from what we think is our comfort area. We need to go beyond what we know to find out where God really wants us to be. We should be willing to reach out and touch. We cannot stop when we see the “leprosy” around us. Today, “leprosy” can be dirt, poverty, old age, lack of education, social standing, political affiliation, race, physical attractiveness, or religious beliefs. We need to reach out beyond the four walls of our homes, our neighborhoods, and our churches. We have to go beyond only what we know!
Today, Jesus has taught us how to love others. We should love like He loves, and, oh, how He loves! What are we willing to do differently? Are we willing to love people who are friends do not love? Are we willing to befriend people who are not accepted by our friends and social circles? Are we willing to risk becoming socially disconnected ourselves for the sake of Christ? Can we love other like He did?
Soli Deo Gloria!