Gettin’ Messy

In any culture where it exists, leprosy makes its victim an outcast. People might feel bad for the afflicted, but they quickly look away. No one invites the leper to dinner, few even go to visit the leper. Shunned, closeted away, quickly forgotten.

In every culture where it exists today, pain and suffering are treated almost like leprosy. We’ll talk about the problem, pray for the victims, form organizations to address the problem, and even give money to address the issue. But few people do more.

We feel safe at a distance.

We feel sanitized if we don’t have to touch the hurting.

We feel we’ve done our part if we throw a few dollars at it.

But not Jesus. He handled the hurting … literally.

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus. He said, “Lord, You have the power to make me well, if only You wanted to.” Jesus put His hand on the man and said, “I want to! Now you are well.” At once the man’s leprosy disappeared.

Jesus put His hand on the man. He didn’t just pray. He didn’t give money. He didn’t organize a rally to address the problem of leprosy. He touched a hurting man.

He got messy.

He conveyed love to a hurting man like nothing else could have.

Robert Shuller wisely noted, “Being a Christian is offering yourself to Him. Your mind for Christ to think through;  your heart for Christ to love through; your lips for Christ to speak through; your hands for Christ to touch through.”

What about it? Are you ready to convey the love of Christ by touching — literally — people’s problems? Nothing says “I love you” like the human touch.

My Injured Thumb

I sliced my thumb open yesterday. Okay, maybe “sliced” is a little too dramatic. But I did cut my thumb, and it did bleed. True, it didn’t gush blood — more like oozed blood — but blood was escaping my body. It was a small cut; perhaps a ¼-inch long.

I pressed a tissue on it until is stopped bleeding. I washed my thumb thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water. I applied some Neosporin ointment. And I wrapped the injury in a fresh Band-aid.

All of this care and concern for a small cut on my thumb.

Do you realize how much one uses their thumb in the course of a day?

  • Trying to rinse dishes in the sink I couldn’t hold the plate or the dish scrubber without my thumb being involved.
  • My thumb was involved when I turned the doorknob of the front door.
  • When I was opening a package of fruit snacks for my son, my thumb was needed for either the holding or the ripping.
  • Ditto when I attempted to open the lid of the Diet Pepsi two-liter bottle.

That small cut on the thumb on my non-dominant hand was affecting my entire day. One little cut and my entire body was adversely affected!

A friend called me the other day. His heart was ripped open. Okay, maybe “ripped” is a little too dramatic. But he was emotionally damaged. True, he didn’t need a trip the emergency room and he probably won’t have to start taking anti-depressants, but emotional “blood” was escaping his heart.

He called me, and I responded. One little wound in my friend’s heart and I was affected! Do you realize how much one’s emotions are involved in the course of a day?

Dr. Paul Brand was a renowned hand surgeon and missionary who worked with leprosy patients in India for years. He learned that leprosy doesn’t mangle a person’s foot or hand, but their lack of ability to feel pain does. They don’t feel the cut on their pinky toe or left thumb, and so they never attend to it. The injury becomes infected, and still no pain registers to tell them to take care of it. Eventually serious, irreversible damage is done.

Listen to what Dr. Brand wrote in his book In His Image

“A body only possesses unity to the degree that it possess pain…. We must develop a lower threshold of pain by listening, truly listening, to those who suffer. The word compassion itself comes from Latin words cum and pati; together meaning ‘to suffer with.’ …The body protects poorly what it does not feel.”

“Management of pain requires a delicate balance between proper sensitivity, to determine its cause and mobilize a response, and enough inner strength to keep the pain from dominating the whole person. For the Body of Christ, the balance is every bit as delicate and as imperative.”

We must develop a lower threshold of pain by listening, truly listening. …The body protects poorly what it does not feel. Are you listening, truly listening to those who are hurting around you today? You are connected to them. If one person hurts, we all hurt.

Truly listen. If they are hurting, it does affect you… and me. Let’s find them, bandage them, apply ointment to their wounds, and protect them from further injury. Let’s feel their pain so we can protect them from further pain.

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