A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”. Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Grill a Christian, as the name suggests, is an evangelistic event where the floor is open for questions on and about Christianity to be asked and where possible addressed. Once a couple of years ago, while a part of Brunel Christian Union, we held one in a lecture theatre. The question of who Jesus was leveled at the panel.
As a response Kev, one of the panelists, told the story of a group of war prisoners in an underground cell who, having been tortured had cowered together in a corner; keeping their naked bodies warm by huddling together. The indignity they had been subjected to had brought them together but their shame had stilled their tongues. In this dark cell they had crouched silently awaiting their deaths.
After a while a liberating army successfully invaded the land and in the process of doing so had uncovered this prison. Illuminating the cell the soldiers, in full gear, opened the doors and informed the prisoners of their freedom. But rather than get up and leave, the prisoners cowered further: seemingly frightened further at the sight of soldiers.
On seeing this, one of the soldiers slowly placed his weapon down at the entrance and walked into the cell. He then took off his uniform and stood at the periphery of the group in nothing other than his underwear. He then, after a short while moved closer the group and stretched his hand toward the nearest prisoner who responded by taking the soldier’s hand. One by one this soldier led each one of the prisoners, by hand, out of the cell.
The prisoners, like the leper, had lost some of their humanity and, crippled by fear, had a warped sense of expectation. Their experiences had not only changed their perspective of themselves but also of other people. Thus they were afraid of the liberating soldiers.
The liberating soldiers, in the zeal of the freedom they brought were whole. Wholeness to the broken is scary. Faith to the broken is risky. Freedom to the bound is an unknown: this too is scary.
As stated in the first part of this discussion, Jesus – like the soldier – strips himself of his apparel and heals firstly by a show of empathy and compassion. He, at the doorway to humanity removes his robe and his golden sash, wears a human head of hair, cools the blazing fire in his eyes, fleshes out his bronze feet as well as his tongue – which is a double edged sword [See Revalations 1:12-16]. For us to understand the Love of a Lion it comes to us as a humble Lamb.
- Maybe like the healed leper, you are anxious to share your faith. Seeking out at every opportunity to tell people what God has done in your life. Go for it I say. Spare a thought however for how scary the thought of change can be. Be conscious of the radicallity of the gospel and it’s capacity to unsettle and break even the thickest of skins. With the confidence that being Loved by God can give it is quite easy to be a Lion and harder to be a Lamb. Empathy and compassion require patience, touch requires proximity, and proximity – and the intimacy it requires – takes time and patience. Always try to understand [to know thoroughly by close contact or long experience with] as you were once understood. Be Grace-full [unconditional in your love, and long suffering in your forgiveness] and never loose hope for God’s intervention. For us to show how safe and loving the Lion is, we must show ourselves as Lambs beside it.
- Maybe sharing your faith is hard. Becoming a lamb is embracing vulnerability. This in many ways is very scary. So is touching a leper. The thought that Christ died in order for us to understand love always makes me afraid of expressing my faith. I don’t want to be jeered at, let alone stripped half naked, whipped and then nailed to a cross in front of a city. My thought is this: God’s love changes us from the inside out. His story is one of accepting us where we are and thoroughly loving us until we are so full of love that it seeps out our eyes, ears, mouth, hands etc. If you are not ready, rest in his love. You, like me, are still making my way out the cell. That in itself is a statement to the rest of the people in the cell that trust/ Faith is possible, touch, humanity, and dignity are available, and the hope for wholeness is one that is healthy to have. Be encouraged, you are doing and saying more than you think: “I don’t know enough yet” is equally an important an answer as any.
- Maybe like me, while in a broken place, you encountered the overzealous soldier. The impatient Christian who barked verses at you never once stopping to see or hear the tears that you had bubbling. If so, I am sorry. The church is filled with people on the different stages within their journey to and from the cross. Its diversity is its one flaw and at the same its beauty. In my experience, God’s wish is for us to realize his hands beside ours, his tears at the sight of ours, and his aching heart at our sorrow. The imperfection we find in his church is a way of Him expressing to us His capacity to Love. He is in His own way working to perfect it. Until then though it is filled with equally broken people on their journey toward wholeness: not one of us, in and out of the Church, is whole. Be assured however that not everyone within the Church is the overzealous soldier, and that there are places and people who can truly listen with empathy and compassion, sharing and caring with and for each other through the painful and joyous.