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THE CHURCH’S MISSION—A PARABLE as told by Philip Anderson:

Not long ago I visited my sister, a director of patient services for the children’s unit of a large southern California hospital. She was conducting me on a tour through that unit. All the time—echoing through the halls—we could hear the cry of a baby coming from one of the rooms. Finally, we came to that room. It was a little child, about a year old, covered with terrible bruises, scratches, scars, from head to toe.

At first, I assumed the child must have been involved in a terrible accident. Then I looked closely at its legs. Written in ink all over them were obscenities. My sister told me that the child was the victim, not of an accident, but of its parents. Its internal injuries were so severe that it couldn’t keep any food down. The scars on the bottom of its feet were burns caused by cigarettes.

If you’ve ever had trouble visualizing the consequences of human indifference—the perversion of life’s basic relationships—what God himself is up against in this world of ours—I wish you could have looked with me at that battered, crying baby!

But I want to tell you what happened then. My sister leaned over the crib, and very carefully and tenderly lifted the child, and held it next to herself. At first the child screamed all the more, as if its innocent nature had come to be suspicious of every touch. But as she held it securely and warmly, the baby slowly began to quiet down. And finally, in spite of wounds and hurts and past experience, it felt the need to cry no more.

The baby remains in my memory as a living symbol of the choice we face in the mission of the church. Are we willing to let life’s most precious values be battered and starved and crucified by default? Or will we reach out and pick them up and hold them close to our hearts? The time for commitment is not next year, next month, but now!

(From Philip Anderson, Illustrations Unlimited).