Summary: If we want to meet the real needs of real people, we cannot let our traditions and procedures get in the way. Instead, despite tradition, we must touch the untouchable, forgive the unforgivable, and befriend the despicable.
A soldier was wounded in a battle and ordered to the nearest military hospital. Arriving at the entrance, he saw two doors: one marked “For Minor Wounds,” the other “For Serious Wounds.”
He entered the first door and walked down a long hallway. At the end of the hall, he saw two more doors. The first read “For Officers,” the other “For Enlisted Men.” The soldier went through the second door.
Again, he found himself walking down a long hallway with two doors at the end. One read “For Party Members,” the other “For Non-Party Members.” The wounded soldier took the second door and found himself back out on the street.
When he got back to his unit, his buddies asked, “How'd your trip to the hospital go?”
“The people really didn't help me much,” he said, “but, man, are they organized!” (Andy Cook, “The Search for God's Own Heart,” Men of Integrity, March/April 2005; www.Preaching Today.com)
Organization is a good thing, but sometimes it can get in the way of helping real people with real needs. Now, that’s especially true if the organization has been around a while. Studies show that after a church has been around for more than 10 years, it begins to lose its vision and focuses more on maintaining the organization.
So how do we keep from doing that here at Faith Bible Church? How do we keep on ministering to the real needs of real people especially as we move well into the second decade of our ministry here? How do we continue to minister in such a way that hurting people find true healing and lives are transformed for eternity?
Mark 1:40-42 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. (NIV)
Jesus touched the untouchable, despite 1500 years of religious tradition. The Mosaic law made it very clear. Lepers could not come near anyone. And if anyone came near them, they were to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” so people would stay away. Lepers lived outside the towns and villages all by themselves, all alone.
They were untouchable, but Jesus dared to touch the untouchable. As that leper approached Him, perhaps in the early morning half-light, Jesus would have known he was a leper just from the smell. Lepers were not allowed to bathe, and their appearance was unmistakable. Even so, Jesus didn’t turn away. When that leper approached our Lord and begged, “If you are willing, you can make me clean,” Jesus didn’t scold him for not shouting, “Unclean!” No. Jesus reached out and touched him. It was probably the first touch this man had had in years!
Filled with compassion, Jesus touched the untouchable and cured the incurable. Then, in accordance with religious tradition, Jesus sent the man back to the priest.
Mark 1:43-44 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” (NIV)
This is what the Mosaic Law required. When a leper was cured of his disease, the first thing the law required him to do was go to a priest, who would certify him clean and welcome him back into the community. That’s what Jesus told the cured leper to do.
Mark 1:45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. (NIV)
That’s because Jesus really cared for people. He didn’t ignore the traditions of His day. He just didn’t let them keep Him from reaching out to people. He touched the untouchable and cured the incurable. And that’s what we must do, if we’re going to meet the real needs of real people in our day. Like Jesus, we must…
TOUCH THE UNTOUCHABLE.
Like Jesus, we must reach out to those nobody else wants to touch. Like Jesus, we must have the compassion to get close to those everybody else shuns. That may include the homosexual with AIDS. That may include the odd person the rest of the community avoids. That may include the child who is a real discipline problem. We don’t have to ignore our procedures and traditions, but we cannot let those procedures keep us from touching real people with real needs.