Monday, May 06, 2013

Loving the unlovable

Mark 1:40-42
 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. 

Leprosy was a particularly horrible disease in the Bible. There was visible deterioration and open sores and it was untreatable. Insult was added to injury as the leper was cast out of society; away from his home, his family and his friends. The the loneliness & isolation seem worse than the disease itself. The smell, the deformity and the fear of contamination made a leper untouchable and unlovable. In fact the very word leper is still synonymous with untouchable.

Unexpectedly, Jesus reaches out and touches the leper. We know that he could have healed the man without touching him. He healed the servant of a Roman officer and a Syrophoenician woman's daughter from a distance. Jesus' touch showed genuine love and may have been as important as healing for this leper. 

Jesus showed love to other untouchables including the woman at the well, tax collectors and those who were demon possessed. Jesus loved them all; reached out to them all.

Some of the unlovable people we encounter in our desire to minister to the community include those who look, dress and act differently than us. Then there are the immoral (especially those whose behavior we find particularly distasteful.) Also, there are some who just have poor manners. The latter also can appear ungrateful.
Ministry in the name of Jesus includes serving the unlovable, the untouchable and the ungrateful. Jesus said, “Your attitude must be like my own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mt 20:28, TLB).

It is normal for Christians to serve those outside the church. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...” (James 1:27, NIV).

Acts of kindness demonstrate God’s love in a practical way and builds bridges to the lost. Jesus identified devotion to him with service to others especially ministry to the least in society. That means giving to those who cannot give back. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5: 43, NIV).

Remember when you get tired of giving and not getting back and being the object of gossip by those you help; remember that when you love the unlovable, when help the ungrateful, when you pray for those who hurt you, you are most like Jesus.

No comments: