In The Wilderness

Exodus has always been one of the books that fascinated me. The tale of the God YWHW attacking the gods of Egypt, a burning bush account, a zero to hero story, Exodus has it all! While I admit I can get caught up in the intrigue of the stories I feel like there a lot of good and relevant messages in Exodus that we can learn from even today. One of these areas that I admit that I use to just read over and not think about is the last part of the second chapter and the third chapter of the second book of Moses. In these chapters, we see Moses- a man that was living in the King’s house- go from being someone of great importance to a humbled man. So let’s dig into this story and see how- and if- it applies to us today in 2017.

In Exodus 2 Moses goes out of the Pharo’s house in order to see what the rest of the Hebrews were doing. Moses happened to come across an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew and Moses decided to take matters into his own hands. He approached the situation with what seems to be clear intentions. The Bible makes it clear that Moses was “Looking all around and seeing no one…” (Exodus 2:12a HCSB). To me, this seems like Moses knew what he was wanting to do this Egyptian. Moses then hid the body of the Egyptian that he beat in the sand.

Shortly after this, the king of Egypt heard about what Moses had done and he called for Moses to die. Moses did what anyone would have done. He protected his own life. He did this by running away from Egypt. He had to go into the wilderness of Midian.

I think there is an important lesson for Christians today in this. Moses is considered one of the greatest leaders of all time- not just in Jewish communities but really everywhere. Yet, Moses had to take some time to be trained. The lesson for us is this: to get to the place where God wants you to be sometimes you need to go through the wilderness. I know that sounds like a stretch from what the text says and, surely, that is true. However, I think if you continue to read this you will find it is not so much of a stretch that it can not be true.

Moses was on top of the world when he killed the Egyptian. He was living in the house of the most powerful man in the entire world and was considered to be a son of a powerful king. If he was called upon by God at that time Moses might have done what God wanted. However, I speculate that the Exodus would look significantly different. If Moses had not gone into the wilderness then his confrontations with the Pharaoh would not be the same. That much is probably true. Moses was humbled by his time in the wilderness of Midian. He went from one of the highest positions in the world to one that the Egyptians considered to be low, according to Genesis 46.

In a similar light, God can use us regardless of what position we are. However, sometimes we are more willing to be used when we have times where we go through our own wilderness. In those times we often reminded of the fact that we should be relying on the One who we gave our entire life to on a daily basis. It humbles us to a place to where we realize nothing that we obtain will compare to what we could obtain in the Kingdom of God. That is what Moses realized in the wilderness.

What wilderness do people go through? There are a lot of them. There is the wilderness of broken relationships, lost dreams, job issues, finical problems, the list can go on and on for a while.

When we are in the wilderness let us not forget that we serve a God who will call us to more. The wilderness is temporary yet necessary. My prayer is that if you are in the wilderness now that you will allow God to teach you through it.


Emmanuel: In Egypt

It has been a while since I updated this blog. However, in that time I have come to an even deeper appreciation of the truth of “God with us”. It is for that reason that I am excited to write more about the Emmanuel series. Let’s start.

This time we are going to Egypt. I have written about the Exodus on this blog before. In fact, my first post was from that book. However, it is a book that I keep going back to because of the way it mirrors the life of many Christians, being brought out of a land where death is nearly celebrated to a place of life.

For a moment I want to “camp out” in two verses that are often overlooked in the overarching narrative of the deliverance from slavery. I believe one of the reasons they are so overlooked is because they are a transition point between two extreme parts of the early chapters of the book- the murder of the Israelite babies and the call of Moses to be God’s man. The verses I am writing about are Exodus 2:23-24. They say:

But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Exodus 2:23-24 (NLT)

For just a moment, stop reading this and think about what it would be like to be an Israelite slave at this moment. God had promised your family generations ago that He would give you blessings beyond imagination. Yet, for generations, your people have been living in slavery. Every day you cry out to that God, pleading for Him to remember the promise that He made. Yet, every morning you wake up still a slave. On top of that, the king kills your sons in an excruciating way. (This is beside the point but I do believe there is some Biblical foreshadowing at play in that.) It would be very easy to question if God is truly with you. Every day you are faced with the reality that God has no intention to keep His promise.

Yet, the verses do not end in that despair. They end with a declaration of Emmanuel. Read verse 24 again. It says, “God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise”. In the face of His people being enslaved in Egypt, God was still with His people. He did not cease to be Emmanuel.

So what does this mean for us today? As Christians, it can often feel like we are living in times where we can question the truth of the name “Emmanuel”. We read stories of atrocities being committed against Christians throughout the world. We see all of the pain, sorrow, and agony that the world can put upon us. We face the reality of life. Sometimes we, like the slaves in Egypt, cry out to God wondering if He is truly with us. Yet, God has not abandoned us. As we will see later in this series, God is going to keep the promise that He made to the Church. In when it feels like He is not, God is Emmanuel.

Emmanuel: In Eden

Looking at the title you might think it is strange to be writing about the word “Emmanuel” in the month of March. After all, isn’t Emmanuel a word that we focus on during the Advent and Christmas Season? Yes, but it should be one that we who call ourselves followers of the Way- or commonly known as Christians- focus on 365 days of the year (and 366 on leap years). We do a major disservice to the Biblical narrative when we only think about the word Emmanuel one or two months of the year. In fact, I have come to believe that Emmanuel is the word that best sums up what God is trying to communicate to us in His Word, His whole Word from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. If we fail to understand the truth behind the word Emmanuel we fail to understand the Scriptures as a whole!

In His Gospel narrative, Matthew defines the word Emmanuel for us. Matthew 1:23 says about Christ, “They will name him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us’.” This is a very significant title. Jesus Himself is the foremost evidence of God being with His Creation. However, I am getting a little ahead of myself. We will certainly return to this concept in a later blog post. (Surprise: this is another series of posts.) For now, the important part is to know that Emmanuel points out a fact that becomes undeniable as we look at what God teaches us about Himself in the Bible: He is with us.

The first place in the Bible where we can see God being with humanity is in the first few pages. God made a perfect world and made it so that He could be in community with humanity. God, who needed and needs nothing, made humanity for the purpose of being with Him. We were created to celebrate and cherish the fact that God is with us.

This fact becomes even more clear in the second chapter of Genesis. This chapter gives even more details about the creation of man and woman. If we look in verse 18 of this chapter we can read, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (NLT). This verse can seem simple at first glance. However, in it, we find a profound truth that can only be possible if God is with us. If God is not with us how could He know what is good for humanity? If you do not know someone in a personal way, it is difficult to truly care about what is good for someone. God knows us because He is with us.

In the Garden of Eden, we see God “Walking about in the garden” (Genesis 3:8). This is a clear example of Emmanuel. However, we know that because of the fall this unity with God has been severed. Throughout the rest of this 10-part series of posts, we will explore various examples of Emmanuel and talk about the ultimate reconnection that we can have with God through Jesus Christ!

18 Months: A Lot of Time For 1 Verse

A few weeks ago, I was involved in a fun and insightful conversation during a men’s Bible Study. The four men in the group were concluding a study on the Book of Colossians. This study had taken many twists and turns but was always encouraging and challenging. However, on this particular day, the conversation was more challenging than encouraging. It was a shift in how I saw my role and mission here in Ecuador.

We started to talk about Paul’s “free time”- the times that are not well recorded in the pages of the Bible. One example of this that I brought up was Acts 18:11. This short verse was written about Paul’s time in the city of Corinth, a city that he had a special relationship with. The verse simply states, “And (Paul) settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:11, NASB). That’s it- 16 words in English to cover a span of 18 months. During the conversation in the Bible study, I half-jokingly pointed out, “That’s a lot of time for one verse”. Yet, there is some truth in that statement.

What could possibly be the significance of this verse for us today? It seems like one that is more descriptive than prespective (which are two words that are important to understand when reading the Book of Acts). However, there is a profound truth in Acts 18:11. That truth is this: God uses the times we see as insignificant to be valuable to the construction of the Kingdom.

When we are just “going about our lives” those are the times that God forms in us a builder of the Kingdom. There is no time in our life when God can not use us. Therefore, there is no time in our lives that is insignificant. Even in the times we do not think of as being “huge successes” for God, He can use those times.

It is a lie straight from Satan that God uses us sometimes and not other times. If he could make us believe that lie he can make us less effective for the Kingdom. A belief that our effectiveness for the Kingdom based upon a “season” we are in makes it to where we are not in a “good season” we will not make moves towards advancing the Kingdom. That is a big claim. It is also a big jump to make from what I have been writing about up to this point so allow me to break it down by giving an example.

If you want to become physically fit there are steps to take. One of those steps is exercising. Yet, if you believe that going to gym will not help you reach your goal, would you go? I know I can answer that for myself- no, of course not. If I did not believe it would help me reach my goal, I would not waste my time. Likewise, if someone thinks that their effectiveness for the Kingdom is based upon seasons, they will not want to move out when they are not in a good season.

God has called us to move out in evangelism and discipleship in all times, through all circumstances, and (often) despite how we feel. Paul gives us an example of this through the action of staying in Corinth for 18 months. The fact that Luke records that in only verse should help to encourage us.

Paul: It is going to cost

This will be the last of the Missions Lessons series. I hope that you have enjoyed reading these lessons as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Writing about missionaries it may seem like I forgot about one of the most known Christian missionaries of all time. His travels expanded the Church into new lands, his writings have been both controversial and encouraging for thousands of years, and his pain has been well-recorded. I am talking about the Apostle Paul.

Paul’s early life, from what studies and his own testimony (see Acts 22 and Philippians 3:4-7), was full of potential and promise. He was a “Pharisee of Pharisees”- a man who knew God’s Word and the rules that the Jews were to follow. He had good education- both secular and Jewish. His zeal was known throughout Jerusalem, where he approved the death of a follower of Jesus Christ- Stephen. It seemed like Paul had his entire life together and was in a position for great fame and security. Then he traded it all to preach the Gospel!

I do not feel it necessary to go into deep detail about Paul’s life. If you are interested in learning more about him I recommend reading Acts 13-28 in the Bible. What I will say about his life is this: from a human standpoint it was not an easy life. In what we call the second letter to the Corinthians Paul goes through some of his sufferings. He writes about being in prison, flogged, beaten, shipwrecked, in danger of being stolen from, sleepless nights, and deep hunger. Paul understood that to be a missionary there is a cost.

However, Paul also understood that there is joy in the midst of the cost of missionary life. He did not back down when troubles arose. He did not quit or curse God’s name for allowing suffering. Rather, Paul saw his suffering as a way to join in Christ’s suffering. He realized that Christ paid a cost higher than a human missionary could ever pay. Christ gave up a life in Heaven, where He is King, to come to earth with the mission of dying a death He did not deserve to save those who had rejected Him and His perfect way! Paul lived in that truth. Paul realized that Christ’s price of following Him is to take up his cross.

The lesson is this: missionaries need to have a proper view of human suffering. Being a missionary invites a lot of struggle against both human and spiritual forces. There will be suffering. However, our suffering is a way to make us more like Christ and not to push us away from Him. Paul learned this lesson throughout his life and even in his death. We should all learn this lesson, regardless of if we are missionaries or not. It is a lesson for all believers!

Jim And Elisabeth Elliot: Conviction

Anyone who knows me can imagine my excitement to write the next installment in the “Missionary Lessons” series because I get to write about two people I see as missionary and Christian literary heroes- Jim Elliot and his wife, Elisabeth. To be honest, when I was writing this I kept having to edit it down. If this seems “choppy” that might be why. The post became long several times. I am merely brushing the surface of their lives in this post.

When I was in college I wrote my final paper in the History of Christian Missions class on the lasting legacy of these two individuals with all of its complexities and interpretations. I will spare you most of the details of that paper because it is not relevant to this discussion. The major life lesson that this husband and wife can teach missionaries of this century is to follow the conviction you have to share the Gospel.

Before they were Jim Elliot the missionary martyr and Elisabeth Elliot the top-selling writer and speaker, they were two young college students. Both felt a calling to serve God in a foreign land and both believed that they would best prepare themselves for that task by studying the two major original languages of the Bible- Hebrew and Greek. This meant that they would get to know each other quite well while in college, as they both had numerous Greek classes. Eventually, a relationship that seems to have been “rough” at best began to form. Still, they realized that they were both people of conviction to serve God regardless of the earthly cost.

Three years after Jim Elliot graduated and four after Elisabeth’s graduation from college, they both found themselves serving in the South American country of Ecuador. However, Jim was serving in the Eastern jungle while Elisabeth was in the western Andes region of the country. This would change when Jim asked Elisabeth to marry him.

Jim had been interested in reaching the Huaorani people, a unreached people group, with the Gospel for years before he ever stepped foot in Guayaquil, a port city in Ecuador. One day a Missions Aviation Fellowship pilot named Nate Saint told Elliot that he had found a Huaorani dwelling. This conversation began one of the most well-recorded missions narratives of the previous century. Saint took it upon himself to get a team of missionaries to reach the people. This team included Saint, Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and war veteran and jungle expert Roger Youderian.

After months of exchanging gifts with the Huaorani and shouting friendly statements from the airplane, the men and their wives decided the time had come for the next phase: ground contact. The Huaorani were infamous for killing anyone who came to their land. Many sources from the years after this event take place incorrectly assign the motive of these killings to various reasons but I will not go into with details that here. Elisabeth suggested that Jim, her, and their newborn baby be the ones to reach out. However, the men decided that they would be the ones to make the contact.

Jim was certain that what he was doing was in the will of God. On the day he left to make the ground contact, Elisabeth and he had a conversation about what would happen if he were killed. According to several sources, including Elisabeth herself, the response from Jim was that Elisabeth was to “Teach the believers”. As you will see, this is a charge that she took seriously.

Days later there was silence on the radio when there was supposed to be a call from the five men. After a few days of searching four of the five bodies were found and there was evidence that the other body had been washed away by the river. All five men had died while trying to reach lost people for Christ. The question that everyone wanted to know is one that I am sure is logical: why were they willing to die? I will address that in the conclusion.

That is not where the story ends, though. Later, Elisabeth had the opportunity to join a small team of two in order to reach the Huaorani. For two years she lived among the people who had killed her husband, using the Greek she learned in college to translate the Gospel narratives in their language.

After that Elisabeth Elliot returned to the United States, where she had already become a household name through the books “Through Gates of Splendor” and “Shadow of the Almighty”, both about her first husband, Jim Elliot. There she was asked to speak at conferences and church gatherings, which she did until her health began to fail earlier in this century.

Both Jim and Elisabeth Elliot teach us about conviction. Having conviction does not mean that everything will be easy or go according to plan. I am nearly certain (because of things that she has said since) if you asked Elisabeth if it was easy to lose Jim she would say “No”. I am sure that dying was the plan that Jim had when he made the plans to reach the Huaorani. Yet, they were both convinced that God’s plan is bigger. That is what conviction for mission work is all about- believing that God is bigger than we are. That belief characterized the life of these two missionaries. They were both willing to live for God and die for His Kingdom because they had conviction that He is a sending God.

Amy Carmichael: Never Give Up

The next missionary I want to write about in the series on lessons from missionaries is Amy Carmichael. Carmichael was one of the most influential missionaries of the 19th and 20th centuries. Through both her work among orphan girls in India (many of whom were to be temple “workers” at an early age) and her writings, Amy Carmichael’s missional legacy continues to be strong even today.

Carmichael’s entire life could be summed up by saying that when it came to sharing the Good News of Christ she never gave up. As a young adult, she felt called to serve God on the mission field. Her first application, which was to serve in China, was rejected. Some people might have taken that as a sign that they misinterpreted what God wanted from them. Amy Carmichael did not see it that way. Instead of going to China, Carmichael was sent to serve in Japan. However, due to poor health, she had to leave Japan and return to Europe. Again, this might have been a point where some would quit. Carmichael did not see it that way.

After spending some time in Europe Amy Carmichael went to serve in India. Her work was primarily among orphans. Her ministry took a dramatic shift one day when she met Preena, a girl who lived in the Hindu temple. Preena had run away from the temple, a crime punishable by death. However, Carmichael took the girl into her home and shared with her about a God who does not put people into a caste. This event began Carmichael’s fight for the protection of children in India. A shift in her calling had taken place but Carmichael remained faithful and did not give up.

In 1931 Carmichael had another opportunity to quit the ministry she was doing. She fell, breaking her leg and badly damaging her back. She was bedridden for the last twenty years of her life- from 1931 to 1951. To most people, this would have been the end of ministry. Carmichael did not see it that way. She transitioned from ministering “in the field” to writing. She wrote many books aimed to stir fellow Christians to ministry and a deeper connection with God.

There are many lessons one can draw from Carmichael’s life. However, the one I am focusing on in this blog post is one that all Christians must learn. Opposition to the faith is an inevitable fact. Jesus Himself told His followers, “They hated me for no reason” (John 15:25b CSB). When that opposition does come we have two options: run and hide or trust God and not give up. Carmichael’s life is a testament to what God can do when we choose to trust Him and not give up.

David Livingstone: Just One Life

As I wrote in my post about William Carey the history of Christian missionaries is a history of God using flawed people for His glory. Carey was one of those flawed people. Another incredibly flawed person whom God used for His glory was David Livingstone.

“God send me anywhere, only go with me”

David Livingstone

To most people, Livingstone might look like the picture-perfect missionary. He was fiercely adventurous. He had the drive to learn. He was a man who fought against injustices, such as the African slave trade, with truth from the Word of God. All of these things are character traits that we tend to look at and admire in missionaries. (Rightly so, too, I would argue.) On the surface, it looked like Livingstone would have a ministry that would convert the masses of the people he was ministering to. However, that is not the story one reads about when looking at the missionary career of David Livingstone.

David Livingstone was born in humble circumstances in his home country of Scotland. He was the son of a Sunday School teacher named Neil Livingstone. David Livingstone was highly influenced by the way that his father lived. Eventually, when he was in his late twenties, Livingstone decided he wanted to be a missionary and go to China. However, due to war in China, those plans were changed and he went to Africa instead. In Africa, he became both an explorer and a very outspoken proponent for the abolition of the slave trade.

Now, I mentioned earlier that Livingstone’s missionary career was not one that was overly successful. In fact, to those who look at the numbers, it might even look like a sad failure. Livingstone lived in Africa for 33 years. In that time he only convinced one person about the truth of Christianity. That does not sound like a successful ministry. So why would we want to look at David Livingstone to learn a lesson about missionary work? Because there is value in the “lesson of one reached”.

That one convert was Sechele, a chief of one of the people groups in Africa. Now, rather or not Sechele fully accepted the Christian faith has been debated. However, the point of this post is to not join that debate. It is not up to me if Sechele is saved or not. That is God’s call and His alone. What is not debated, however, is the work that Sechele did for the growth of the Kingdom of God in Africa. He singlehandedly translated the Bible into his people’s native tongue. He also led other Christian missionaries to other African people groups. Some missionologists consider Sechele one of the most important figures in the 19th century African missionary push.

So what is the lesson of one reached? This is a principle that can be seen all throughout missionary history, from the time of the Apostle Paul to today. It is that one life changed for the Gospel is still one life changed for the Gospel. We live in an age where we like to think about success in terms of numbers. “The amount of money in your bank account tells someone how hard you have worked in your life. The amount of people in your church tells someone if your Church is strong or not. The amount of converts a missionary has tells someone if that missionary is effective or not.” (Please notice the quotes.)

Livingstone’s ministry can be seen as a success because God reached one lost coin, lost sheep, one lost son (Luke 15) through Livingstone. That is enough for the Kingdom to grow.

William Carey: Attempt Great Things for God

Jim Elliot, a missionary to the Kichwa people of Ecuador, once wrote that, “Missionaries are very human folks, just doing what they are asked. Simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody”. This is a statement I have been coming to understand more and more. On their best day a missionary is still in need of Jesus Christ’s love, forgiveness, and grace. The history of God using man to build the Kingdom of God is a history of very flawed people who are not worthy of doing what they do. Yet, it is also the history of God doing big things in and through those flawed people. Because of those seemingly conflicting facts there is a lot for the Christian of the twenty-first century to learn from those who have walked before us. Over the next five blog posts we will look at six flawed humans who can teach us something about following Jesus Christ.

Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.

William Carey

The first person I will write about is William Carey, a British missionary to India. This seemed logical to me because Carey is often considered to be one of the first modern missionaries. Because of that he has sometimes been referred to the “Father of Modern Missions”. With such a title I am sure some would imagine that Carey always oriented his life towards the missions field. Yet, that is not the case. In matter of fact, William Carey was an adult before he started to truly think about his role in the Kingdom. He was married to a pregnant wife, had young children, and was a well-known preacher (though not necessarily liked) when he moved to India.

So what is the lesson that William Carey can teach us? Leave your home country and your life there behind for the sake of the Kingdom when you have no guarantees? That might not be a bad lesson but I do think it is the one I want to focus on in this post. Rather, there is another lesson I want to focus on.

The lesson that I want to focus on when talking about William Carey is this: even in opposition we need to follow Christ.

Carey was very outspoken about his belief that foreign missions is important. He even wrote a book on it. That book, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, (Yes, it is a long title) argued that Christians were not taking this call seriously. He later would give a sermon to other Christian leaders where he charged them, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”

These two things, the book and the sermon, did not make Carey popular among the other Christian leaders of England. One even told him him, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast.” Yet, Carey stuck by his conventions and did go to India. He lived there for decades until his death. However, ministry in India was not necessarily easy. There were many troubles that Carey had to overcome. Some he handled well. Others he failed miserably in. Yet, through all that William Carey did he continued to follow Jesus. Even on his death bed Carey was concerned about Christ being the focal point of his life. As he was dying Carey told a man who was talking with him, “When I am gone say nothing about Dr. Carey—speak about Dr. Carey’s Savior”.

What about us? Will we have the kind of faith that it takes to endure hardship and still follow Jesus? Let us be willing to follow God even when hardships come to try to pull us from Him!

In the next post we will look at another lesson from a figure from missions history, David Livingstone.

God’s Permanent Love

This is not the first time I have written about the love that God has for people and I am certain it will not be the last. I am finding that two things are true to me personally when talking about God’s love: First, I do not think I will ever be able to truly understand it and second, I will always want to understand it in a deeper way than I do now.

I am so grateful to God that His defining trait is love. Yes, God is holy. Yes, God is just. Yes, God is full of mercy and compassion. However, if you were to ask me to define the character of God in only one word I think love would have to be my answer.

Now for the point, I want to make with this post. Recently, I have been reading from the Book of Psalms and I can see evidence of God’s love throughout the book. Some places that come to mind immediately are Psalm 37:4, Psalm 68:6, Psalm 57:10, and Psalm 106:1. I am certain there are many other examples of God’s love in the Book of Psalms. These are just the four I was able to quickly think about.

What I found interesting while reading through the Psalms and thinking about the love of God is the many ways it is described. Each of these verses written above show a different aspect of love. Psalm 37:4 shows us God’s love allows us to love Him in return. Psalm 68:6 tells about God’s love is available to the broken. Psalm 57:10 is a popular verse that demonstrates for the reader that God’s love has no limit. Then Psalm 106:1 talks about our response to God’s love. While all of these show a slightly different view of God’s love I find it interesting that they all have something in common. They all show that God’s love is active! God’s love is not a one-time event we call the cross of Christ. Now, that is certainly an obvious place where one can look to see God’s love but that is so far from the only expression of love that God has given to humanity. God’s love is not limited to one fixed point in human history. It is expressed in new and great ways each and every day. The more I think about the fact of how God’s love is an unlimited love the more I realize that His love is a true, lasting, and tangible kind of love. There is no deception present in the love of God. There is no end to His love’s supply.

So what should we do about the permanence of love? The answer to that, in theory, is simple and, in practice, can be quite challenging. We, as people who have experienced God’s love, are to love. We are to love with true, lasting, and tangible love. This means that when we do not feel like loving our neighbor- we do it anyways. This means when we are betrayed by those who are supposed to be close to us- our response is not to strike back but to love regardless. This means when the world is pressing in on us and we feel we do not have enough time in the day we lay ourselves down and love others. God’s love is everlasting. Our love should be nothing short of that.

You might say, however, that we are not capable of permanent love. While it is true that loving at all times goes against the grain of human nature, which is selfish, that is where we see God’s love becomes magnified in our life. God’s love means that God’s grace is not limited. He is always ready and willing to pick us up when we fail to love those around us and give us opportunities to show His love to a world so void of any sort of love. That is what is so amazing and so difficult about God’s permanent love.

He Touched the Leper

In Matthew 8 there is a tiny piece of narrative that is often, and I believe tragically, overlooked. In four short verses we get an amazing picture of who Jesus is and what He represents to those living in sorrow. In Matthew 8:1-4 we see several characters and that is what I really want to focus on in this post.

First, you have the “large crowds” who were following Christ. Contextually, we discover that these people were all not true followers. In chapter 7, during the conclusion to the famed Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls out these false followers. He points to the fact that they are not building on the wise foundation of His Words. With this in mind we have to consider how they would have reacted to the events they witnessed. It would have been appalling to them that a leper would choose to get physically close to them. (The modern implications to this should not be lost on the reader.) Then they would have to deal with the fact that Christ did not send the man with leprosy away. It would be a moral issue to the crowd.

Then there is the leper himself. Verse 2 points to an incredible faith of this man. He fully believed that Christ was capable of healing his disease. Matthew 4 shows that Jesus had healed diseases before but the fact that this narrative is given specifics should be seen as significant. We do not know the man’s name but we do know his faith. For the man with leprosy it would be an issue of faith.

That leaves us with the central character, the healer- Jesus. What Jesus does in verse 3 is a big no-no in Jewish culture. Matthew 8:3 reads, “Jesus reached out and touched him”. Why is this such a big deal? Well, to answer that one needs to understand Jewish culture. The Jews put a large emphasis on being ceremonially clean. If one was unclean he could not worship God as he would be able to if he was clean. Now with that background flip your Bibles over to Leviticus 13. I’ll let you read that.

Did you see it? A leper was unclean. Touching the leper would make the one who does the touching unclean. Jesus willingly made Himself ceremonially unclean! Why? Why would the Son of God do such a thing? As I hinted to in the introduction I believe it has to do with who Jesus is. Jesus’ love for people overcame rules every time. This is just one example where that can be seen. For Jesus this healing was an issue of love.

In the example Christ set for us love should be the defining characteristic of the true follower. Love should overcome any social rules that might be in place. Therefore, in any situation, the Christian should be concerned about what the loving response is. If Jesus was willing to touch the leper what will He ask you to do?