Three weeks ago I developed a case of the shingles. Pain, fever, blisters and eventually more and different pain, scabs… you get the point. God blessed me in that the affected area on my head, face and neck was relatively controlled, but I still developed a new level of respect for Job and his sores!
I also developed a sense of being “unclean” like the lepers in the Bible. Infected, contagious and unpleasant to look at. I did not want to be around anyone; I did not want to be seen. Those around me had questions. Could they come close? Could they catch something? When would the danger be gone?
I began to look around. Who does society see as “unclean” and unapproachable? The addict? The prostitute? The person with HIV? What about the felon who no one will hire or the homeless? Do you ever wonder how that person begging on the street corner feels when no one will even make eye contact with them?
Now bring the question a step closer. What about the person in your world who has so many scars from life that they feel utterly alone, almost invisible? That person may sit beside you at work or they may be cleaning the building or bussing the tables at your favorite restaurant.
As a Christian, called to bring the light of the gospel into the world around you, what do you have to give them? The third chapter of the book of Acts tells the story of Peter and John interacting with a lame beggar at the temple gate. He was asking for money, but they gave him more than he asked for. “Look at us” was the first thing Peter said. Interesting. Peter then went on to heal the beggar in the name of Christ, commanding him to rise up and walk.
I had lunch yesterday with a Pastor who ministers in the inner city. I asked him what to do when asked for money by someone begging on the streets. “Get them to look at you” he said, “and ask them their name.” He went on to talk about how so many of the homeless on the street have deep wounds of rejection from their past, how they have no sense of dignity and worth and how this often leads to addictions that numb the pain. Tears came to my eyes as he told me how he gave a position of responsibility in his church to someone who the world would say was “unclean” … and watched as this person’s sense of dignity as a child of God was restored! We can give that gift to those around us. Ask the Spirit to lead you and keep your eyes open for opportunities to give worth, respect and dignity to someone in your path.
Be smart. Do not put yourself in a dangerous situation by walking into an area where you have no experience. But I can assure you that you will not have to walk far. There are folks in your current circle of contacts who feel unaccepted like they are “unclean”; they need to hear that they are highly valued in God’s eyes, that they are loved, have dignity and are worthy of respect.
Look around for someone who looks like they consider themselves “unclean” and help them rise up to a position of dignity. Tell them that they are created in God’s image and that He loves them with all of their blemishes… just like He loves you and me.
Risk enough to develop a relationship that allows you to bring the light of Jesus into their world.
You may be the only person who will.
©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.