Sunday, Missio Dei
Even a cursory study of the life of Jesus will reveal that He moved toward people in need. I like the word “toward” because it means “in the direction of.” For example, lepers were perhaps the most feared individuals in Jesus’ day — disfigured outcasts banished to a life of loneliness and desperation. Lepers had to announce their comings and goings in order to warn others to clear the way. In other words, so that others would have plenty of time to “move away from” them.
The presence of a leper always produced more than a little fear and anxiety. Jesus however, was not afraid. He did what others must have considered totally absurd. He moved in the direction of lepers. Mark (1:40-45) records an occasion when Jesus reached out His hand and touched and healed a leper. In his book “Dirty God: Jesus in the Trenches,” author Johnnie Moore points out that touching others is a sign of intimacy. “It is a bridge not just from a hand to a shoulder,” he writes, “but also from a heart to a heart.”
There are many other examples in the Gospels of Jesus moving in the direction of those in need. Whether it was a woman at a well, a despised tax-collector in a tree, an adulteress being dragged through the streets by her accusers, or a widow at the funeral of her only son, Jesus did not shy away from messy or painful situations. Instead, He moved in the direction of people tangled up in webs of sin, imprisoned behind bars of hopelessness, and struggling beneath the weight of heavy burdens. Grace and compassion moved Jesus in their direction.
If we want to become more like Jesus, then we must learn to consistently move in the direction of those in need. We must close the distance between ourselves and those who are longing for the kind of touch that will build a bridge from heart to heart. Demonstrating grace and kindness is one way to show people in need that God loves them, believes in them, and has not forgotten them. But in order for people in need to experience the benefits of grace we must move in their direction, slow down, look into their eyes, listen to their stories, and do what Jesus would do.
We must continue to move in the direction of those in our own community who have yet to hear and respond to the good news. We must continue to plant strategic outposts of love — launching points for moving in the direction of the desperate and of the diaspora of nations among us. We must continue to have an incarnational presence in hard places and among those for whom Christ came to die. Doing so can make all the difference.
What about you? Wherever you are headed today, ask God to help you to be sensitive to the people He puts in your way. Ask Him to help you to see them clearly and to listen carefully to what they are saying. And if you discover someone in need or who is hurting, then move in their direction and offer them the healing balm of grace in the name of Jesus. I am thankful that Jesus willingly made Himself of no reputation, took the form of a servant, and moved in my direction (Phil. 2:7). For me, it has made all the difference.
Lord, thank you for leaving the splendor of heaven and moving in my direction when I was at my point of greatest need. And thank you for allowing me the privilege of living in a city filled with so many people in need. Please help me to move in their direction and to love and care for them as you would. Help me to walk slowly, listen carefully, love passionately, and serve selflessly that others might come to know you and the transforming power of the gospel.