There is a "don't miss" conversation going on at Time4thinkers.com. "Radical Acts" is a summer project - online and ecumenical - inviting anyone and everyone to take one of 18 of Jesus' toughest teachings and to live it this summer. One of these teachings is to befriend lepers, prostitutes - so-called undesirables or untouchables - and the comments and stories being shared on this subject are unbelievably powerful.
Melody Colliate is one who has committed to living this radical act. She blogged:
"What makes someone undesirable? Their physical appearance? Their actions? Does God see people as undesirable?
"I once had a roommate who I thought was 'undesirable.' This girl had a strong, opinionated attitude, and she was not afraid to show her full emotions and judgments toward people. I was quick to judge too and our interactions included many eye rolls and snotty glares.
"I did what I could to change the situation and we ended up in separate rooms. But a week later I heard an angel voice telling me that I needed to befriend this girl so that I could grow..."
What she did next was pretty remarkable. And the sharing in the comments section after her post will warm your heart and impel you to stretch your love muscles - finding no one is out of reach.
I left a comment, too. I told a story that I also shared last Christmas in a post - an unforgetable experience of reaching out and touching someone who hadn't been touched in a long time.
About ten years ago I was scheduled to lecture in Vero Beach, Florida. Sunday morning before the lecture, I attended a local church. As we rose to sing, a homeless man entered the auditorium. Looking around, he spotted me sitting on my own and made a bee-line to sit next to me.
It was clearly his first time in this church. I helped him with the hymnal and showed him how to follow the order of service. A few minutes into the worship, he became very restless and agitated. He smelled strongly of alcohol and appeared to be struggling with withdrawal.
I reached out and took his hand. He became very still as he clutched mine. For the rest of the hour he barely moved. I had the sense that he hadn't had such human contact for a really long time and was afraid that I might let go.
I couldn't let him go. My heart wouldn't let me.
I held his hand for the entire service. At the end, he turned to me and said, "I love you." Then he made his way to the lobby where he was greeted by the church members.
Meeting this man was a gift.
I thought about his courage. He broke through the resistance to attend a service at a church he had never visited before, to leave the bottle and his shopping cart full of his belongings outside, to enter even though he was unbathed and didn't know what type of reception he might receive.
This man entered the church, sat next to me and gave me the gift of his presence. He loved me and gave me an opportunity to love him right back - simply by taking his hand in mine. This experience changed forever how I think of loving one's neighbor, and of the healing impact of touching the so-called "untouchables."
Matthew tells of Jesus healing a man of leprosy simply through breaking cultural and religious laws that restricted human contact with a person in that state.
The Message (Eugene Peterson) says, "A leper appeared and went to his knees before Jesus, praying, "Master, if you want to, you can heal my body." Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, "I want to. Be clean." Then and there, all signs of the leprosy were gone."
Fear of contagion or of critics was nothing to Jesus when it came to loving and healing. No one was beyond his touch. Jesus was a true friend.
If you are interested in this, or other Radical Acts we're focusing on this summer, check out these links:
1. BE childlike.
2. BEFRIEND lepers, prostitutes, “undesirables.”
3. CAST the beam out of your own eye.
4. CHALLENGE Pharisees.
5. DO GOOD to people who hate you.
6. FEED the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter strangers, visit prisoners.
7. FORGIVE 70 x 7.
8. HEAL the sick, cast out evil, raise the dead.
9. LIVE more abundantly.
10. LOSE your life to find it.
11. LOVE your neighbor as yourself.
12. MULTIPLY loaves and fishes.
13. SEEK the kingdom first — don’t worry about food/drink/clothing.
14. SELL what you have - give to the poor.
15. TAKE up your bed and walk.
16. TRAVEL without a wallet.
17. WASH someone’s feet.
18. WALK on water.
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Our dog was not allowed on the sofa. Not when we were looking. Not when we were not looking! And she knew it. This did not, however, stop her from climbing on it when we were out. Each time she was caught, her tail-wagging joy at seeing us would turn into tail-tucking guilt as she would be scolded for doing it yet again. She never quite got the point that the joy of being good was more satisfying - and the act of being good, more empowering - than the temporary indulgence of stretching out on that couch!
Who enjoys swimming while carrying weights? Nothing zaps energy, inspiration and joy like a boulder of fear tied to one's neck by a heavy rope of regret. That is really what guilt is - an anchor of regret and fear - the "shoulda, woulda, coulda" that sinks inspiration, pulling thought down, down, down into sadness over yesterday and dread of tomorrow.
To get your prayer MOJO - to feel confidence, momentum, joy and inspiration in your prayers - you've got to drop the guilt and engage with good and all its present possibilities.
I am not saying it is easy. But I do say it is absolutely doable and completely worth whatever effort is demanded. So, let's talk about how to do it.
A study of Phillips Brooks' famous hymn "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" uncovers a little secret. In the original manuscript of the carol there was a fourth verse rarely used in hymn books. Doctrinal elements in the original verse led to some criticism, prompting Brooks to remove it from the carol altogether. However, the fourth verse was published in The English Hymnal (1906), Songs of Praise (1925), and The Oxford Book of Carols (1928), and elements of it continue to appear to this day in The Christian Science Hymnal, where parts of the original second and fourth stanzas are joined to form one verse.
I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no