I just spent a work shift hearing about people’s lives – tossed and spun and beaten like the pizzas.
Many of my coworkers do not believe in Jesus. Yet their stories have me compassionate. Have me wanting to ask anyone within reach – including unbelievers – is there anything in your life for which you’d like some prayer?
Most likely you’ve got something. Some current crisis, some ancient ache, where you’d be grateful for some help. (It’s a fair guess – we’ve all got something.)
I want an opportunity to lift that ache up to God for you. That’s it. No agenda.
Well, alright. I have an agenda. I want to demonstrate that God cares about your life.
I can almost see your eyes narrow in suspicion.
There’s some catch, right? Do I have to agree to repentance or church attendance? All for the God who spews demands and judgments, breeds wars and hatred and angry people, through a book he expects me to trust on faith?
Let me tell you a Jesus story.
As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Like 17:11-19)
Notice what’s not there. Notice the total lack of “and the other nine men immediately found themselves stricken anew with leprosy” at the end of that story. It’s not there.
It would be if I were writing the story. Make them show some loyalty. Gotta pay your dues before you get the perks, and all that. It makes sense to me from a surface level, fits in with our earthly value system.
But I need to let go of the surface.
The Parable of the Ten Lepers just scratches the surface. There are innumerable Gospel stories of Jesus helping people whose hearts were divided – and people who probably weren’t the slightest bit interested in following him. You can’t avoid that when you’re feeding five thousand at once (John 6). He did it again later with the four thousand. We don’t know whether the woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9), the possessed daughter (Mark 7), or the crippling of eighteen years (Luke 13) devoted their lives to God after his help. We’re not told.
We do know from John 6:66 that many of his disciples abandoned him immediately after he fed the five thousand.
Jesus had to have known that would happen when he multiplied the bread and fish. Yet he was not deflected. His generosity and compassion were spread in all directions, lavishly, scandalously, repeatedly.
This unsettles the religious part of me. I worry whether I’m encouraging people to come to Jesus for the “goodies”, the miracles and help, without giving anything in return. Whether it will make ninth lepers.
But when I examine Scripture with my heart surrendered, I see that it must be this way. If God’s benefits were earned, we could boast about it. It would be about what we did, and not about what God gave. “I paid my dues; now God must pay me back.”
Instead, God’s grace is given without being earned, and this glorifies him by robbing us of any chance to attribute it to our own merit. It’s his grace.
I always knew this was true of salvation. But reading how willingly Jesus helped people in the Gospels, I cannot rule out his grace extending to the struggles of our earthly lives. He longs for us to remain with him once he shows his power, but first he shows the power. Jesus doesn’t wait until we draw near to offer grace – he draws us through grace.
He might even show you the same help he shows his own people (Luke 15:25-32). I’ve seen it happen. Besides, no “in-the-loop” Christian is doing any better at earning the perks anyway.
Which means, I’m quite confident that God awaits my prayers on your behalf.
After hearing the struggle in my coworkers’ lives, I am stuck with compassion. It can’t just be me, for “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18, KJV). It must be Jesus, now indwelling a part of me that is growing day by day. Taking over. Taking requests.
All the other questions – repentance, calling, knotty issues of judgment and faith – have answers. But my job right now is to love, to present a conduit of God’s generosity through prayer. (Can’t hurt, right?)
Comment, email, Facebook-message me, whatever.
I’ll drop God a line for you.