as the flame of life was flickering out for my dear mother, decades
ago, and her spirit was being released from her dying body, I wonder
what she began to see and learn about life as she met Jesus face to
face for the first time? There is sometimes a huge difference between
the heart of Jesus and his priorities and my own heart and my
priorities. Sometimes the gap seems to be rather wide.
Jesus bridged an enormous social, religious and legal chasm when he reached out and touched the leper to heal him. He casually stretched his hand out over thousands of years of fear, rejection and taboo and not only made the leper completely clean, he also permanently identified himself with all lepers by socially and even legally, making himself unclean. He instructed me, by his example, to reach out and touch lepers.
All kinds of lepers.
“Ummmm… yes Lord”
He did this same thing when he washed Judas’ feet at the last supper. I must wash Judas’ feet as well.
“Well, OK Lord”
The rough-around-the-edges fishermen and the scourge-of-society tax collectors too.
“Fine. That’s just fine, Lord”
And also the recently-converted, recently-delivered-from-demons prostitute who has not yet developed a sense of what is socially acceptable and is often totally embarrassing in her display of devotion, emotion and affection.
“Man oh man…”
And the noisy children.
“But they waste so much of my time!”
When he forgave the soldiers who beat him, who drove the nails into his hands and feet and mocked him while he hung on the cross, it was an example of exactly what I must do.
“OK, this is getting ridiculous…”
The obnoxious Naaman.
“Oh no, God! Not Naaman. Isn’t he… a leper?”
How much of my life is spent chasing and ensuring my own comfort and success, not to mention the vast amount of energy I spend trying to protect my reputation? How much of my life do I submit to Jesus’ heart and Jesus’ way of living and loving?
I think my mother began to see these things very clearly as soon as she passed into the next life. I believe she began to understand the value in a glass of cold water given to a thirsty stranger.
“And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” Matthew 10:42
As Jesus reminded my mom of the bazillion glasses of water she had distributed in her life, perhaps many of them in ignorance, I can almost hear her thinking,
“I wonder why I didn’t do things like that more often?”
Conversely, as eternity revealed all of the wood, hay and stubble that remained with her until the end,
“Why did I even bother with all that?”
Aligning ourselves with the priorities of Jesus will never be easy, but it will always be worthwhile.
and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.”
Jesus didn’t hide in his motel room because he was tired. His priorities would not let him do that. He sat by the town well, the most public of places, and made himself available to an outcast. An outcast woman no less. The idea of a caste system is probably almost impossible for modern, western cultures to fully grasp, but Jesus reached out, even when he was tired and spent, to the outcast and reached the whole town in the process.
Even when I am tired and need rest, the unloved and unwanted people will be there and Jesus instructed me, by example, to reach out to them and love them.
“Touch the lepers, Russell. Forgive Judas, Russell.”
My mother knows this now.
God help me to know this, now rather than later.
Can I know this now?
Can I turn off my favorite TV show and call a hurting friend on the phone?
Can I miss out on the comfort of my close friends once in a while to spend time with someone who is friendless? Maybe even a leper?
Can I overcome my own fear of rejection and speak the truth in love to my own family and close friends for a change?
Can I refrain from blessing myself, even with things I can afford, and bless, perhaps a leper, instead?
Can I be both brave and meek, like Jesus at the trial, and allow others to vent on me and accuse me falsely without any thoughts of retribution?
Am I willing to give Jesus more of my life than just Sundays and a few prayers tossed his way and a few minutes in the bible each day?
Can I completely forgive every Judas in my life and stoop to wash their feet?
I love them like Jesus did, even as they sharpen their ceremonial
knives and prepare to sacrifice me?
I really want to be like Jesus?
Maybe Jesus isn’t asking me to lay down every single thing right this minute, but he is certainly asking me to give him a lot more of me than I have given him so far.
Which parts will I give him?
Which parts can I give him?
Which bits of my life will always be completely mine and never His, no matter what?
Am I hungry for more of God but unwilling to pay the price he requires?
Will I accept a payment of silver to be a traitor to Jesus?
any of these things are now true of me, or ever become true of me, I
know what will happen.
I will gradually decrease in temperature from that moment on. My furnace will slowly cool until it eventually achieves the crepuscular status of lukewarm.
Then God will gargle.
Then Russell will have become a leper.
(reprinted from the book PARABLES by Russell Cederberg)
As always, if any of you have anything at all you’d like to talk about, I am available by email, phone, text, Zoom, WhatsApp or better yet, face to face.
love and deep affection