Good morning everyone! I just read my devotional this morning and was inspired to write this. I started it quite early this morning so please forgive any typos!
In Mark Chapter 2 we read about how Jesus healed a paralytic man after his friends and/or family members climbed a house, made an opening in the roof, and then lowered his mat down at Jesus' feet. I've read this passage many times, but it was only today that the story's full meaning sunk in (I'm a slow learner).
As I read it today and put myself into the situation I'm struck by many things. The first and foremost is the love this paralytic man's friends or family had for him. In ancient times it was the kiss of death to be disabled. If you weren't able to work you were considered a burden. And little care and attention was paid to you. In that culture, it was considered to be in everyone's best interest and the honorable thing to do to just curl up, and die and those around you LET you do so. After all, how "awful" to be but a burden to those around you. Furthermore, it was often thought you were cursed or a sinner deserving of your plight. Giving care and attention to someone being "justifiably punished" by God entailed "risk" of being "punished" yourself. Yet in this case, these men who took the paralytic to Jesus didn't turn their backs on this man. They took the "risk" in giving him their attention. They took the "risk" to get him to Jesus who they had the faith strong enough to believe could heal (restore) this man to health.
Further, as I read the story, I realize the thought that had to go into getting this man on a mat to Jesus the way they did. Paralytics (or anyone who is completely physical immobile) are dead weights. No matter how little or how much they weigh, it feels quite heavy. My experience as a caregiver for many people incapable of mobility has taught me that it takes quite a bit of planning, work, and knowledge to safely move an individual adult who cannot walk just from a bed to a wheelchair (or back again) without injuring the person or incurring injury ourselves. And yet these men moved a paralytic adult lying on a mat by climbing up a house and lowering that mat down through a ceiling probably by ropes they had to attach to the mat, and they did so SAFELY. This was not a quick process with little forethought and planning! This took time, planning, communication, and teamwork. And while the Bible doesn't say so, probably prayer as well! Even if the prayer was, "Heavenly Father, don't let us drop our friend as we climb up the house and lower his mat down from the roof and protect our backs from injury too! Amen!"
Is this not a lesson for us as individual believers and for the Church as a whole? For are we not surrounded by spiritual paraplegics who need Jesus' healing touch in their lives? People who society looks down on and thinks of as "useless" or "cursed" or "better off dead" or "deserving" of their plight? And do we not encounter obstacles in getting these people to Jesus?
Sometimes those obstacles may be attitudes society has toward our faith (atheistic, worldly, or merely faithless attitudes), or toward the very people we are trying to introduce our faith to (like drug addicts or criminals for example), or a combination of both of these things (like trying to witness to a homeless people while surrounded by those who aren't truly saved themselves). Sometimes those obstacles are environmental (like a work place that forbids religious discussion of any kind). Sometimes the obstacle is the person themselves who refuses to discuss or listen to anything related to God or the Bible. Sometimes the obstacle is of our own making by our faithless and less than loving attitude (say toward a difficult and unsaved boss or co-worker). Whomever the "paralytic" person is and whatever the obstacles may be, we must still do our best to get them to Jesus. For no matter how "helpless" or "worthless" we may deem them, God loves them and wants to reconcile with them. And no matter the obstacles we encounter, there is a way to Jesus. We may have to spiritually attach ropes to a mat, climb up a house, raise the mat up to the roof, then tear out the roof, and lower that mat at Jesus' feet, but we can do it. With prayer and the Holy Spirit's guidance we can and must do this.
If the obstacle is a work environment that disallows religious discussions our way of lowering the mat might be just to show calm, patience, and grace in the work place even when things are extremely stressful. Even when the boss is being a "jerk" or the customers too "demanding." If our co-workers see our continued calm, patience, and grace no matter the situation, they will eventually come to us and ask how we remain so even-keeled no matter the storm. And we can tell them. Prayer. Faith. Biblical knowledge. JESUS.
If the obstacle is the person themselves and his or her refusal to even discuss Godly things, we can just remain trustworthy friends to them and again, show steady nerves, calmness, grace, and love in all situations. Including when we ride or drive with them in horrible traffic! Eventually they will ask how we remain emotionally steady, patient, and full of mercy. Or they may come to us in a crisis and ask how we deal with things. And we can then take the opportunity not to preach, but to gently share our testimony with them.
If the obstacle is our own less than loving attitude toward them and their "kind" we can take it to God. Repent of our less than loving attitude and ask Him to show us what He sees in all His personal creations (human beings). We can ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit on how to treat this person or persons in a way that reflects Godly attitudes of love, grace, mercy, and reconciliation (which is what salvation through Christ is). As time goes on, our attitudes and therefore our behavior toward that person or persons will change. And one day they will come to us and say, "You aren't like everyone else. You don't treat me like scum. Why? What makes YOU different?" And we can tell them!
We are in a world surrounded by paraplegics in the spiritual sense. And we are surrounded by obstacles that make getting those spiritually disabled to Christ difficult, if not seemingly impossible. But with sincere faith in Christ, constant prayer, true Biblical knowledge, and most of all, God's love and mercy in our hearts, we can climb that house, pull up that mat, tear off the roof, and lower the mat at Jesus' feet. Then we can let Jesus' healing power restore them and make them spiritually whole. And not only CAN we do that, we MUST. We may be the only person who truly cares enough in the entire course of another person's life to do that. Indeed, we may be the only sincere Christian an unsaved person ever meets. So, go get those mats, start climbing up houses, and tearing off roofs!
God bless you!