I’ve been doing a lot of discussions with my youth group about why Christians should be different from the rest of the world. We talked about last night how we should be the weird ones because we don’t act like anyone else. Our text was Matthew 8:1-4.
When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
– Matthew 8:1-4, NIV
We know that Jesus didn’t need to touch the leper. As a matter of fact, in the very next miracle (verses 5-13), Jesus heals from a distance. It required the faith of a man, the centurion, for Jesus to merely speak the word and the man’s servant would be healed. So the question that gets asked is, “Why did Jesus touch the leper?” And the best answer I’ve seen is to restore the man’s humanity. After all, lepers were the bane of society. They had a terrible wasting disease that affected their skin and their limbs. Folks would steer clear of lepers, fearing them to be contagious. That meant that this man would not have received the basic human contact we take for granted. There were no hugs or handshakes. There wasn’t even the patting on the back or touching the man’s shoulder. There was nothing. And this can leave a person feeling like he’s not even human anymore. So when Christ reached out to touch this man, it was likely the first contact with another human in years that was initiated by the other person. Surely Jesus reaching out to touch this leper would have made a huge impact on the man, and restored some of what he had lost because of the disease.
It also likely made a huge impact on the crowds who followed Jesus. The three things I wrote on the board last night was that Christians are to:
- Love the unlovable.
- Reach the unreachable.
- Heal the unhealable.
Of course, each of those statements is a paradox. How can we love those who are unlovable? The catch is that it’s not possible in our own strength or in anyone else’s. We can’t do it. But the Holy Spirit can, through us. However, in order to work through us, we have to be willing. We have to be surrendered. When we are, we can do these things! And others see. And they take notice. And they are forced to rethink their views on Christianity, on Christians, and on Christ Himself. Now they may conclude that nothing has changed. They may not even care why we’re doing what we do. But we will stand out. And every time we do, we put to them the question of what they will do with Jesus Christ. And that’s what God expects us to do. He expects us to be His example in this world. He desires us to follow His example and love those the rest of the world rejects, reach out to those the rest of the word shuns, and attempt to heal those the rest of the world could care less about.
It’s not an easy thing, following His example. Especially when it leads to us dealing with and interacting with folks we don’t want any part of. But we must. If we are to honor Christ by truly following Him, we must reach out and touch those whom the rest of the world shies away from. For they need the Savior just as much as we do.