The God Who Gets His Hands DirtyTrue Christianity is not clean, tidy and sanitized. There are many within the church that would like folks to believe it’s that way. They come up with nice, neat answers to life’s complex problems. They have developed cute slogans to help with challenging issues. Everything fits into a nice, neat faith package.
But life doesn’t work that way, and neither does our faith. Life is messy!
True faith is not easy-peasy, cotton-candy Christianity. It’s not always sweet and sappy. It rarely is.
I wish it was.
Life is messy because people are broken, hurting and messed up. They need more than easy answers. They need a God who is willing to get His hands dirty by picking them up out of their mess.
God desires to get his hands dirty through His body, the Church. If we are the hands of Christ then we will get our hands dirty as we reach out to a hurting and broken world.
In Mark 1:40-45 Jesus encounters a leper. Under the Law of Moses (the Old Covenant) a leper was an unclean person who had to live outside the confines of the city. They had to call out, “unclean, unclean” so as to warn people not to come near them. In that day and time, they didn’t have the medical breakthroughs we have today so keeping the lepers isolated kept other people from getting leprosy.
The leper in this story risked everything to have Jesus touch him because he wasn’t supposed to be near people. He, himself, was considered unclean and anyone he touched would have become unclean for a specific period of time. Jesus was considered to be a rabbi (teacher) and he knew that the law stated he couldn’t touch a leper. If he did, he would become ceremonially unclean.
That never stopped Jesus! He wasn’t afraid to get involved in the messy affairs of people. He wasn’t afraid of their mess. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He came to help people.
The Pharisees were highly religious and devoted to scripture and law. The name Pharisee means separatist. They felt that if they could separate themselves and live holy enough that God would come and redeem Israel. This sounds very familiar to the message being preached today in some churches. The message is separate yourselves from sinners, live holy lives and Jesus will return to snatch us away in glory. The idea comes from the fundamentalist movement of the early 20th century. The idea is that the world is going to hell in a hurry so isolate yourself to stay holy and if people want to go to heaven then they can join us (on our terms of course), and if not then they can just choose hell.
Jesus was always doing stuff outside of the box. He didn’t fit into the Pharisee’s mold. He didn’t do things in a nice, neat tidy way. He got involved in messy people’s lives. He didn’t separate himself from broken people. This leper was no different.
And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. (Mark 1:40-42, NASB)
By Law, Jesus shouldn’t have touched this leper but He did. This man was messy, untidy, unclean and unsanitized because of his leprosy. Under the Law, Jesus should have become unclean by touching this man. However, when the cleanness of Jesus touches the messy uncleanness of man, man become clean. You can’t contaminate God. And He’s not afraid of your mess.
The leper said, “if you are you willing . . . “.
That’s question that I think all broken people are asking. The question of today is “Is anyone willing to touch me?” We live in a world that is so connected technologically yet so disconnected relationally. We have hundreds of friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter, yet we seemingly have no one to touch us when we are hurting.
People don’t like to touch messy situations! But, it’s when you are in the midst of your mess that you need someone to touch you!
A friend of mine has done work in Africa where they still have leprosy. The biggest gift you can give a leper is to touch them physically. For when you touch them physically, you are really touching them relationally because you are letting them know that they still have value and worth. At that moment in time they are touchable. There are so many people today just wanting someone who is willing to touch them to let them know they have value and worth.
You see, I believe that the church has created some “untouchables”. These would be broken, messy people that don’t fit into the tidy, sanitized version of Christianity that some churches carry. I call them the church’s “cultural lepers.”
Who are the churches untouchables, those they deem to be “cultural lepers”? Basically, anyone who sins differently than the members of their particular church. So, we’ve made homosexuals, people who have had abortions, divorced people, drug addicts, Muslims, liberals, porn addicts, transgenders…name the “sinner” and we’ve made them untouchable. In some ways, some Christians are afraid to become contaminated by the sins of others.
My question is, “have we forgotten what we once were? Have we forgotten where we were when Jesus found us?” It’s easy to look down upon other people when we have forgotten that at one time people would have considered us “untouchable”.
Jesus healed this man out of compassion. He could have simply spoken a word and this man would have been healed. Jesus reached out and touched him. As Christians, are we moved with compassion for those on “the outside”, those that do not believe as we do? Are we moved with compassion for those whose lives are messed up, broken, unsanitized and unclean? Jesus’ compassion healed this leper. Could our compassion heal those whose lives are broken?
Are we willing to touch those who are looking for someone to touch them relationally, physically, or emotionally? Are we willing to get our hands dirty in the name of God’s love?
Under the Law, the lepers had to yell out “unclean, unclean.” The church doesn’t use this label with people. However, we do label people as good or bad. We see people with an “us versus them” mentality. We tend to look at things as either being Christian or secular. Again, our goal has been to keep everything neat, tidy and sanitized.
This has to stop. We need to see the whole world as an ocean with people drowning. Jesus is the boat and those of us who have been saved need to pull people out of the ocean and into Jesus. We can’t do that if we are constantly seeing those drowning as unclean. For far too long we’ve been afraid that we will contaminate our boat. You can’t contaminate Jesus! Remember He’s the one that cleansed the leper. You can’t contaminate God!
God was willing to get his hands dirty in order to save humanity. How can we as followers of Christ do any less? We cannot be afraid of people’s messy lives. Let’s get rid of our neat, tidy, sanitized, easy-peasy, cotton-candy Christianity in order to enter into the messy lives of people giving them the good news that they don’t have to drown in their brokenness. They can be saved through the gracious love of Jesus.
Every person is touchable, loveable, worthy and valuable.
It’s going to be messy but it will be worth it!
To hear the audio message of this teaching, click here.