[This post when up 5 days before Christmas, 2006; it caused many people to be angered that I pointed out that living in a trailer park in Arkansas has a stigma attached to it. Listen: what I really mean was ... oh nevermind ...]
Let me tell you that you readers have greatly disappointed me this week – stats or not, I have to say that after last week's post and then Santa's stop by yesterday, I think we obviously still have some work to do on you via this blog.
The actual object of my disappointment is the trajectory we can plot between the points of two comments posted here – last week, in the demand for practical examples of loving your neighbor because that's what the Gospel yields, and this week the view rendered that somehow Dan and Santa wishing the members of TeamPyro a swell noel is somehow not substantive.
Listen: the latter is an example of the former. Yes: Dan and Santa do not usually have an open mutual admiration society here at the blog, but these are men with a Christian objective in mind – a Gospel objective. And in that, for them to offer encouragement to each other is an act of Godly and right-minded love. To overlook that is to demonstrate that it doesn't matter how often cent comes out and beats on the drum of “Christ died to make us new men right now”, and it doesn't matter if you read it: you have to “get it”, people.
You. Have to Get. It. You do. You.
If I was really in the right mood, we'd now tear into the parable of the good Samaritan. But I'm not in that mood. I'm in a Christmas mood even if Santa is not going to find that sweet, black Apple Intel for my stocking because he's got no sense of humor and this thing for Presbyterian baptism. So we're going to go instead to the book of Mark, and we're going to watch Jesus love somebody. Please forgive my vulgar use of the NIV here as I am composing off-line and the only Bible I have handy is my Zondervan Reformation Study Bible:
A man with leprosy came to [Jesus] and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”Now, the more-blog-asphyxiated among you will expect that I will at this point expound on the healing of one man who asked for the help, and how God was expending His omnipotence in such a mundane way, and blah blah blah reformed wonkery blah blah blah.
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said, “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Forget it. There's no way I'm going to make this that boring and not-about-you-and-me on the Wednesday before Christmas. Instead, I'm going to ask you to jump back with me for a second to Leviticus and read with me what it says about the person with leprosy. I'm going to switch over to the KJV because that's the language the Levitical law was written in, right?
Lev 13:44He is a leprous man, he is unclean: the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean ...Now, you see there? This person is not just in trouble ritually, but he's untouchable by other people – that is, for him to allow other people to touch him is a sin. There's no other thing a person can be where he or she is condemned to “dwell alone” and literally drive others away by crying out “UNCLEAN!” Literally, a leper was filthy by the practice of the Levitical law – unable to be clean. So the application of the Law for this person was, of course, that he was vile.
45And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.46All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.
But Jesus touched this guy anyway – he touched him, and then he healed him. That is, he didn't just meet the ritual need. This Jesus – the one born in the stable, who slept in a feeding trough, but for whom the angels were singing, and whom the Angel said is the son of the most high God – touched a man who was ashamed to be touched. God came across the shame and the guilt to make this man whole.
Listen: if you want a lesson on how to love somebody, learn from this that the first boundary we have to cross to love other people is the boundary of how vile we think others are.This may shock many of you, but I live down the street from a trailer park. It doesn't have any vacancies as far as I can tell, so there's a problem over there: it's full of people. Now, regardless of where you live, that's not really a problem for them -- for many of them, owning a trailer is a step up from living in a rented quad-plex. Or an actual garbage dump. The trailer park is a problem for me.
Because people live there.
People who, btw, are not on any of the church rolls of the 60 churches in my backwater corner of the Earth. I know this because it's common knowledge in the local churches that “we” don't do evangelism there because “it doesn't make any difference”. And by we, folks, I mean “me”.
Somehow, I can write this giant pile of exhortation to you 5000 TeamPyro readers and my much more humble 500 Flame of Fire readers about the joy of the answer to God's wrath in Christmas, but I can't ride a bike over to the trailer park and find out if anyone there has ever heard of the man Christ Jesus.
Why? Because I am afraid to touch the lepers. That is, in my town, the people who live in the trailer park are the same socially as lepers, and to touch them is to touch something vile. It might get on me. I wish they'd say “UNCLEAN” as they shamble through WAL*MART because I'd cut them some space to avoid being mistaken as making eye contact with them. It would make me vile, and Leviticus notwithstanding, being socially vile will never do.
If you want an example of how to love, that's the example, folks: not filling a shoe box anonymously with some stuff for a kid who has a dad in prison (although, I admit, that's pretty good – it's a lot better than doing nothing), but finding that kid, or any of the people in your analogically-local trailer park, and doing something personally costly for them. Like being seen in public with them, and giving them a hug as if you mean it. You know: because you do it more than once to assuage your conscience at Christmas after charging up a bunch of junk that is bound for the next neighborhood garage sale, or after reading a crumby blog post – you love them into the Gospel and out of the leprosy of being a trailer park kid. To the Gospel, not warm fuzzies or some stupid therapudic transitional state, and out of leprosy, and not casually or inconsequentially, but at great cost.
If you want a practical example of how to love, find a person and do the thing for them which is Godly and right, which will shatter their view of how outcast and separated from others they are, and which you are most afraid to do. You do that, and keep doing it, and you are then a messenger for His name's sake.
Don't get snippy about substance if you can't do that. That's the meat and the bread and the glass of red wine of what the Gospel calls us to, and if you can't stomach it, be glad that Santa stops by to wish Dan and Phil and Pecadillo a happy Christmas. That's all you're ready for.
Happy Christmas and may God richly bless you so you can spend those blessing on others. Amen. You are dismissed.