Reading through Matthew 8, I am once again struck by the indiscriminate way Jesus heals. If you come to Him, you get healed. Period. No questions. No forms to fill out, or HMO approval to obtain. No background check or FBI clearance. No political vetting to insure you don’t have a past, or ties to questionable types. “You’re a foreigner, and actually in the army that is occupying our country? No problem, I’ll come heal your servant.” “You don’t want me to come, what faith! I’ll compliment you, slam my own people for their refusal to recognize me as their Messiah, and heal your servant from here. I won’t reprimand you for being an evil slave owner, or a hated Roman. I don’t care about that right now, I care about you. ”
That doesn’t sound like my usual attitude. I come up with long lists of conditions and stipulations. How are you going to live once I meet your needs? How is the man on the street begging going to use my money? (as if it really were mine anyway …) He’d just waste it on drugs or beer. He’s probably not really homeless. Where do I see Christ ask these types of questions? Never! Christ never asked these questions. First, He knew the healing wasn’t His, it was the Father’s, and His job was to give it away to the least of these. Secondly, I need to remember that if He who could know the heart still gave away freely, knowing that some of it would be misused, I must too.
This begs a bigger question for me … when am I available to the least of these. When I am in Harrisburg, or other cities where the homeless are more typical, I am generally safely in my car, or in some place I don’t come into contact with them. Is there some other “least of these” I do contact? Where? The closest I have thought of is my students. Sure, they are generally rich by most standards of wealth in the world as a whole, even if not by US standards, but what about their spiritual state? their emotional state? I have increasingly realized that I am in a privaledged role, and should use my authority in their lives to build them up and encourage them, not just mathematically, but as whole people. And precious creations of my heavenly Father, who loves them as He does me.
How can I encourage my students to excel? How can I help them to see life as worship, even their “mundane” homework assignments. (or “dormwork” assignments, as one of my calculus students likes to call it) What am I doing to help my students become more like our Messiah. I am at a college where I am free to talk about these things, do I? Not like I could, I’m sure. Do I pray for my students? Yes, but not often enough. Do I help my students to see connections between faith and our discipline? Yes, in some ways. Realistically, though, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to do this better. It does come to mind periodically, but I rarely intentionally sit down and alter my lesson plans.
One last thing that struck me was the reaction of those in the region where Jesus cast out the demons from two men, whose lives were changed forever by this act! They beg Him to go away. Some of them lost money because the entire herd of pigs (irony here anyone?) were killed. Now, the area in question may have been one of the gentile areas around the sea, I don’t think we can know for sure where on “the other side” Jesus was exactly. Whether these people were Jews or not, they have witnessed a miracle. God has freed two men who were dangers to themselves and others. Wouldn’t this engender gratitude? Who cares if it is a little inconvenient, or some pigs were hurt in the process, right?
Wait … how do I react when God inconveniences my life? Do I focus on the person who was blessed to beat me to the checkout line when I saw the open cashier? Do I rejoice for the person who finds the best parking spot before I do, and “costs” me that spot? When it costs me something, do I focus on my cost, or look to see what God is up to? The answer is that too often, I focus on me, my loss, and not on what the Messiah is up to in the people around me. Ouch.
Lord, may I have the two traits that struck me most in Christ here, indiscriminate compassion, and a heart that loves people even when it costs something. May I focus on what You are up to around me. May I bless the least, and minister to them as You lead, and may I not count the cost, but rejoice in the good fortune and blessings You bestow on others around me! May I become less focused on me and my needs, and simply trust You. May the others around me receive You love through me, regardless of what they look like, and what their “qualifications” are. Amen.