“Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ “. Mark 1:41
It was the summer of 1996. I was in my first pastoral district and I’d been a pastor for only weeks. We were working in the rolling hills of upstate New York and in our region there were a large number of summer camps catering to the Jewish population of New York City. Working at one of these camps was an Adventist college student from the Czech Republic name Paula. Paula had arranged to be able to spend her sabbaths with one of my churches and one sabbath she was able to convince a friend to come to church with her. The following sabbath we asked Paula about her friend and Paula told us that her friend didn’t want to come back and her reason made us very sad. She said she wasn’t “holy” like the people going to church there.
I’ll just go on record here and say that I was not aware of anyone in that church that thought they were more Holy than anyone else. We had our problems but I wouldn’t say that self-righteousness was one of them.
What I believe was going on is that in going to church Paula’s friend was made aware of her sinful condition in a way that she was not accustomed to and this put her in a state of discomfort. Added to this is that she didn’t find the same assurance of acceptance that the leper Jesus was talking to in our focus text found when he came to Jesus.
I don’t know what was missing at church that day. I do know that sometimes we can be so wrapped up in getting our fill of the blessings we’ve come to church needing that we fail to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit to be the hands and voice of Jesus reaching out to assure one of his sin ravaged children that he’s brought to us. I also know that sometimes Satan is present and is able to snatch away the blessings that we do offer. These two scenarios provide sufficient options to explain why Paula’s friend didn’t feel good enough to be comfortable spending sabbath with us.
What’s important, today, is that we not judge. We can’t change the past; we can only work to offer Christ’s best today. And Christ’s best always means that when his hurting children come to us they hear from us Christ’s welcome and willingness to heal.