Today, on our regular Saturday morning phone call, my mom told me a story about some friends of hers who recently took a trip to New Orleans. While there, they looked into taking a tour of one of the more hurricane-devastated areas. At the tour office they witnessed a bus returning from such a tour, accompanied by two police cars and I believe one or two motorcycle police. Was this tour going into some kind of war zone? My mom’s friends quickly gave up on the tour idea.
What broke my heart about this story was not the apparent need for police to make sure the tour bus made it back safely, but the idea of the tour itself. Are the ravaged areas of New Orleans some sort of circus freak show, where people find some morbid sense of entertainment by seeing sights they could barely imaging? I hope the motives are nobler than that.
I wonder; what would Jesus have done if faced with the reality of the destruction left by Hurricane Katrina? Would He have opted for the tour bus ride? What follows is a message of the truth of the compassion of Jesus Christ.
There is a story in the gospel of Luke, about a man suffering from leprosy. Who knows how long he’d had the disease, but we know from historical accounts that those who were afflicted with leprosy were considered total outcasts. They were not allowed contact with other people, except for those with the same affliction. There was a fear that a mere touch would serve to transmit the disease. And so this man, covered with the soars of the nerve-killing illness, had not touched or been touched by another human being for perhaps several years. He had not been hugged, no hand had touched his, no arm had gone around his shoulders in a moment of comfort.
Until Jesus came along. “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” The man had the faith, yet his sense of kindness in others had been lost in the years of isolation. “…if you are willing”; he doubted not Jesus’ ability, only His willingness to be kind. It had been that long since this man had experienced a compassionate act. What did Jesus do next? We know from other stories that He could have healed him right off. Yet Jesus did something better. He first gave the man what he needed most. Out of love and compassion, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” For the first time in perhaps years, another person reached out and touched this lonely, leprous human being.
I suspect that was not at all what the man expected. And in the midst of the emotion that may have begun to well up inside of him, Jesus then said, “I am willing. Be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.
This is a story about the truth of the compassion of Jesus Christ. We would all do well to take it to heart and follow Jesus’ lead. When confronted with need, don’t just stare; reach out and give a hand.
Please read this story for yourself, in Luke chapter 5, verses 12-16.