Ten Megaton Acceptance
Jesus did not blend with contemporary religious expression simply because he made His grace available to all, not some. To be this way meant he could not be codependent with culture, racial caricature, tradition, or the pseudo-holy practices of exclusion in order to deliver God’s grace on earth. The criteria was this: as long as there was honesty of need on the other side, He would jump in the boat and make it over to that person’s shore, wherever that led.
"Jesus unplugged" is a story of grace in motion—dangerously attractive, inviting, and controversial. God’s vision for us is that we act like our big brother. If you are like me, this means I have to let go of my fears and let Jesus take over. I am not a radical, go-out-of-my-way connector with people not like me. I like sanitized and tidy, but I know that’s not going to cut it. I must study Him, watch Him and seek to agent His grace. When I look closely at the Gospels I am convicted because this is what I see: nothing stopped the God-man from giving acceptance and affirmation to people who got used to feeling excluded. He went to them and they went to Him. In every case grace and people collided beautifully. I, too, want the excluded to feel Him when they collide with me.
How about you?
Reject or accept. Avoid or engage. Steer clear or draw near.
This is the language of inclusion and exclusion. Think junior high. Think picking teams on the play ground as a little boy. The emotions connected are real and raw. I don’t know who makes it onto to your private quarantine list. Maybe it’s a homosexual co-worker, an obese neighbor, an alcoholic uncle, a race of people, senior citizens, or your “out there” son-in-law. Just think of anyone you shy away from for any reason, those you are afraid of, or those who give you a “fever” emotionally. How has God called you to relate to them? Watch and learn:
“While Jesus was in one of the towns a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord if you are willing you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him,” (Luke 5:12-13 NIV).
Think of a dish forgotten in the back of your refrigerator that you have left there for a few weeks. It’s gone bad and is covered with fuzzy stuff. Think about your reaction when you lifted the foil. Did you make a face? This man—this leper—was visibly shocking from a physical perspective. Imagine a man “covered” with leprosy. Got it? Your natural reaction to this human mildew would be the same—your face would contort and recoil. That’s what this man experienced on a daily basis in first century Palestine. He was so ashamed of his appearance he could not look Jesus in the face. Ask yourself: what is a man with leprosy most hungry for? Look at what the God-man gave him first and you have found your answer. Notice He didn’t heal him physically first. He touched him! Imagine you are this man as you see and sense Jesus about to do the unthinkable. “Is He extending his arm? No, no it can’t be!” Imagine the safe and soft landing Jesus hand makes on the shoulder of this man who has not experienced positive human touch in years or, perhaps, decades.
For this man, touch is the grace of God, touch is acceptance, and touch is affirmation of dignity. Jesus is healing his heart and saving him already by simply touching him. The grace of God is pouring over this man and not a word is said. Jesus first communication does not produce the physical healing. It produces the acceptance of the man as a person worth healing. What must have been flowing through the leprous man’s head upon feeling the mighty touch of acceptance and upon hearing the words of physical acceptance: “I am willing.” I can see eyes locking and a silent acknowledgment between the two men. The message is simple: you are touchable, you are acceptable, and you are not alone my brother. Ten megatons of grace have been detonated in a man’s heart. The actual physical healing is just the mushroom cloud which evidences the internal explosion.
His critics accused Jesus of being comfortable with sinners. If they said that about Christ and Christ lives in you, then it makes sense to assume that Christ followers should be good at this. What exactly is this again? Being expressive agents of God’s grace; allowing the Holy Spirit to use us to help others feel acceptance by God; and having the faith and courage to affirm people apart from their sin as those worthy of the Father’s love. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14 NIV). Jesus was an ambassador of the grace of God. We cannot compartmentalize this most radical and transforming aspect of Jesus’ character away from our journey as God’s man. Jesus is good at being generously accepting. His unequivocal desire is that he wants his men to be good at it too.