Today at church an elder, Alex Tuckness, taught the congregation from Mark 2:1-22.
Alex set the scene by asking you to imagine a scenario in which a man in Iowa was reportedly curing people from cancer just through his touch. Iowa has roughly 3 million people. The US alone has over 12 million people with cancer. You can imagine the droves of people flocking to Iowa to meet this man and have their loved ones cured from cancer.
Alex then asked us to imagine this man had a message to proclaim. Most would not hear it or have time for it in their zeal of getting healed. Most would find the man less interesting the less he healed them or people they knew.
Mark 2:2 states that Jesus was preaching the Word. Jesus was a preacher. I know this is not how many like to view Jesus (in the same way many have a difficulty in calling God their Father because of negative feelings or attitudes towards dads) because they do not like being "preached at." As much as I can sympathize with people's negative reaction to being told they are sinners by a man behind a pulpit, I agree with him: You're sinners!
Mark 2:5 hits the real crux of the matter (figuratively speaking of course as Jesus will not be crucified for several chapters yet). Jesus steps outside of the miracle-man Healer and states that He has the authority to forgive a man's sins.
If a friend or co-worker (or relative of a friend or co-worker as is often the case it seems) ends up being ill, you can with no expected recourse state that you will pray for that person and their health. However, if someone informed you they were sick and their response was to tell you that they would pray that your sins be forgiven before God, you would expect a much different reaction. Most people (believers, atheists, muslims, catholics, pentacostals, druids, chinese, black, or fashionistas, etc...) will gladly welcome your sentiments to pray for their health. If you bring up their sin, we are having an altogether different conversation all of the sudden.
Many small group Bible studies are replete with requests for sicknesses. These are done with pinpoint specificity with regard to the husband of the sister of the cousin of the co-worker you used to work with and the exact nature of their illness, how long they've had it and how bad it has been for them. However, there is not a lot of prayer requests for specific sins with which we struggle. We are quick to bring up sympathetic topics that may legitimately necessitate prayer, but eternally have little consequence and yet very slow to bring up topics about which we might anticipate judgment or criticism that definitively require prayer and the Holy Spirit to revive and restore that which is broken and dead in sin.
Alex pointed out that Jesus had more in common theologically with the Pharisees than any other group of people. This may have been why so many of the disputes into which Jesus entered were with Pharisees. They came to the wrong conclusions with the same information and belief system. It is very frustrating to discuss topics with people on which you simultaneously agree in theory and disagree in practice.
Alex lastly and most poignantly stated that we like people who are most like us. We gravitate towards people who share our ideas, standard of living, morals, clothes, food preferences, health and exercise lifestyles, books, television shows, etc... We like people who are most like us. God likes people who are altogether not like Him. He has not other choice (if He is to like anybody that is). He has only people unlike Him in every way in their nature and by their choice. But He chooses to like people. He chooses to be uncomfortable and break through the tension of language, culture, status, and economic barriers. He becomes like us to restore us.
Alex challenged us to reach out to those in our lives who are not like us. He ultimately challenged us not just to reach out to those in our lives who are different, but to seek out those who are not currently part of our lives because they are so different that we opt to stay away from them altogether. In doing so, we honor God by doing as He has done (not at all expecting to do what He did, but seeking to bring Him glory by living in a manner worthy of the Gospel).