Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 89:1-18; 147:1-11, Isaiah 41:1-16, Ephesians 2:1-10, Mark 1:29-45
According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’s ministry quickly took off in a big way. In Capernaum he healed many people and drove out many demons, and word of his power spread quickly. Soon the entire city was at his (or more precisely, Simon and Andrew’s) door. As he traveled with his disciples to spread his message to the neighboring towns in Galilee, “A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’” And Jesus, moved with pity, said, “I do choose. Be made clean!”
Did Jesus ever choose not to heal? Did he ever choose to turn anyone away?
Some people like to say yes. They point the rich young ruler who went away heartbroken when Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor. They remind us of the many people who abandoned Jesus after he presented them with a particularly difficult teaching. And they trot out the man who wanted to bury his father but was told “let the dead bury the dead.”
Except Jesus didn’t turn any of those people away. They walked away. They chose to walk away. When preachers claim we soften the harsher truths of discipleship when we say Jesus accepted everyone, we can’t let that slip into deciding for ourselves whom Christ would reject, because we don’t know. Saul literally hunted Christians before he became the apostle Paul who wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
Rather than worry about other people’s choices, let’s direct our energies towards modeling our own choices after Christ. Without compromising our values, we can always find ways to choose mercy. Choose forgiveness. Choose to give the benefit of the doubt. Choose generosity. Choose to recognize dignity. Choose humility. Choose love.
Even when these choices are unattractive or difficult, they are still ours to make. The cost of making the right choices is a burden we bear ourselves, not one we force onto others.
Comfort: Jesus does not reject you.
Challenge: But that doesn’t mean you can’t reject Jesus.
Prayer: Loving God, help me make choices that reflect your love and righteousness. Amen.
Discussion: Have you made choices that other people have had to pay for?
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