As I write this, I have two friends of mine who are spending the night in a hospital. Shannon is in critical condition in an I.C.U. unit in Asheville, NC after suffering a severe head trauma from a motorcycle accident. Jason is awaiting an M.R.I. on his broken vertebrae (T-12) after a freak trampoline accident with his kids. Though both are suffering different injuries from unrelated accidents, they have several things in common:
- Both are amazing people.
- Both are married with children.
- Both are heavily involved in Christian ministry.
- Both have a LONG road to recovery.
- Both will need a lot of support to heal.
- Both are dealing with self-inflicted wounds. In other words, both are where they are tonight because they chose to participate in risky activities. (I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t have been doing what they were doing, but merely pointing out that motorcycles and trampolines tend to be dangerous and unforgiving.)
As I sat in Jason’s room tonight, he was telling me about all the people who visited him today. While I was there, two more people showed up. It doesn’t surprise me. He’s a wonderful man with a great sense of humor, godly character and a shepherd’s heart. Everyone loves him.
When I visit Shannon’s Facebook page, I cannot believe all the comments. Literally hundreds of people from all over the country – all day long – every few minutes – leaving their well-wishes and prayers. Since no one can visit her right now – online comments seem to be their only connection to Shannon at the moment. Only a remarkable person with a huge heart for others could receive such an endless thread of support.
As I watch both of my friends hurting & struggling right now – I also see the Church (with a capital “C”) come running to their aid. It’s beautiful to witness. People are watching their children so spouses can practice the “sickness” & “for worse” part of their wedding vows. Others are “praying without ceasing”. Many from their respective churches are cooking meals, doing household chores, literally whatever they can to help both families recover and heal. The Church was told by Christ to “love one another”. It’s great to see that commandment lived out in such a practical way.
I have found that when someone is hurting physically, the church is quick to respond. When a husband falls off a ladder at home, the church responds immediately with concerned phone calls and get well cards. When a teenage girl is in a near fatal car accident, the church is there to support the parents and offer months of support throughout the long healing process. When mothers are delivering babies, the church has weeks of food prepared for the husband and older children. If someone is hospitalized with cancer – the church shows up, in droves, to love and support. Even if the accident or incident was their fault or was a result of risk taking or stupidity – the Church overlooks the unfortunate mistake or foolish decision and simply loves. Simply helps. Simply serves without judgment. As it should.
But here is what I find interesting. When someone “falls” morally, the Church is in slow motion. Lives are devastated every day by vices like adultery, anger, gambling, alcoholism, pornography and drugs and many times, when someone has fallen “morally”, the church is missing in action. The man who cheated on his wife obviously made a horrific error in judgment, and he needs the church more than ever after that admission. The woman who has just come out of the closet with her alcoholism needs help and support, not distance and gossip (otherwise known as “prayer requests” in the Church). The gamblers and drug addicts and fornicators and pornographers need help to change their ways. They need support and love and grace and time to heal and learn how to do things right. Some people fall morally. Others, like Jason & Shannon fall physically. The Church should be there for both.
For some reason though, it’s easier to call someone who has fallen physically and ask, “What can I do for you?”. It seems to be harder to ask someone who has just fallen morally the same question. For those who fall physically, we have doctors and nurses and hospitals for them to go to. But for those who fall morally, where can they go for help? The Church should be that place, but too often too few are around to offer them any type of support. When the physically sick enter the hospital, no one looks at them funny. They are embraced immediately with compassion and by people whose training and desire is to see them get well. And the physically sick RUN to the hospital because they know it is the one place where they can find healing and help and compassion and medicine. They know they belong there.
Do you know why the morally sick do not run to the Church? Because they don’t feel it’s a safe place. There are few there who are trained to handle their issues. There are even less there that want to. Sinners, many times, do not feel the Church’s embrace or see enough compassionate Christians interested in helping them become whole. For the most part, they are right. The hookers and strippers and bikers and druggies and adulterers and pornographers and thieves can’t walk into most Churches without feeling even more judgment on them. The sinful choices they have committed in the past are a heavy burden on them and many don’t know how to stop carrying it. Not much has changed in the 2,000 years since Christ walked the earth. The sinners back then were known as prostitutes and tax collectors and they dared not enter the Temple. They simply were not worthy and the Church leaders (Pharisees) reminded them often of that. That is why they chased Jesus around Galilee. For the first time, they found Love and Compassion and Grace, in human form. In the Person of Christ they found both Help and Hope.
That is what makes the story in John chapter 8 so powerful. A woman “caught in the very act of adultery” was brought before Jesus and was asked what should be done with her. Instead of helping her find healing, the Church (aka Pharisees) were quick to point out her faults. They literally drug her into the town square and publicly humiliated her. Ah, the devastating power of gossip. Everyone desired to give her exactly what she deserved – a judgemental stoning. The Pharisees (aka the Church) had set a trap for Christ. If Jesus agreed to stone her, He would be violating Roman law since the Jews were not allowed to carry out such a punishment. If He agreed to let her go unpunished, He would be violating Jewish law which required her to be stoned for her sin. How would Jesus handle such a sinner? Famously, He said to the group, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” He did not condone her sin but He also did not condemn her either – though He alone could. The heart of God overflows with compassion for people who recognize their wrong. He did not stone her, but instead saved her. He could have given her hell. Instead, He gave her help. Did she deserve it? No. But neither do you. Isn’t that the point of grace? Grace is for sinners.** It is designed for those who don’t deserve it.
Everyone who falls needs help getting back up. And if the church only helps those who fall physically, then how are they any different than a hospital or the Red Cross? The Church is at first to be a spiritual hospital. That is what Jesus was talking about in Mark 2:17 when He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick: I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” We must be a people who are equipped to help sinners – those who have fallen morally, emotionally and spiritually. Anyone can put a band-aid on a body. We must become people who learn how to help bring healing to a troubled soul.
Who has fallen in your midst and could really use a friend right now? Who do you know that has made some poor decisions in the past and needs help getting back on their feet? If you have never reached out to them, do so today. Call them. Email them. Take them to lunch. Be a friend and offer to help. If you have never inquired as to how you can help them, ask yourself why. The answer may reveal more about you than you care to admit.
And remember… at one point – you were fallen too.
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6,8
* “Grace is for sinners” is also the name of a powerful book written by Serena Woods, one of my Facebook friends. Look her up on Facebook or her website (www.graceisforsinners.com) for more information.