Every person I encounter is a co-habitator.
Every pair of eyes into which I glance belongs to someone I live with.
Not in the same house, nor in the same building, street or city, but on the same planet.
Over the years, I’ve temporarily left my safe “suburban” Hampton Roads life and traveled to large cities. It is there that I encounter different co-habitators. Those who are homeless and mentally ill and working in questionable “industries” are more visible than they are here. Maybe that’s why I keep coming back to Hampton Roads – I like being away from the prevalent underbelly of the large city. I like being blind to that sad, ugliness of the civilized human condition.
Occasionally, I wish I was like a Hobbit, living in the Shire, in a house underneath a hill, surrounded with like-minded, loving, caring people who don’t participate in seedy behavior.
Sometimes the violence and horror in the news makes me want to shut my eyes. I deny that I co-habitate with a murderer or a rapist or a mentally ill person.
But once the eyes are opened again, the realization creeps up that we cannot help it, and I understand that I am not supposed to pick and choose whom I am supposed to love and care about, and who I am supposed to turn my back on.
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. – Mark 1:40-42 (ESV)
Jesus was “moved with pity.” Many versions use the word “compassion,” and The Message uses “deeply moved.”
In Ephesians 5, Paul writes:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Eph. 5:25-27 (ESV)
Paul reminds us of Christ’s desires for the Church, that we would be “holy and without blemish.”
Imagine being a leper in those days. Afflicted with a disease that required them to live outside of city walls, separated. The disease revealed them as a defilement to the holiness God called his people to exhibit. They were definitely not “holy and without blemish.”
But Jesus “stretched out his hand and touched him.“
And likewise, we are to stretch out our hands and touch the lepers of our modern times: those who are homeless, mentally ill, criminals, prostitutes, sick, and impoverished.
It would be very comfortable, wouldn’t it, to be a Hobbit, living in the Shire, and simply forgetting about those who share domicile on this earth?
The Body of Christ is expected to live outside of its comfort zone. I take the challenge. Will you join me?