This world has so many problems. We try to solve them through political means and through our freedoms to protest—and even aggressively comment about our leaders. When we think about the problems in this country (America)—racism, poverty, inequality, bullying, and so on—it can get overwhelming. Wouldn’t it be great if someone had a magic wand and could immediately bring good out of evil? Imagine a teenager with the power of putting a stop to racism by simply swishing that magic baton. What if a teacher found out that she had the ability to whisk away poverty with a magic pointer? They would be celebrities. They would be heroes.
Once Upon a Time…
There was a man with such a power, and this is not a fairy tale. His name was Jesus, and he commanded attention everywhere he went. The crowds followed him—coming by foot from many towns—listened to his teaching, and were healed of various diseases and illnesses. Jesus was that celebrity—that hero.
The four gospels reference Jesus’ healing ministry over 80 times (and in over 30 of 89 chapters). Wow—how priceless it would be to have his magic wand now! The problem is, he had no magic wand. He didn’t use fairy dust. So how did he heal all those people? Simply through touch. Relationship. Singular compassion for each person he saw. Personal contact. There was no fairy dust, no magic wand, but there was the healing power of social interaction.
Imagine the lines that formed to receive healing. Also imagine the excitement when the mother was holding her daughter who needed healing and was next in line. Then she steps up to Jesus, and even though there are large crowds, Jesus is totally focused on her and her daughter. Jesus was focused on that little girl. He asked what her name was. As he bent down, the girl looked into the eyes of a man who had authority over the angels. Those same eyes knew the world before it was formed. And most of all, amongst all the noise and confusion, she saw those eyes focused solely on her. Story after healing story, Jesus touched. He touched physically, sometimes just emotionally or verbally. He healed through personal connection.
Making It Personal
My job is to help the poor. I'm the leader [president] of HOPE worldwide. We seek to help the poor as much as possible, using the resources we are blessed with. In my daily walk, I try to help the poor as much as I can, incorporating this into my life over my four-plus decades as a disciple of Christ. I've tried my best—with countless failures—to walk as Jesus walked. Yet I recently learned a lesson on helping the poor—one very clear in the Bible, yet which I had managed to miss. How did Jesus help those in need? How would Jesus help the poor today? How would he respond to the woman at the stoplight asking for money? How would he respond to the homeless living under a bridge?
HOPE worldwide has an audacious goal, one that is twofold. We aspire to see all disciples regularly helping the poor as they go about their typical day. The world is full of those with unmet needs for the most basic things in life. Yet we also hope that through serving the poor, the server will be transformed to be more like Jesus, and that the beneficiary of that service will see and feel the love of Jesus.
When I hand out a dollar bill to that guy at the stoplight, I feel good about myself, and that man is glad that he is making progress toward his daily goal, but neither of us is really transformed. When I hand out sandwiches to the homeless souls living in the cold on hard, wet concrete, I’m sure they're glad to have something to eat that day, and I feel good taking time out of my schedule to serve because of my desire to please God. But I'm not transformed, and I doubt how much that the person was helped either. Begging is demeaning, reducing a person created in God’s image to be accepting the belief that he or she is only a beggar.
Ahh – Real Transformation
Recently I tried a different method of helping a person in need. I was coming home from one of my frequent Home Depot [a hardware store] runs. At a small intersection near my house, a number of individuals stand at the intersection to ask for money. As usual, if I had cash in small denominations, and the traffic allowed, I would give the person a few dollars. This time I decided to practice what HOPE worldwide (and I) preach. I stopped the car alongside the road, got out of my car, and then asked the gentleman if he and I could talk for a few minutes. At first, he was leery of my request, but I tried to assure him that it was cool. He then came over to find out what I wanted. I introduced myself and told him I just wanted to talk with him about his life, and to pray with him. I let him know that I would give him whatever money he would miss out on by talking to me instead of collecting dollar bills from passers-by.
We spoke for 15 minutes. I asked him his story, where he came from, if he had any kids, etc. It was a heartfelt conversation, especially as he sensed that I had no hidden agenda. As he spoke more, I can tell you that for this brief moment, Isaiah felt like a man respected for who he was as a person. We discussed having teenage kids, his old job fixing cars, and how the Bible assures us that every human being is created in God’s image. Finally, I asked him if I could put my hand on his shoulder and pray for him. He looked shocked—in a good way. We bowed our heads and I prayed. Afterward he told me, with moist eyes, that no one had ever prayed for him. When I offered him a twenty-dollar bill to make up for his lost revenue for the time he talked with me, he flatly refused. I told him that if he didn’t take it, I'd just leave it on the street and it would just blow away. We laughed, and he sheepishly took the money.
As I drove off, I realized that I had been transformed in a way that I never would have had I only opened my window and handed him some money. I want to believe that Isaiah was also transformed, at least for that moment in time. Jesus didn’t just impersonally throw out his healing powers to those that would catch them. In every healing, he personally and freely gave his power to an individual, one touch at a time. My recent experience with Isaiah, reinforced as I continue to read the gospels, remind me of the thousands of people Jesus touched—personally, respectfully and compassionately, one person at a time. I think I hear Jesus still saying, “Go thou and do likewise.” Are we listening?
"The Magic Wand and the Touch" originally appeared at GordonFerguson.org. Adapted with permission.
Like many of you reading this excellent article, we often "outsource" our giving to the needy through financial donations. In a way that's like waving a "wand"—something happens, but there isn't necessarily a personal connection. Of course there's nothing wrong with making a donation. But in reading Dave's article, I'm deeply convicted that this isn't enough. What's needed is the "touch." For most of us, there are abundant opportunities to engage in personal, hands-on ministry.
Dave Malutinok has been a good friend for many years. In Atlanta my wife and I have had the pleasure of living only 2 minutes away (by foot) from the Malutinoks.