By Kirk Walden
“But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” – Luke 10:29
While doing research for my next book, I was reminded again of the story of baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball player of the modern era.
What does this have to do with all of us in the pregnancy help community? More than I imagined.
First, the facts: Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey signed Robinson to a minor league contract in the fall of 1945. Robinson would play one season (the 1946 season) with the Dodgers' minor league club, the Montreal Royals. Then, Robinson would make his major league debut in April of 1947.
In 1945, there was no written rule against signing black players. It was just "understood" that whites and blacks would be segregated. Blacks would play in the Negro Leagues, whites in the Major and Minor League systems.
As a Christian however, Rickey knew this could not stand. He had to do something. He had witnessed blatant racism in his college days at the turn of the century and had vowed he would do something about it.
Branch Rickey didn't petition Congress. He didn't even argue with owners around the Major Leagues. Instead, knowing there would be major blowback, he vetted a number of possible players and settled on Robinson, signing him to a contract. He reached one person. That's it.
Rickey and Robinson agreed that no matter how many players or fans taunted him, Robinson would not retaliate--for three years. If a pitcher threw at his head, Robinson would do nothing. If a player spiked him on the base paths there would be no response from Robinson.
This experiment worked. In 1947, Robinson was Rookie of the Year and led the Dodgers to the World Series.
Remember, baseball was "America's Pastime" in the 40s. The NFL, now king of sports in the USA, was nothing but an afterthought compared to mighty baseball. For instance, in the 1947 World Series against the Yankees, all seven games were totally sold out and every game was on both radio and TV (even then!).
In contrast, the NFL's championship game was viewed by just 30,000 fans in a half-empty Comiskey Park in Chicago, with only a radio audience.
With baseball so popular at that time, everyone knew Jackie Robinson. They watched his every move and as the season and subsequent seasons took place, Americans became comfortable with integration in this country's most popular entertainment venue, baseball.
You want to know what took place after Rickey and Robinson made the courageous decision to integrate baseball?
One year later, President Truman integrated the military.
Seven years later, the US Supreme Court ruled in Brown v Board of Education, integrating public schools.
10 years later, President Eisenhower enforced the Supreme Court's ruling by sending the military into Arkansas to integrate Central High School.
Coincidence? No. Americans had seen with their own eyes that a black ball player was--in reality--no different than a white ball player. Segregationist arguments were blown up through one decision and one player. Soon, the political and judicial leaders followed... Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson.
In the Pregnancy Help Community, our role is to get on the ground and help that one person, as Rickey did when he opened the door for one person--Jackie Robinson--to play baseball. Rickey was loving his neighbor, believing that color should not separate one from playing the game he loves on the biggest stage.
You know what we do? We reach one person, then we reach another. The world is taking notice. Slowly, but surely, we're seeing a shift in opinions on life as more and more see that an unexpected pregnancy is not the end of the world.
We are changing the culture. Want proof?
I just received a summary of Heartbeat International's Amicus Brief for the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices consider the Mississippi case, Dobbs v Jackon Women's Health Organization.
In the brief, Danielle White, Heartbeat's legal counsel, makes an amazing case for what our work on the ground has accomplished to change the dynamic since the Court handed down its Casey decision in 1992.
Just like Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, we've tilled this ground so that our arguments now have tried and true results, proving abortion is no longer "needed," as Casey implied.
If you want real encouragement then, read Danielle's brief here. Pages 10-16 in the PDF file give us the summary. It's well worth your time.
Oh, by the way, if you're wondering whether Danielle White's brief will carry any weight, keep in mind that in the vital NIFLA v Becerra case a couple of years ago, one brief was referred to by the justices in oral arguments. It came from... Danielle White.
Be encouraged. Let's stay the course and love the neighbors who enter our doors each day.
by Kirk Walden
“Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do that which is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you . . .” Philemon 8-9A
If I Corinthians 13 is the scriptural chapter which best describes love, perhaps the brief letter we call the Book of Philemon is one which best shows us love in action. Because if we follow the examples of Paul, Onesimus and Philemon, those around us will see a powerful picture of what love looks like, in real life.
Let’s set the stage. Onesimus was a slave of Philemon. An indentured servant, one might surmise. But Onesimus ran away, no small infraction. To understand how egregious this was, in the culture of the day it wasn’t uncommon to execute runaway slaves.
But a funny thing happened after Onesimus snuck away to freedom. He found Paul, converted to faith in following Jesus Christ, and launched a partnership with the man who would become the most prolific of New Testament writers.
At some point however, Onesimus—perhaps guided by a new conscience—likely confessed to Paul that he was a runaway. Or Paul found out through other means and Onesimus confessed his past. Regardless, this admission was a dangerous one. But Onesimus came clean, out of love for Jesus Christ and a desire to follow—no matter the personal cost.
The story gets even more interesting however, when we find out Paul not only knew the master of Onesimus but had a close relationship with him. This was such a strong relationship that Paul sat down and penned the letter to Philemon which we read and study today.
Paul knew he could say the word and Philemon would do anything Paul asked, including freeing Onesimus. But as we see throughout this letter, Paul chooses instead to express love for Philemon, and to appeal to Philemon’s love for Jesus.
Remember when Jesus told us the two great commandments were to love God and to love others? In this letter, Paul puts this into practice.
Out of his love for God, Paul chooses to love Philemon—just like Jesus taught. Onesimus? He chose love by returning to Philemon with letter in hand, willing to take any punishment Philemon required.
Love from Paul. Love from Onesimus. And with this letter, it was up to Philemon to complete the circle.
Paul requests that Philemon not only release Onesimus, but to shift his entire view of his former slave. Paul presents Philemon with the challenge to consider Onesimus—a slave—as an equal, as a brother in the work of advancing the good news (v.15-17).
This was a monumental request, but Paul was confident his brother Philemon would not only honor this request but out of love, go beyond what he was asked (v.21).
While none of us knows for certain how Philemon responded, we can draw an educated conclusion that he did. Why? Because this short letter of only 335 words—tucked between letters to Titus and to the Hebrews—was so revered by the early church that it made its way into the New Testament.
As we look back on this brief letter from one Christ follower to another, it’s stunning to see what love—acted out in real life—can accomplish.
Paul poured his heart into Philemon over the years, building Philemon from “convert” to “fellow worker” for the faith (v.1). This is love.
Onesimus owned up to his wrong, returning to Philemon with a heart of submission and a desire for sincere reconciliation. This too, is love.
Next of course, is the man whose name is on the letter, Philemon. We can be confident Philemon responded with our favorite word, Love.
What were the results of each of these men choosing love?
First, the obvious. For Philemon and Onesimus, the wall between “slave” and “master” fell to the ground. We can guess, Onesimus and Philemon came together as shining lights for the Good News, a stunning example of love in action for friends, neighbors and the community at large. Without a doubt, when people saw these men, many were attracted to this new faith.
Next, as we already pointed out, the early church likely heard the story of these three and of the extraordinary example set, choosing to place this letter in what we refer to as The New Testament. This way, every Christian could read and hear of the impact love can have.
One more thing. Centuries later, this “little” letter was used in Christian countries to argue for the abolition of slavery altogether.
Three men. Each of the three choosing love. They changed their world, and the world to come.
All of which leads to a question. What could happen if each of us, when faced with any situation in front of us, chose love?
Our love might look like Paul’s, pouring into another through encouragement and hope, as we do for fellow staff members and so many who call on our ministries daily. The cost? Time. Effort. Emotional and physical energy.
Or love could look like it did for Onesimus, taking a risk and offering to right a wrong we knowingly or unknowingly created days, weeks, months or years ago.
And love could mean being a Philemon, choosing to forgive even when it costs us. For Philemon, forgiveness meant risking social standing in a community which likely demanded slaves be kept “in their proper place.” And it also meant giving up any right to the work an indentured servant could offer.
It’s hard to see Paul, Onesimus and Philemon saying to themselves, “If I practice love, the effect of this decision will bring thousands or even millions to faith and contribute to the abolition of slavery. One letter outlining this episode will be read by billions across the globe.”
No, they had none of this foresight. But they chose to love.
So, as we consider the people and the real-life situations in front of us, let’s take heart, remembering that choosing love is always a wise decision. We may not see the results today, but we know choosing love has the capacity to change . . . even the world.
Want proof? Let’s ask the three men we read about in the letter to Philemon. If they were to look back on a real-life story about a runaway slave, they might just agree.
Special thanks to Tom Haddon, pastor of Northfield Church in Hendersonville, TN for two sentences on a Sunday morning which prompted Kirk to dig into the story of Paul, Onesimus and Philemon. You never know the impact a pastor’s words might have!
And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.” John 6:12
We all know the story of the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. A great multitude was following Jesus and when it came time to eat, Jesus asked Philip where they might buy bread for everyone.
When Philip noted they only had 200 denari—not enough to buy what they needed—Andrew jumped in and mentioned a child was carrying five barley loaves and two fish. But of course, Andrew added, “But what are these for so many people?”
Obviously, this wasn’t enough food. Instead of panicking, Jesus asks the multitude to sit down. He then takes the loaves and fishes, gives thanks and . . . somehow there was enough food for thousands. A miracle, no doubt. But what happened next, after the miracle feast?
There was some food still available, so Jesus told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.”
Fish would easily spoil, so the disciples let that go. But of the extra bread, they filled twelve baskets with what wasn’t eaten from just five loaves of bread.
But why? Couldn’t Jesus just make more? Was the Son of Man suddenly becoming frugal? Or worse yet, a hoarder?
One possible explanation is that the next time the disciples were hungry, the leftover bread would serve as a reminder of the miracle. Can we imagine what it was like to munch on bread that literally came out of nowhere, and was likely the best tasting bread they’d ever had?
Perhaps then, Jesus simply wanted to retain this bread to keep the miracle fresh in the minds of the disciples. So, as challenges came up, they could take a bite and say, “No worries, we’ll be fine. This bread proves it.”
The question for us is, what are our miracles? And what are the reminders? Do we keep that ultrasound photo on the wall—the one from the mom who didn’t think she could choose life, but did?
How about the funds that came from nowhere when we didn’t know if our ministry would make it? Did we write down this story, so we won’t forget?
Or, what about the staff member who was in a crisis? After we prayed for her, we got that call to say, “It’s a miracle—we’re going to be okay!” How are we remembering this?
Jesus reminded His disciples to keep the bread. Maybe he was just trying to be a good steward. But perhaps there was more—a reminder to keep our reminders fresh, and grow our faith in the process.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
“and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you.”—I Thessalonians 3:12
Servants of Excellence
It was Paul who gave us I Corinthians 13, which many refer to as “The Love Chapter.” Throughout his writings we see so many times where he implores, exhorts and encourages fellow believers to love each other. If I didn’t know better, I’d think love is a big deal!
Jesus told us that the world would know we are Christians not by our ability to quote Bible verses, not by our piousness, and not even because of the “bad” things we avoid doing. Instead, Jesus told us the best way to convince others of our faith was by loving each other.
And now here is Paul, talking to the Thessalonians like a broken record about this “love” thing. Here’s a thought—maybe loving each other was difficult for those in the early days of Christianity, and it’s still a challenge today.
But love must be incredibly important to our faith.
Paul’s desire is that “the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you . . . .” But why? Why is this so vital? One possibility shows up in the next sentence, where Paul says, “so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”
Paraphrasing, it looks like love brings incredible joy to God. If we have love, we have the kind of heart God adores. In truth, if we choose to love in every situation, we’re blameless before God.
Is love easy? No. We face conflict all the time, challenging our ability to love. We must deal with people who are frustrating and exasperating. To love these people with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is . . . tough!
This challenge must be why Paul uses these words to the Thessalonians to pray for them, asking the Lord to intervene and cause love to increase and abound as they try to get along with each other.
In our offices, we carry the same challenge. We’ve got great co-workers, but sometimes . . . things get a bit difficult. Maybe we don’t see a situation the same way as someone else might. Or perhaps there was a misunderstanding. Love becomes elusive in these moments.
As a reminder, let’s keep this verse in front of us. We might even pray it together from time to time. Because wouldn’t it be great if the Lord caused us to increase and abound in love for one another? If we consistently invited Him to increase and abound our love, we could go new places as a ministry. And like Jesus said, the world will take notice—and that’s a great thing to see.
But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Luke 5:8
Peter had a problem. All night he had cast his fishing nets out into the water with no return. None. Nothing. Nada.
The next morning Jesus showed up, asking Peter for boat access as He taught a gathering throng. Peter of course, obliged. When Jesus was finished however, Peter still had no fish. Until Jesus asked him to cast the net just one more time.
When Peter did so, we know what happened. So many fish hopped into the nets, Peter needed his friends to help keep them from breaking. A good day, for sure.
But Peter’s response sounds weird today. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Peter quickly realized that if a man could make thousands of fish appear where there were zero fish just a few minutes before, that same someone—if he got close enough to Peter—could see Peter didn’t deserve the miracle. Hence, Peter was afraid.
Yet how did Jesus respond? Did He forgive Peter? We don’t see this in the text. Did Jesus ask Peter to reconsider his sinfulness? We don’t see this, either.
What we do see is Jesus offering Peter a great opportunity to follow along. “Do not fear,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching men.”
In other words, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Peter.”
Here’s the bottom line. Peter focused on his problem (his sinfulness). Jesus focused on Peter’s potential (“You can be a fisher of men”).
What is it about us that makes us focus on our problems? We are constantly our worst critics, pointing out our flaws and our failings. But then there is Jesus, telling us we have potential. We have the God-given ability to influence others, encourage others, and change the lives of others.
As we move forward in our work, let’s focus on the potential God gives. Let’s see it in ourselves, and let’s see it in others. The next time we are tempted to consider how much we fall short (“Depart from me, for I am a sinful person!”), let’s turn our perspective to how Jesus sees us.
Jesus placed us in this ministry to go fishing for people. He sees potential in each of us. In fact, He sees so much possibility, He has no time to blab with us about our failures. He’s ready to grab us and go fishing. All we need to do is follow. And once we decide to follow, we’re past our problems and primed for the possibilities.
“And last of all, as if to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” I Cor. 15:8
The Apostle Paul was known for his ability to connect his faith to disparate groups, from fellow Jews to Greeks in Athens, to political leaders. Paul could “make the case” for Jesus and His resurrection like almost no one else. He wrote much of what we call The New Testament.
In short, Paul was a force to be reckoned with.
Was Paul a great theologian? Sure. Heck, he invented theology, for the most part. Was Paul a terrific apologist? There was probably no one better, except for Jesus of course.
But if we get to the core of who Paul was, we find he was quite simple. Because when it came to theology or apologetics, Paul stuck with one tactic, using it again and again. We might say that when it came to sharing his faith, Paul was mostly a one-note wonder.
His crafty strategy? Telling his story. We find this in I Corinthians 15, where he lays the foundation of the Good News, that Jesus “died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” Simple stuff. But there’s more.
Paul goes on to speak of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to Peter, the twelve disciples, another 500 people, James, all the apostles, then . . . “as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
Paul told his story. In fact, Paul’s story of Jesus appearing in front of him was Paul’s connection to the resurrection he speaks of so often.
We see the same in Acts 22, where Paul spoke in front of the Jewish council, beginning with his story of his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:1-21). Later, in front of Agrippa in Acts 26, Paul shares the same story.
Certainly, Paul did much more than tell his story. But in so many of his encounters and letters, he refers back to this one story as the foundation upon which he builds his defense of the One he followed, Jesus.
We can do the same. When we have opportunity to talk about our faith, we don’t have to know every verse or defend against every argument. All we need is our story. Because just like Paul, our story is more than enough to show someone Jesus is real.
The next time we sense the need to talk about our faith, let’s start with our story. Because for many, our story will be more than enough to open the door for a valuable, faith-filled conversation.
“. . . But rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.” Acts 9:6
Jesus’ message to Saul—who would later become The Apostle Paul—is one of four examples of how Jesus dealt with people we would call “sinners.” The other three would be The Woman at the Well, The Adulterous Woman and The Thief on the Cross. It’s an interesting question to ask, “How then, did Jesus deal with sinners?”
Of course, we’re leaving out the religious leaders whose “righteousness” Jesus often called out as hypocritical and egregious. While these were sinners in Jesus’ eyes, few among the people of the day could see this.
But what of these four, rightfully accused of sinful behavior? How did Jesus deal with these “sinners?” Did he give them a proper rebuke? Demand confessions? Let’s see . . .
We all know the story of the Woman at the Well. She had gone through five husbands, though we don’t know the reasons for this. We do know she was living with a man, widely viewed as sin. So, how did Jesus respond?
First, Jesus complimented her for her honesty in saying she had no husband. Then, without spending a word on whether living with a man was right or wrong, he went on to share with her that he was the messiah for whom she and so many waited. For the record, she—this woman in sin—was the first to hear this news.
Next, Jesus did something else which is so memorable. Remember that as Jesus healed so many, he would ask them not to speak of him? He gave no such instruction to this woman, and we see she was more than excited to share this amazing news with the people of Sychar. In short, he freed her to tell her story.
With this woman, Jesus saw who she was and yet gave her an amazing opportunity to learn of his identity and spread the good news.
What about The Adulterous Woman? We know this story, too. When others wished to stone her, Jesus halted the mob by asking that only those without sin could participate in the execution. All left, and Jesus closed the incident by saying, “Neither do I condemn you. No go, and sin no more.” Jesus didn’t whitewash her situation, but we do not see Jesus asking for sackcloth, ashes or gnashing of teeth. Instead, he offers a new opportunity to go forward.
The Thief on the Cross? Jesus’ response to this man’s plea for grace was, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Another opportunity.
Then there is Saul, a man who persecuted Jesus’ brothers and sisters, even to death. Later, this same man would call himself “the chief” of sinners for his actions before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus.
If ever there was someone who needed a good tongue-lashing for his misdeeds, it was Saul.
But when Saul asked, “Who art thou, Lord?” Jesus answered without disdain, saying, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
Then, Jesus shifted the narrative entirely. He gave Saul the incredible opportunity to join His family: “But rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.”
Four sinners. And in each encounter, Jesus offered immediate restoration, hope and a path forward.
In our work, we may have similar encounters, times where we connect with those broken by decisions they’ve made. As we do, let’s always remember Jesus’ responses. As we bring restorative words, hopeful encouragement, and an invitation to join the family, we change hearts.
And whenever we see a heart is changed, we’re fulfilling the incredible mission God has for us.
“. . . that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us; that the world may believe you did send me.” John 17:21
In John 17:21, Jesus is making a huge request of his Father, “that they may all be one.” Jesus is asking for his followers to be unified behind a bold endeavor to reach the world with the good news. At the end of this verse, Jesus gives his reasoning for such a bold prayer: “that the world may believe that you did send me.”
Aha. If we look at this prayer simply, Jesus is asking for a basic, “If God grants X, the result will be Y.” The X is unity, the Y is that belief in God, and in his son, will flourish. Again, quite simple.
Jesus no doubt knew division would be a temptation, and he was right. In the early days of the apostles, we see Paul calling out Peter (Gal. 2:11) for distancing himself from Gentile Christians. Division, right? And in Acts 15, we see Jewish Christians telling the Gentiles to obey the Mosaic Law (Acts 15). More division.
One more example, one which pertains directly to us comes again from Paul, in Phil. 4:2-3. Here, Paul encourages both Euodia and Syntyche—two women who Paul says, “shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel”—to live in harmony. Apparently, two good people had become divided.
And this is the point. Good people—even in our work—can at times lose a bit of focus, leading to division. Often, this is because these people are driven to change things, to make the world better. They might have strong opinions, which is hardly a negative characteristic. Attempting to do good, they charge forward—sometimes not realizing they’ve failed to bring others along by taking the time to explain their thinking or listen to other thoughts and opinions.
I wonder if this is what happened to Euodia and Syntyche. And they weren’t the only two. Remember our friend Paul? He split from Barnabas over a disagreement about Mark’s ability to serve (Acts 15:36-39). Thankfully, we never see the two share sharp words publicly, and later (II Tim. 4:11), we see Paul asking for Mark, the very man he once thought would slow his work.
Jesus saw unity as vital, because he understood that it would be our unity—our “stick togetherness”—which would capture the world’s attention.
Yes, there are times when we must separate ourselves from toxic situations and people. Our friend Paul dealt with this, telling Timothy (I Tim. 1:18-19) that two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, shipwrecked their own faith to the point that Paul disconnected from both.
But before we divide, let’s ask ourselves, “Is this situation as important as the gospel itself?” If it isn’t, let’s talk through the issue and find unity. While we have differing denominations and beliefs on many issues, this does not mean we can’t remain united.
Because when we are united, belief in Jesus will flourish. Jesus prayed for us, that this will happen. Let’s stay united, and answer his prayer.
“. . . but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.” Acts 9:6
When we think of the word, “repentance,” we often think of confessing sins, feelings of guilt (perhaps shame?), and determining never to do that—whatever the “that” might be—again. This isn’t wrong of course. It’s important that we “confess our sins to one another,” and that we understand doing wrong is not good for us or anyone else.
But . . . can we also consider the possibility that when it comes to repentance, we can sometimes dwell too much on the guilt, the feelings of remorse, the frustrations with how we fell short of expectations?
I put before us Exhibit A, a man named Saul. He would soon become Paul, the greatest writer of the New Testament. He will also declare to us (in a letter he penned to Timothy) that he is the “foremost” or “chief” of all sinners.
On a road to Damascus (on his way to persecute more Christians, by the way), our friend Saul was felled to the ground and blinded by a bright light, courtesy of one Jesus, the Christ. Smart guy that he was, Saul referred to the person who blinded him as “Lord.” Good call, Saul.
Saul asked this Lord, “Who are you?”
The answer? “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Oh. If you’re Saul, this is not good news to hear.
So, what kind of “repentance” did Jesus ask for? Was it sackcloth and ashes? A prayer of repentance? An acknowledgement of sins? How about a simple apology, as in, “Gosh, I’m persecuting the wrong people here! I’ve been on the wrong team all along!”
Remember friends, this is the chief of all sinners. As in, Number One. If anyone needs to do some serious, “I am a worm and not a man” repentance, it’s Saul.
But Jesus asks for none of this. Instead Jesus says, “but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told what you must do.”
In other words, Jesus is saying, “You’re on my team now. No time for looking back. Let’s get you started.”
What does Saul do? He is taken to Ananias, who lays hands on Saul and restores his sight. From there, Saul is filled with the spirit of God and is baptized. Just after these events, we see Saul spending time with the disciples and proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God.
The lesson? Saul didn’t let his past hold him back from advancing the good news. His version of repentance was about shifting his thinking from persecuting to going.
The question we must ask ourselves? “Is there something in my past which I believe still needs my attention, something which is holding me back from sharing the hope I’ve found?”
If we think we still must dwell on our past, perhaps it’s time to be more like Saul. Let’s let it go. Let’s listen to Jesus, who tells us “rise and go.”
Acknowledging our past has its place. Saul—when he became Paul—did so more than once. Yet, Paul only pointed out his past with brief glances. Paul’s focus was forward, on the “rise and go” aspect of repentance. It’s a lesson we can always keep in mind, because all of us have places to rise and go. Let’s not waste time gazing on the rear-view mirror. Instead, let’s go.
“Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Luke 10: 8-9
The story of Jesus sending out the 70 recently captured my attention, making me say, “Why not us?”
I can identify with the 70 more easily than with the twelve, for whatever reason. Maybe it is because we gave the twelve special titles. They are “apostles,” after all. I don’t think I qualify.
But the 70? They were hanging around Jesus from just a bit more distance. The 70 probably knew the 12 but when the big stuff happened, they were on the outskirts. But in Luke 10, the 70 take center stage.
Jesus called the 70 together to create His “advance team,” for lack of a better word. Their mission? Go to cities where Jesus was going, proclaiming peace as they entered. Then, with no Jesus around to help, they were to heal the sick and say those words Jesus said so often, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
Wow. What a calling.
Jesus asked these 70 to go into homes and say, “Peace be to this house,” (in other words, simply be kind), to eat anything put in front of them (meet people where they are, regardless of traditions), and as we just mentioned, heal the sick (find the wounded and cure them).
Jesus didn’t ask them to go barreling into someone’s home and declare them sinners, nor did He ask the 70 to begin any interaction with an agenda to “fix” anyone. Their mission was all about the good news--God’s kingdom was so close they could almost touch it.
The only rebuke Jesus called for was if a city rejected the kindness and goodness the 70 offered.
In our work, we often feel an urgency to “help” our clients see the error of their ways. Perhaps, on the rarest of occasions, this may be appropriate. But perhaps we are more like the 70.
When a client or patient comes in our door, what if she found peace in our speech and actions? What if, like the 70, we sought healing for the many emotional wounds she carries?
And what if—like the 70—we found a modern-day version of the phrase, “The kingdom of God has come near to you?”
Sometimes, a hurting client with the odds stacked against her needs to know, “No matter what you see, I promise you, God is on your side. He is for you. Even now, give Him a chance to help. He won’t let you down.”
The 70 came back with stories which amazed even Jesus. Apparently, they did something right—these 70 who weren’t even in the “inner circle.” You know what? Maybe we can do the same. We start with peace, meeting our clients where they are. Then, we add healing and a simple message: The kingdom of God has come near to you.
It might just work, even today.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement SpecialistHeartbeat International
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