Large crowds followed Jesus when
He came down from the mountain.
And as Jesus was going along, a leper
approached Him and knelt down before
Leper: Lord, if You wish to, please heal me
and make me clean!
Jesus (stretching out His hand): Of course I
wish to. Be clean.
Immediately the man was healed.
Matthew 8:1-3, The Voice
He touched him.
Jesus touched him.
The person no one would touch. And with good reason. There have been many reasons some have chosen to view others as untouchable. Not too many years ago, white people were taught to not touch black people—or even things they had touched. Today, many still feel touching an immigrant, or someone from a different religion, or a homeless person is too difficult. Just a few months ago, many in the country collectively lost their minds and did not want to touch anybody because 3 people in a nation of over 300 million were suffering with Ebola.
But those are all crappy reasons to not touch someone.
Jesus had a good reason. Leprosy could be contagious. Leprosy made you an outcast. Leprosy was a visible sign that separated you from the rest of the community.
And Jesus touched him.
With all of His power, with all of the ways He could have healed, Jesus touched him.
Pope Francis gets this. One of the greatest pictures I have ever seen is Pope Francis kissing a person with leprosy.
There is also the image of him washing and kissing the feet of Muslims.
We have created so many categories of people we won’t touch. Those with certain health issues. Those from different economic classes. Those with different sexual orientations or gender assignments. People from different ethnicities. Those who attend church in different locations; or not at all. People who disagree with us.
We keep adding and adding to the list of untouchables. And we don’t just avoid touching—we avoid any sign of support or encouragement.
Because we fear that to speak up for someone who is untouchable is going to lead our privileged, comfortable friends to lump us into the same categories.
What does this look like? It’s when we stay silent while our friends are insulting others. It’s when we laugh at the joke demeaning another because we don’t want to stand out from the crowd. It’s when we don’t share certain things in our social media feeds because we are afraid of what our family and friends might think. It’s when we look for churches made up of people who look, dress, and worship exactly like we do.
Treating people like they are untouchable does not look like leper colonies being built outside of the city walls.
Treating people like they are untouchable looks like building up barriers in our lives that keep those who are different out and those who we view as comfortable in.
So break down the barriers.
Are there Muslims in your community? Meet them. Talk with them. Invite them into your home and share a meal with them.
Are there homeless people in your community? Pick them up in your car and take them out to eat. Don’t just deliver food and drop it off, but spend time with them. Talk to them. Find out what they need and see if you can partner with them in finding the necessary resources.
Are there churches that are multi-ethnic in your community? If so, visit them. If not, make yours that way. Seek people from different backgrounds and invite them to worship with you.
Are there places in your community that the respectable people dare not go? Then by all means—go there.
Breaking down the barriers and touching the untouchable has to be intentional. It cannot happen by mistake.
Reach out your hand.
Touch the untouchable.