Kristin and I have been having a conversation largely about how Jesus interacted with people. We’ve both found it beautiful and sobering how much Jesus paid attention to people’s immediate needs. He healed people and fed them, even just acknowledged them when their expectation was to be ignored at best, shunned at worst. Jesus touched people who needed to be touched, and mourned with those mourning even when he knew what would happen next.
Certainly we know that the state of one’s soul is important, and certainly we can assume that no one could have known that better than Jesus, and yet, he so often took time out of preaching his vital message to address the immediate and physical needs of those around him.
While thinking about this I’ve started to wonder: have we underestimated the power of caring?
After my Mom passed a friend suggested I read Philip Yancy’s, Where Is God When It Hurts. One of the things he spoke at length about where the lengths to which there have been studies done to help people with leprosy acknowledge pain. It was discovered that leprosy was a nerve disease that caused people not to feel pain, and thus things as simple as shoes that were too tight resulted in the loss of a foot because where you or I would treat the blisters and wear different shoes, people with leprosy do neither and wounds become infectious and very serious in the end. I’m trying to solve this problem a system was created where leprosy patience were able to wear a device that lit up to alert them of actions that were harmful to them so they could adjust their behavior, sounds like a simple solution, right? And yet it was hugely unsuccessful, why? Because knowing they were hurting themselves was not enough to change their behavior, without the presence of pain or discomfort they were not motivated to do anything differently.
You may be wondering how this connects, and so I’ll explain. Through this example we see the importance of pain. For these leprosy patience adjusting their behavior in many cases would be life saving, but even to save their lives, mere knowledge of dangerous actions was not enough to change them, they needed discomfort or pain because discomfort and pain cannot be ignored. Pain takes center stage. When reaching out to people who are in physical or emotional discomfort or pain, how can we expect them to believe that we care for their spiritual well being if we show little to no regard for their present needs?
I think this is something Jesus understood and because he wanted them to know he cared about them and knew that when they knew he cared they would be receptive to his message for the benefit of their souls, it was important to him to address people’s discomfort or pain.
In following Christ’s example, I think this should be something that is more important to us.