*Warning – squeamish readers may find some parts of this a little off-putting!*
I recently had an abscess. It came from nowhere and grew quite quickly and quite aggressively. As I’ve previously written, I’m arguably not the smartest when it comes to all-things-medical, so when the pain of sitting on it was no longer bearable, I decided to take matters into my own hands and do a little exploration with my Swiss Army knife. I only managed to get a little bit of the pressure relieved, though, and the problem remained.
The next night, however, the abscess burst. Quite unexpectedly, this small, hot boil gave up a large portion of its contents. Blood, puss, gunk and blobs of black ‘stuff’ to boot all oozing out at quite a rate. It was a little bit grim, but overwhelmingly satisfying. (If you want to watch a slightly gross but very enthralling video of an abscess being drained click here but be warned...!)
When the majority of the bleeding had stoped, I was left with a bit of a dilemma. I was under pain of death not to get a blood/puss combination either on the settee or the bedding but I was still leaking! It was clear that I’d need a dressing. Since childhood I’ve always loved having cause to have a bandage on (actually, I used to just wear them for the sake of it, to be honest). My problem though, was that the abscess was rather inconveniently located and whilst I could reach to mop up its deposit, I couldn’t really see it. Cometh the hour, cometh the woman. My long-suffering wife, LV, either offered or was conscripted to help me out in applying the dressing.
Bless her, I had to lie in a certain position, with my legs in certain positions, and she had to deal with a slightly leaking wound. She’s not overly squeamish, but this was definitely past her comfort zone, and she couldn’t find the marriage contract to see whether such activity was contained in the small print. Yet, personal comfort and preference aside, she dealt with my weeping wound and applied the dressing. Why? Because she didn’t want blood on the new settee. Actually no (well yes, but not primarily that). She did it because she loves me. Her love pushed through its own ease and comfort to meet me in my place of need.
Okay, it’s a slightly dramatic way of phrasing things, but it’s true. She could have just issued an instruction not to get blood anywhere and leave me to fend for myself. Or she could have said ‘you know I love you, I hope you get it sorted out’. Or she could, as she did, demonstrate her love in the way she responded to the situation.
It’s funny how your mind works, isn’t it, because as she was applying the dressing and making it secure, I was thinking about writing about it! In the moment she was doing what she was doing, I was seeing another layer of how things should be. I was beginning to visualise what it would be like if we – a community of believers – adopted a similar outlook towards the world around us. If we didn’t merely wish people well in sorting the muck and gunk of life, but moved towards them with love and compassion. If we put into action our articulation of love, even when it’s costly and inconvenient.
I hope this doesn’t come as news to you, but there’s a world ‘out there’ (by which I mean just outside your front door) that is oozing with the muck and pain of life. There’s a world that’s ravaged by its own brokenness, and in it, people are hurting. The world doesn’t need a dressing like I did, it needs a cure, and I’ve got news for you (you can decide whether it’s good or bad news…) – we have the answer. The answer is the Gospel – the Good News of the Hope of Jesus. How could that be bad news? Simply because going and sharing that cure will be costly. It involves moving towards people in the mess of their shame. It involves meeting people in the place of their brokenness through unwise choices. It entails leaving the comfort and convenience of self-preference and selective responses and being ready to run towards any and all that we encounter who are in need.
The need for some is both acutely felt and plain to see. For others it’s scarce even recognised by them, but is no less real. Are you ready to be part of the solution to the world’s most profound need?
It’s scary to think that God – in His wisdom – chose to entrust a message as vital as the message of Hope, the Gospel, to a bunch of people like us. But he did. Not so we could stroke it, coddle it and talk about in cosy gatherings, but so we partner with Him in His great rescue plan. The Gospel mission is one of proclamation; it’s to preach – to tell – the Good News of Jesus. But sometimes, the telling comes as we’re dressing wounds, as we’re cleaning up puss and and as we’re ministering to people in their own gunk (metaphorically, and literally). No doubt you’ll have comfort zones and personal limits; I certainly do. But I also routinely find the Gospel compelling me beyond my own boundaries of convenience and comfort to show love and compassion to those in need, in order that love is not merely in word, but in deed and in action.
A simple question to close: Why should we bother? Well, because that’s what God did for us in sending Jesus. It wasn’t that we were neat and tidy, desirable to God because of our goodness or personal merit. It wasn’t that God thought He was getting a bargain when He chose to rescue us, or that He liked what He saw of our obedience or faith. No, it was whilst we were full of muck – sin, the Bible calls it – and without a single thing that would commend us to Him that God took every step to rescue us. He didn’t throw us a ladder down into the pit we were in and expect us to climb out (we couldn’t, the Bible describes our state as dead (see here). Instead, he threw the ladder, climbed down into the mess and carried us out. It was precisely whilst we were God’s enemies, opposed to everything He stood for, and cover head to toe in muck we couldn’t get clean from, that He moved towards us. Oh, it would have been so much easier and less costly for Him to have wished us well in our efforts of self-rescue and left us to it, but He didn’t, he bore the cost and the pain. He din’t love merely in word or thought, but in self-sacrificing action. Love does. And so we do; we put love into action, because we’ve been pursued by and rescued by the greatest Love of all. We love because we were loved first and unconditionally.
If you have never received this free gift of unimaginably great love, we’d love for you to contact us and let us share some more with you. If you have received it, then go and show it in your moving towards others in compassion and tender mercy.