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Friday, August 30, 2013

Guilt By Association

     Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
-Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)


Church leaders give an ultimatum to parents who stand by their homosexual daughter: publicly separate themselves from her, or leave the church.
     A minister is removed from his position because he has worked with a colleague who holds an unorthodox opinion about the nature of hell.
     Leaders of another church refuse to participate in a citywide gathering of churches because they consider a participating church to have "unhealthy" beliefs or practices.
     Believers visiting a church are shunned or mistreated because they are members at a "questionable" congregation.
     All of those events have happened, some more than once, and most to people I know, in situations of which I have first-hand knowledge. All of them have one thing in common, of course: the assumption of guilt by association.
     The theory goes this way: if A is guilty of X, and B associates with A, then B is sympathetic toward A and shares in A's guilt. If not, why wouldn't B publicly repudiate A? I, in my zeal to stand against X, must repudiate both A and B; otherwise, I share in their guilt. It's fairly convoluted and complicated reasoning, but it operates on one basic assumption: guilt by association.
     In some ways, it sounds right. Doesn't the Bible say that we must not associate with sinners? Aren't we told to avoid every appearance of evil?  Don’t those who welcome false teachers share in their work?
     Let me be clear: there are situations in which Christians and churches must disassociate from other Christians or churches. Jesus, though he memorably warned his followers against judging others, specifically outlined a procedure by which members of the community of believers who were involved in sin should be brought to repentance or treated as “a pagan or a tax collector.” Paul told the church at Rome to “keep away” from people who were divisive or taught something that didn’t fit with the gospel they had received. He warned the church at Corinth against tolerating blatant immorality, and insisted that they “hand...over to Satan” the guilty person. He went on to tell them not to associate with someone who claims to be a believer but “is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler.” “Do not even eat with such people,” he finishes. While it should never be done in a spasm of self-righteous anger, and should always be as much about the redemption of the one disciplined as the purity of the church, there are clearly times when churches are called to practice excommunication, or disfellowshipping, or shunning, or discipline, or whatever you’d prefer to call it.
     This is probably something we aren't very good at in our day. It's questionable how effective it is, anyway, since in our world a person who isn't welcome at one church can just go across town to another. But it's clear, I think, that our culture's emphasis on tolerance and diversity as the highest good, and its aversion to anything that looks like judgment, has influenced us here. We often resist the "nuclear option" of church discipline, even in those situations in which it's likely biblically called for.
     I think that resistance is not all bad, though. I believe I’d rather be guilty of not disciplining someone who should have been rather than of acting hastily in breaking a relationship with a brother or sister who, it turns out, was innocent. Delay, in this case, gives opportunity for conversation, prayer, and thought. It gives a church the chance to reflect on whether or not their impulse to discipline might be coming from somewhere other than a place of concern for the well-being and health of the church and the individual. It gives the individual a chance to clarify his or her attitude, position, opinion, or practice. 
     If our relationships with one another are to be characterized by humility, patience, and gentleness, if we’re to bear with each other in love, and if we’re to make every effort to keep the unity created by the Holy Spirit by valuing and maintaining peace, then surely we should only exercise the last resort of church discipline after much prayer, conversation, and weeping.
     Some churches, some Christians, seem prone to doing it way too often, with way too much enthusiasm.
     Here’s the problem with guilt by association: it’s not biblical. When John tells the believers to whom he’s writing not to welcome false teachers, he’s telling them not to allow itinerant teachers who don’t teach that Jesus was a real, corporeal human being to stay in their home. He’s not saying that anyone who understands a particular text or issue differently than I do is to be avoided. There are doctrinal disputes that call for separation: whether Jesus was a human being or whether or not he was actually raised from the dead would be one. Many of the disputes we actually do divide over would not be.
     Believers who are blatantly and unrepentantly immoral, greedy, worshippers of other gods, slanderers, drunkards, or cheats are to be shunned. But that’s not people who wrestle with sin - who struggle against the temptations all human beings deal with and sometimes lose. As for parents trying to figure out how to love children who are living in ways that displease God - well, that’s more a time for the church to pray, encourage, and support than a time to place them in the impossible situation of choosing between their kids and their church. (On a side note, would a church disassociate themselves from parents who still invited their greedy kids over for Sunday dinner? I wonder why not.)
     Here’s the other thing about guilt by association: it was one of the things that the Pharisees had against Jesus. If sometimes religious people in his day misunderstood him and called him “friend of sinners” - well, I can only hope that sometimes I get misunderstood that way, too. 
     I can tell you this - God being my helper, I hope never again, either publicly or privately,  to allow guilt by association to color my opinion of a brother or sister in Christ. It’s too easily co-opted by other interests, too easily corrupted by our own self-righteousness, impatience, embarrassment, or hurt. I hope you’ll join me in repudiating the assumption of guilt by association, and that if the time ever comes you’ll hold your church accountable for it.

     And if you disagree - well, you’re still my sister or brother in Christ. I hope you feel that way about me.

Friday, August 23, 2013

RIP, Me

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
     For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:3-5)


A Kenyan lawyer named Dola Indidis has taken on a death penalty case. He believes the accused was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted, and wants the verdict and sentence overturned. 
     Indidis has gone to great lengths to have the case heard. He took it to the Kenyan High Court in 2007. They refused even to hear it, citing lack of jurisdiction. His plan now is to appeal to the International Court of Justice at the Hague, but his odds aren’t good, legally: the ICJ only hears cases brought by one state against another. But Indidis is adamant that someone needs to re-try this case: according to him, “[the accused’s] selective and malicious prosecution violated his human rights through judicial misconduct, abuse of office, bias, and prejudice.”
     You’d think it would be a no-brainer, but seeing as how the government that brought the case against the accused, and carried out the death sentence, is no longer around, it’s understandable that Indidis is having a tough time finding a court that will claim jurisdiction.
     The Roman Empire hasn’t existed for over 1500 years. And it’s been just under 2000 since Jesus was crucified.
     Indidis may have a difficult time overturning Jesus’ death sentence, but you understand the impulse to try, don’t you? It was unjust and unfair. It was blatantly polticized. It was made possible by corruption at the highest levels of government, and rammed through the machinery of justice by coached witnesses and the liberal application of silver. If there was ever a death sentence that cried out to be overturned, it’s his.
     And yet....
    And yet believers recognize that Jesus’ death, brutal and unjust as it was, was somehow necessary. Jesus death was “for all”. It was “a ransom for many.” It was part of God’s plan that he would be sacrificed, a plan that came from God’s love for the world. Jesus knew that his time to die was coming, he embraced it as the cup he had to drink, and knew that somehow through his death God would bring about the advent of his kingdom.
     Paul and the other New Testament writers spent more time reflecting on the significance of Jesus’ death than Jesus himself did. Paul can say that Jesus redeemed us from the curse of death “by becoming a curse for us”, but can also use Old Testament language in calling Jesus a “sacrifice of atonement.” In Hebrews, Jesus is a high priest offering a sacrifice for us, but he is also the sacrifice. The writers of the New Testament reflect deeply and thoughtfully on the meaning of Jesus’ death, and much of the time the best they can do is compare it to theological categories they were already aware of. They knew that Jesus’ death was important, that it had consequences for and brought blessings to those who put their faith in him and identifed with him. They didn’t know with certainty about the mechanism by which our sins are forgiven and our death overcome by his death and resurrection, but they knew that it was true. And so, guided by the Holy Spirit, they talked about his death in terms of atonement, sacrifice, substitution, and ransom. They connected Old Testament prophecy about a righteous sufferer whose pain would atone for the sins of the nation to Jesus. They talked about Jesus’ death, in short, with vocabulary they learned from God’s history of dealing with his people. 
     But maybe none of the New Testament reflections on Jesus’ death is more succinct or compelling as this one: “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
     That statement reminds us of something we might tend to forget in the theological depths of reflection about the meaning of Jesus’ death: his crucifixion and resurrection are not simply academic subjects to be investigated, or religious dogma to believe. In a sense, how it happened doesn’t really matter. Understand it as atonement, or as substitution, or as a ransom. Subscribe to any number of theories. All those theories and explanations were ever intended to do is to open up the layers of meaning in our central belief as Christians. 
     In the end, we are invited not just to believe in his death and resurrection, but to participate in it. 
     We’re not to watch from the sidelines while he gives himself for us. We’re not to analyze what he did from the safety of laboratories, behind goggles and hazmat suits, insulated from its fallout. We are called to share in his death, to be crucified with him. We’re called to know him thoroughly, even to the point of dying with him, so that we can enjoy the resurrection with him. Jesus himself said that his followers should carry their crosses and be with him where he is. 
     Where in the world did we get the idea that faith in Jesus is a spectator sport? Why did we ever imagine that we could follow Jesus without losing our lives, just like he lost his?
     And why would we ever doubt that he would be sure to share his resurrection with us?
     So, while I appreciate Dola Indidis’ intentions, I think he’d be better served to lose himself in other cases in which the innocent were convicted, the guilty set free, other cases in which “human rights [were violated] through judicial misconduct, abuse of office, bias, and prejudice.”    
     To believe that Jesus died for all, to be baptized into him, is to share in his death as we look forward to sharing in his resurrection. And we share in his death as we live as he did: putting our own tendencies toward sin and selfishness to death, a little at a time, as we serve those around us in love and in the name of Jesus. Who died for us.

     

Friday, August 16, 2013

Treasure

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
-2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Jean Preston, by all accounts, lived exactly the kind of life you might expect an English librarian to live. She never owned a car, and took the bus everywhere she went – which was mostly to work. She lived on frozen dinners and bought all of her clothes from mail-order catlogs. She never married, and lived out her life frugally in a very ordinary red-brick house in a terraced row in Oxford. When she died in 2006, at the age of 77, she left behind a few relatives who wouldn’t have thought that there was anything at all out of the ordinary about “Aunt Jean.”
   They would have been wrong, of course. Jean Preston’s ordinary little house contained some very extraordinary treasures. Art experts and auctioneers have recently completed the cataloging and sale of a cache of the numerous works of art Jean had hoarded in her home literally all her life. The auctions made a total of nearly $8 million dollars – around twenty times the value of the little house in which her collection was stored.
    Among her treasures were two paintings by the fifteenth-century Italian Renaissance master Fra Angelico which turned out to be the long-missing and assumed-lost pieces of an eight-part altar decoration. They were propped behind the bedroom door, and the art experts only noticed them on the way out.
    In the kitchen hung a nineteenth-century watercolor by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In the sitting room, above and electric fireplace, hung a work by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Buried in a wardrobe, presumably because it was too big to fit on Jean’s bookcase, was a rare edition of the works of Chaucer.
    “We often go to fabulous homes to evaluate artworks, but in this case the house was just so modest from the outside, and had very modest decor on the inside too,” said Guy Schwinge of Dukes art auctioneers, which helped with the sale. “It's just rare to stumble across something quite so breathtaking.”
    I like that story, don’t you? I think it’s because there’s something about a treasure hidden in the unlikeliest of places that fires the imagination, that makes you want to knock holes in the walls of your basement or tear up the floorboards of your attic. (Or at least the walls and floorboards of a relative….) The attraction of the story is in the ordinariness of its protagonist. If Jean Preston’s unassuming little house could hide such treasure, well, there could be treasure anywhere. The most ordinary—seeming places could conceal the most priceless of valuables.
    There’s another story of hidden treasure in ordinary places that makes the same point. We call it the gospel.
    There was nothing about the protagonist of that story that seemed out-of-the ordinary either. He was a working-class guy born to a working-class family in a working-class town. If he lived in our time he’d probably wear a shirt with his name on it to work. Maybe he’d bowl on the weekends. He was so ordinary, in fact, that on the rare occasions that he talked about his true nature, his family thought he was crazy. And yet, we believe now that in Jesus, God revealed himself more clearly than he ever has before or since. In him, behind that very ordinary-looking face, hid all the treasures of God’s limitless kingdom, all the might of his unfathomable power, all the depths of his boundless knowledge, and all the stores of his measureless grace. It was, in fact, within the limits of a human body that God made his limitless stores of treasure known to human beings. Jesus showed what faith is by following God’s will up to literally his last breath. And God showed his faithfulness by overcoming human limitations, even death, to open his kingdom and invite us inside.
    But that’s not the end of the story. Not only did God reveal his treasures to us in Jesus: he also gave them to us. He “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ,” as Paul put it. His power, knowledge, and grace, all the treasures of his kingdom, are given in love to everyone who believes in Jesus. We don’t just learn about that treasure – we are made repositories of it, and can in turn make it known to others.
    But Paul also says, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Clay jars, so common in his time that at every Middle East archaeological dig today, shards from broken clay jars are ubiquitous. So common that shards from broken clay jars served as the scratch paper of Paul’s day. Clay jars. Ordinary vessels that contain indescribable wealth. You’re like Jean Preston’s house, whether you know it or not. Someone who doesn’t know you and judges only by what they can see might not give you a second look. But there within you, just like you are right now, God has seen fit to place his treasures. In Jesus and through his Spirit he has filled you with everything that is precious to him.
    Jean’s father, it turns out, was an art collector. Jean inherited what she had from him. It’s the same with you. The treasures of God’s kingdom aren’t something you obtain on your own. It’s only through your Father’s kindness that you have inherited his wealth. And as people see his glory shining out of your ordinary self, they are moved to give the glory to the one to whom it rightfully belongs.
    That’s where you’re not like Jean Preston. By all accounts, she hoarded what she had. Hid it behind the doors and in the wardrobes of her home. Few of those who knew her, apparently, were ever invited to see the treasures she kept for herself. You can choose to do the same with the treasure God has given you, but he didn’t give it to you so that you might keep it hidden. He gave it so that you might share it with others – with people who otherwise might never know about it.
    As you treat those around you with the love, dignity, worth, grace, and mercy that you have received from God, the treasures he has placed within you come into view. Be sure that you live in a way that makes the treasures of the gospel known.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monsters

     “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:43-45)

I'm not a monster.”
     So said Ariel Castro, the Cleveland bus driver who was sentenced this week to life plus 1,000 years after holding three women captive in his house for more than a decade.
     Castro claims he’s mentally ill. He said in his statement that there was “a lot of harmony” in the house where he kept Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and the child he fathered with Berry prisoners. Whatever he may be, he says he’s not a monster.
     The 937 counts to which he pled guilty, including kidnapping, rape, assault and aggravated murder (he forcibly caused an abortion in one of his victims) might suggest otherwise.     
     A line from the first of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Batman Begins, comes to mind. Bruce Wayne is trying to defend the playboy lifestyle he’s living (as cover for his secret identity) to his childhood friend, Rachel Dawes. He says, “Rachel, all this, it's not me. Inside, I am more.”
     To which Rachel replies, “Bruce, deep down you may still be that great kid you used to be, but it's not who you are underneath, it's what you do that defines you.”
     When it suits us best, we’d like to believe the opposite, I think. What man who walks out on his wife and children wouldn’t like to think that he’s a much better person than that abandonment might lead someone to believe? What woman who neglects and abuses her children wouldn’t like to believe that deep inside she’s really a great mom? What boss who bullies his subordinates wouldn’t like to imagine that he’s a great motivator? What church leader who uses his position to manipulate and control those who look to him doesn’t tell himself that his heart is in the right place? We’d like to tell ourselves that it’s what’s inside that matters: that our hearts are pure, even when our actions might be compromised by fear, or stress, or circumstances, or illness. 
     Jesus won’t let us believe it. Not if we take him seriously.
     In one exchange with the religious leaders of his day, Jesus calls into question the validity of their unhealthy, unbalanced obsession with the Jewish food laws. In the course of explaining his position, he cuts the legs out from under any idea that our actions don’t define us, that we can be good people even if we behave monstrously. The religious people of Jesus day are worried about being defiled by what’s outside them: Jesus calls his disciples “dull” for paying attention to such an idea:

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person...”  (Matthew 15:17-20)

     You see? The source of whatever evil may be evident in our lives isn’t something outside us. Our hearts aren’t pristine, no matter how much we’d like to believe that under all the bad stuff we’re pure, and if only circumstances were different everyone would see it. We do evil because there’s evil in our hearts. We lie, we hate, we steal, we lust, we speak ill of others not because the world makes it unavoidable, but because we harbor those sins in our hearts. Sooner or later they come out of us: out of our hands, out of our mouths, out of our actions. When it happens, it’s not a fluke or a bad day. It represents something of who we really are to all who see and hear.
     “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit,” says Jesus in another place. If a tree’s producing bad fruit, you don’t argue with the gardener who calls it bad. “No, that tree is just misunderstood. If only conditions were better. If only circumstances were different. It’s really a good tree.”
     By what standard?
     The same is true of people: “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” If we speak abusively, we’re abusive. If we speak dishonestly, we’re dishonest. If we speak and act in ways that are evil, then evil is what we are. We may hate it. We may have trouble admitting it. But the fact remains.
     The fruit your life bears doesn’t lie.
    That’s not to say that God can’t change hearts: in fact, that’s exactly the business he’s in. It’s not to say that there’s not forgiveness available for even our most monstrous acts. The point is to keep us from kidding ourselves, imagining that we’re good people who just need a little touch-up, a little sanding of the rough spots, a little spackle on the cracks. It’s to keep us from minimizing the sin in our lives. It doesn’t just float on the surface of our lives, like an oily film on otherwise pure water. It bubbles up from deep down, contaminating and polluting. We may tell ourselves and others over and over that we aren’t sinners, that we aren’t evil people, that deep down we’re good and that’s what counts. But nobody’s buying, and we shouldn’t either.
     Nothing but a change of heart can fix what’s wrong in our lives. Not more religion. Not more good deeds. Polishing up the surface doesn’t address the heart problems underneath. All that will suffice is a change of heart, and that only happens when we’re honest with ourselves about who we are and come to Jesus looking to be made right.
     “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us,” Paul wrote in Romans. The Holy Spirit transforms even the worst of hearts. He makes us new from the inside out. How could that be? 
     “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
     We’re monsters, all of us, in one way or another, Grinches all, with hearts too small. And Christ has died to heal us.
     May the love of God transform and enlarge and open our hearts.

     And may we never forget that if we’re not monsters, it’s only because of that love.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Willing

    When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
-Matthew 8:1-4 (NIV)


    He had no reason to hope for a miracle, really. It might have been nothing more than eczema, or ringworm, or any number of skin diseases that today we treat effectively, but what passed for medicine in his time and part of the world had no cure. In all probability, though, the consequences of whatever skin disease he had – tzara’t, they would have called it in Hebrew – were far worse than its actual symptoms. The last word on diagnosis would have belonged to a priest, not a doctor. He would examine the affected skin and render the verdict: tame’. Unclean.
    The Law of Moses was explicit: those who were unclean with leprosy were banished. When Israel wandered in the desert, this meant they were to stay “outside the camp,” on the fringes of society. But urban living didn’t change matters, though perhaps it made them more complicated. Lepers lived outside the city gates, away from anyone except maybe others similarly afflicted. The Law prescribed that they were to adopt a ragged, disheveled appearance and warn off those who might approach them with shouts of “Unclean, unclean.” The Law stopped short of saying that leprosy was God’s judgment upon its victims, but there were enough Bible stories about God visiting the disease on the wicked that certain assumptions were no doubt made, at least much of the time. Besides, being banished meant not being able to participate with the community in the sacrifices and festivals that were the rhythm of Israelite religious life. If a person was not able to observe Passover, or Tabernacles, or the Day of Atonement, how could that person remain in good standing with God as a child of the Covenant?
    How long he had been suffering, Matthew doesn’t tell us: Long enough, maybe, that he had learned to be realistic. People like Jesus didn’t help people like him. Who could blame them? To be near him would be to risk sharing in his uncleanness and in his isolation. To be near him was to risk the loss of social standing and family ties. It was to risk exclusion from the temple rituals and community life. It was to risk losing a wife and children and sentencing them to poverty and dependence. And without shelter, without the protection of the community? It was often enough a death sentence.
    So maybe experience told him that he could expect at best sympathetic looks, and that most likely Jesus and his entourage would run at his approach. But maybe experience had also made him desperate enough to take a step of faith, and that step took him to Jesus’ feet. Instead of staying away from him, he ignores propriety, ignores the Law, and kneels right at Jesus’ feet. And instead of warning him off with shouts of “Unclean!” he cries out to Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean!”
    “If you are willing.” He seems to know, somehow, that with Jesus healing isn’t matter of ability, but desire. He knows somehow that Jesus can restore his relationships with God and with the people he loves. He knows that he can do much more than the priests, who could only examine the lesions and confirm his uncleanness. Jesus can make him clean.
    If only he will.
    And he will.
    Matthew says it so quickly and economically that it’s easy to miss. It’s right there between Jesus saying “Be clean” and telling the man to go show himself to the priests. You have to be paying attention to see it, but it’s important so don’t miss it. The man isn’t made clean the instant Jesus says “Be clean.” There’s something else that Jesus does first, very small but very significant.
    “He reached out his hand and touched the man,” Matthew says.
    And with that touch, a millennium and a half of Jewish religious law is turned on its head. The Law says that to touch an unclean person is to share in his uncleanness. You can’t “catch” being clean, but you can catch being unclean. Jesus’ one action here grabs that belief, shakes it by its lapels, slaps it a couple of times in the face, and leaves it lying bewildered and embarrassed on the ground. “That may have been the way things used to be,” Jesus seems to be saying. “But there’s a new sheriff in town now.” When Jesus touches a person, however “unclean” he or she may be, that person is clean.
    Jesus is able, and more than that, he’s willing.
    No one who has ever come to Jesus – you and I included – has come as anything more than an unclean leper hoping for a miracle. We come on our knees, believing that he can make us clean if only he will, and discover to our surprise and delight that he is absolutely willing. Uncleanness doesn’t scare or shock him, whatever form it may take. It runs from him, retreats from his touch, and leaves us new. Whatever your particular form of uncleanness, whatever it is that stands between you and God and the people you would love if only you knew how, Jesus can make you clean. Even if you’ve spent your whole life running from him, or even if you’ve tested his patience time and again. He can make you clean.
    And, maybe more amazingly, he’s willing. Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, whatever you’ve gotten yourself into, he is willing to make you clean.
    All he asks of us is what he asked of that leper: “Go, show yourself…as a witness to them.” Nothing speaks more eloquently of God’s power than the testimony of a life changed by Jesus. He asks us to display ourselves for the benefit of others who need to be made clean, too, but wonder whether Jesus might be willing. Your own experience might assure someone that he is.
    There are all kinds of reasons why he might have told that leper not to tell others what had happened to him, but I think I’m safe in saying that those reasons probably don’t apply to us. As you show others your changed life, your new status as someone made clean by Jesus, it would be good if you mentioned his name. People need to know, see, that “church people” aren’t clean because we’re good or religious or whatever. They need to know that we’re only clean because of Jesus.
    Because he loves us.
    Because he’s willing.

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