Today’s post is from my new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). Last Saturday we posted Chapter 12: Love Like Jesus–Go Deep Like Jesus. Love Like Jesus is due to be published later this year.
Love Like Jesus: Love The Lost Cause
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids — blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Daniel’s Decline And Nate’s Devotion
My son Nate has a heart for those people who others have dismissed as a lost cause. Today he told me about a disabled man he cared for in an adult foster home. The disabled man’s name is Daniel. Daniel is angry all the time, and he can’t speak or do much of anything to take care of himself. After working there for awhile, Nate was surprised to learn, up until five years previous, Daniel was happy, and could speak and communicate very well. But over time the level of engagement with Daniel gradually declined, and so his communication skills and function declined also, until he became the sad figure he is today. Nate felt like the caregivers saw Daniel’s disability and wrote him off as someone not worth engaging. But Jesus didn’t see people that way. Even those who were disabled.
How Jesus Loved People
Jesus loved the disabled man lying at the pool of Bethesda, even though anyone else would consider him a lost cause.
In some ancient manuscripts, an explanation of the system in place here at the pool of Bethesda is given. The way the system worked, the disabled people would get up and enter the pool whenever they saw the water move, or swirl, or bubble. Tradition said the first one in the pool after the waters moved would be healed.
In our culture, we also have a system. Like the system at the pool of Bethesda, our system is also a system of competition. Just as it was at the pool of Bethesda, in our system, the rewards go to the person who is first. My own tendency, probably because of my own competitive nature, is to help those who help themselves. My tendency is to help those who, in my estimation, have a shot at making it into the pool first, so to speak.
But that’s not Christ’s way. Jesus loves the lost cause.
How To Love Like Jesus
There’s a great movie that illustrates the way Jesus loved people others would call a lost cause. It’s called Temple Grandin — it’s the true story of an autistic girl of the same name. Temple didn’t speak until she was almost four years old. She was diagnosed with autism, and the specialists who examined her wrote her off. They recommended her mother place Temple in an institution. But her mother didn’t listen to the doctors. She kept her at home and taught Temple with amazing perseverance and tenacity.
Incredibly, Temple eventually earned her Ph.D., and at the time of this writing, she’s a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University.
Temple Grandin’s mother had no education, no training, not anything to help her with her daughter. The only thing she had was her love for Temple. And that love was so strong, she single-handedly revolutionized the approach to treating children with autism and Aspergers.
Jesus chose to help a man who had lived with a disability for thirty-eight years, that’s a long time without change or improvement. Jesus chose to help a man who had no one else to help him. Jesus chose to help a man who was at the back of the pack, who was helpless to win the competition to be the first into the water to be healed.
Jesus loved a lost cause.
Oh, how I’ve blown it with the lost causes in my life. When I see someone who, in my estimation, is a lost cause, I can only think of one word to describe my attitude toward that person, and the word is not love.
The word is dismissive.
I dismiss those who I determine to be beyond help. I dismiss the man in my neighborhood traveling the streets in his motorized wheelchair. I dismiss the disabled woman who collects bottles and cans around town for the deposit money. God have mercy on me,
I dismiss them.
But Christ does not.
And, there have been times in my life when I have been dismissed as a lost cause. But Jesus did not dismiss me.
The man in our story lived with a disability for thirty-eight years. Yet he was the one chosen by Jesus.
You and I may not have the power to command someone with a disability to pick up his mat and walk. But there’s nothing stopping us from loving that person. Just taking the time to engage a disabled person with whatever help we can offer, even if it’s just an accepting and loving conversation, can make a big difference in his or her life. Just offering a ride to church to anyone in the lost cause category could be a big deal.
Jesus loved lost causes.
You and I must love lost causes too.
- Temple Grandin, IMDb.com, 2010
Image of caregiver via 808MAGIC – Creative Commons