Sometimes it is difficult to separate fact from legend. I read a story today that demonstrates that. The story goes that a monk was sitting in contemplation. With his hands held open in prayer he did not notice that a bird had come and laid her eggs in his hands and was sitting on them to keep them warm. The story continues that he stayed in that place until the eggs were hatched. Where did a real historical happening begin and end and legend or myth take over? I don’t know.
I noticed in myself however an instant dismissal of what I read. Why did I do that? Perhaps because I did not want to face up to the truth that is in there somewhere, that interruptions and inconveniences are not always easy to deal with, nor is weakness and fragility…but Compassion finds a way.
As I mused upon that thought, I started thinking about Jesus. He had such compassion upon weakness and fragility. Some of His most amazing miracles and sayings come out of encounters with what onlookers might have considered inconvenient need or weakness, yet He did not seem to see it that way. I am thinking, for example, of the day that the disciples tried to push mothers who brought their children to Jesus to be blessed out of the way. In their thinking, Jesus was far too important to be concerned about such unimportant and lowly things as women and infants. Yet, while His disciples rebuked the mothers, Jesus rebuked his disciples and told them to allow the children to come to Him. They were not to be looked upon as an inconvenience. Far from it! He told His disciples the reason they should not be hindered: “For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
I am thinking too of another incident recorded in the gospels. Jesus is on His way to a house to heal a sick girl, the daughter of a man called Jairus. As Jesus is on the way to the house He is stopped in His journey by the touch of a sick woman. She had spent all she had on doctors and they had not managed to help her. She reaches out in faith to touch the hem of Jesus garment, and temporarily stopped Jesus in his journey towards the girl. But did Jesus see her as an inconvenience? No! He took time to stop, to address her in tender terms, and to publicly commend her for her faith.
Is there someone who was an inconvenience to you today because of weakness, illness, their need for time or attention or care. Can I challenge you with this thought, especially if you are a church leader. Jesus never thought of Himself as too important to give time or care when need cut across His path. Some of what is being taught today in courses on leadership makes me shudder, as does the cost of these courses! Apparently the Kingdom does not belong to the poor any more and leadership is only open to those with a few hundred pounds to spare! Please let’s remember Jesus is actually the model for disciples and for those disciples called to be leaders.
Whether you are a leader or not, here is how you know you are a follower of Christ. Did you stop for anyone today? Did you give someone your time, a listening ear, because of the compassion of Christ in you? I have long ago departed from the type of Christianity that is so intent on programmes that it forgets people, where real people with real needs who need real care and real time to help them know a real God really loves them, are almost seen as getting in the way of more important or exciting things! I am not sure that the times are favourable for the Jesus Way, the Jesus Life, even in the church. Perhaps He has always been the biggest inconvenience to those who claim to be spiritually alive.
So at the risk of being repetitious, I ask a question, pure and simple. Are you a follower of Jesus? Did your day today have anything of the Jesus of Matthew, Mark Luke and John about it? To steal a phrase from Heidi Baker, did you, did I “stop for the one” if an opportunity was ours to do that today. Perhaps I had more important things to do in life and ministry, or more exciting people to meet than to stop and care for that inconvenient need, or that inconvenient person. Did you fear someone’s need today? If you did, it is a pity, for it is where people are poor in whatever way that the Kingdom breaks through. Whose kingdom are we really interested in?
Illness and stepping aside from ministry as I have known it has given me the opportunity to ask how much of what I was doing looked or sounded like the Jesus way? Can I encourage you to stop and take stock in a similar way yourself? I hope the compassion of Christ in you and I longs that the story of the monk and the birds and the eggs was all true.