Unrecognized Disease

When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Matthew 9:12-13

Right now, the world is in a panic over COVID-19 (the Corona Virus). We’ve heard about the death tolls in Asian countries and the total quarantine of one country in Europe. Many people in the United States respond with either a fear of what will happen as we begin to see cases in our country or a smug response that it will never be that bad here because we are better than that.

The second response reminds me of how the religious teachers responded to many of the people like Matthew that Jesus spent time with and ate with. They had a hard time understanding why someone who many people thought was the Messiah or a prophet would waste His time with such a religiously lower class of people. The people Jesus hung out with were the people that the religious ones learned to avoid so that they would not be infected by the disease of their sin. Eating a meal with someone in their culture was a sign of affirmation. Obviously, the Messiah wouldn’t affirm people given over to such corruption, right?

What Jesus was affirming, though, was not the corruption (a.k.a. sin) of Matthew and his associates. Jesus was affirming the image of God in each of them as He sought to bring that out and remove the corrupted behaviors. This is what the Pharisees had difficulty seeing. They were so focused on their own righteousness, that they failed to see the image of God in others. Ironically, this may have covered over a more dangerous condition in their own hearts, the opinion that they were not in need of someone to heal them. In Jesus’ statement at the end of this discussion, He isn’t saying “don’t worry, you’re already righteous and these ‘sinners’ need me more” as much as He is saying to the Pharisees that they act as if they don’t need His help. Therefore, He is focusing on the people who realize they need Him and leaving the ones who think they have it all figured out to their own outcomes.

We face the same choice in our own lives. Will we see ourselves as totally righteous through our own merit and in need of no help from God? Or will we recognize our own vulnerability to the same corruption we point out in others and come to Jesus to heal our hearts? Also, as we seek to fulfill the mission of God in our world, will we affirm the image of God in others and spend enough time with them to help them realize the image of God in themselves?

Jesus, thank you that you came for those of us who know we need You. Help us to never become so self-confident that we see ourselves without need. Help us to also recognize the image of God in others around us, as well.

(A poem inspired by this passage)
A More Deadly Disease
Have you no time for me?
Not that I need you
I know all I need to do
to keep me safe from disease

Have you no time for me?
Not that I need you
But I’m offended by the time
You give the least of these

Have you no time for me?
Not that I need you
Still, I wonder if a more
deadly disease has entered me

Published by llongard

I grew up in northeast Wisconsin. After high school, I moved to Minneapolis, MN to attend North Central University and graduated 1992 with a degree in Biblical Studies and Humanities. I spent most of the next fifteen years in the Twin Cities area until my family and I moved to Indiana in 2007. For most of the first seventeen years after college, I was involved in university ministry either as a volunteer, bi-vocational, or full-time campus minister. Through those years, I also worked in the main street marketplace as a retail manager/trainer and as a service representative in the insurance industry. I've also worked in various education roles. Most recently, I have been working on various projects addressing homelessness in Indianapolis and as team lead for Diakonos Community, a Communitas International missional initiative. Through this ministry, we seek to build missional communities in Indianapolis that serve and bring the life of Christ to those on the margins of society. Our strategy is to collaborate with community agencies that serve those in need and share Christ through meaningful relationships. I am blessed with a wonderful wife, three amazing daughters, and two cats (can't forget the cats, LOL). As a family, we enjoy camping, hiking, gardening, and going to the YMCA together. I also enjoy fishing, riding bicycle, and being involved in whatever my daughters are doing. Though I have not lived in the Green Bay area for over 20 years, I am still a major Packer fan.

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