Heart of the Matter – Part 2
Last week I began the series, “Heart of the Matter”, tackling the sensitive issue of dealing with a family member or friend who struggles with mental illness. Sometimes in life God calls us to carry a weight we think is too heavy, but the fact is, God is calling us to do the difficult thing and it isn’t always popular. Creating awareness is crucial if we are to help and encourage people who live and deal with mental illness on a daily basis.
It would be great to think we never have to deal with heart breaking issues, but that’s not realistic. How do I know that? The scriptures are full of illustrations from the lives of believers who were just like us who were called to do tough things. Jesus and his disciples are great examples of those who dealt with people who had challenging physical, emotional and spiritual issues. These were people who were blind, lame, had leprosy and were demon possessed.
Why as Christ followers do we think our responsibility to help people God has placed in our lives, ends because of an illness we don’t understand? The disciples were ordinary people like you and I who were not professionally trained to deal with or heal these issues. They used their faith and believed in what Jesus asked them to do even if it didn’t make sense to them, because Jesus taught them that to love others was to love Him.
There were churches who would not allow my brother to attend because they said he was disruptive. Yes, he would yell out on occasion for Jesus to help him. He would cry and rebuke the voice which was tormenting him. He would sing above the rest because he was drowning out the voices, but the songs he sang were ones he wrote for Jesus. He clung to his Bible and knew more scripture than some preachers I knew. Even in his darkest hours, we were shown glimpses of God holding onto him.
Why do people in the church feel they are entitled to be comfortable? When was Jesus ever comfortable in ministry? Isn’t the church supposed to be the place where you can come as you are and be accepted as you are? The church isn’t a country club, but a hospital for the sick, hurting and lonely. I’ve been to some charismatic churches which were far livelier than my brother ever was. I wish I could say churches don’t know what to do, but I can’t because if a church believes the Bible, they hold the answers in their hands.
The next time someone comes to your church that may seem different than everyone else, embrace them with the love of Christ. Don’t turn your back on them or refuse to make eye contact. Just say “Hello” and welcome them in. Treat them with the same love Jesus would. Get to know their heart. The church exists because there are broken people who need hope and a Savior.
Would you think of abandoning a person with cancer or another physical ailment? If a handicapped person entered your church doors, would you tell them you couldn’t accommodate them? How would you feel if it were you or your family that was turned away when they needed love the most because people knew your “story”? Did you ever think maybe Jesus already knew your story and this is why God brought them to your church? Maybe God needed to disrupt your comfort and remind you of the time you first received unconditional love and grace. Maybe He wanted to give you a reminder of why the church exists.
Anyone can claim ignorance in dealing with this issue, but the fact remains each of us have a responsibility to love everyone….even those who are different from us. Jesus loved those to whom no one else would give the time of day. He touched them with love, compassion and empathy no matter what their story was.
I am thankful for the churches who do understand the role Jesus has asked them to fulfill. In a community where acceptance and love are shown and everyone feels welcomed and valued, the true message of God’s love prevails.
When God’s love and acceptance triumph, it can turn lives around to bring God honor in glorious ways. God knew one day that young man would be a worship leader in a church and continue to write, sing and serve Him in amazing ways.