“When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And they came bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men.” ~Mark 2:1-3 (NASB)
“There are two things you cannot do alone: marry, and be a Christian.” ~Paul Tournier
I’ve got let you in on a secret. When I was younger and in school I hated going shopping for clothes. Now you might say, “Well, that’s because you are a guy.” And I might agree with you on that if it were not for the fact that the reason went far deeper. When I was growing up my folks, like many of yours, didn’t have a lot of money. When we went shopping I couldn’t look at the nicer clothes or even the 20% off rack. No we went straight to the “Clearance” rack.
Some of you may not be familiar with the profundity of the “Clearance” rack. The first thing that goes through one’s mind is “man I’m going to get a deal.” But typically what you find on a clearance rack, especially the ones marked down severely, is a hodgepodge of out of style clothes and a variety of items with “As-Is” tags on. If your growing up experience was anything like mine, you grew up with a lot of “As-Is” items.
You know, one of the things that I’ve discovered about people is that we all have “As-Is” tags on. Oh, most of us don’t have them on our clothing anymore (well, I still have a few)…but what I’m talking about are our “less than desirable” qualities and characteristics that we try and hide from others. Some people have anger problems. Others struggle with addictions. Still others deal with fear in a variety of circumstances.
All of these and more generally keep us from opening our true selves up to others and so we attempt to hide our “tags” as it were so that everyone thinks we’re normal. We think that if we can convince others that we’re just like everyone else then everyone else will like us and want to engage us in community. What “hiding behind a mask” actually does is disables us from allowing others to truly know us and love us for who we are.
When I look at the story of the paralytic and his four friends I see a picture of true community. The paralytic did absolutely nothing to deserve such radical commitment and relationship from what is shared with us in the Bible. Maybe it was because his “As-Is” tag was so obvious that it freed his companions to share the natural love and compassion that flows from real relationships. The paralytic was who he was and there was no hiding it. It makes me wonder if it gave his friends the ability to be real with who they were with him. I kinda think so. Most people who only have “surface level” relationships with others don’t make a habit of crashing through the roof of someone’s house to see Jesus.
This all gives me pause to consider how I can foster this kind of community. What is it that I can do to encourage others to show their “As-Is” tags to me and let them know that I love them anyway? Each individual will require a unique strategy, but perhaps there is one universal method that we can all employ:
Carry them to Jesus.
When we carry others to Jesus in prayer we enact upon them one of the greatest demonstrations of love possible. We know that prayer is the answer, but how often do we really move beyond the “knowing” to the “doing.” It is prayer that will give us insights into how we can demonstrate God’s unconditional love in a person’s life. It is prayer that will be the key to unlocking a deeper and more intimate “knowing” between those living in community. It is prayer that will bring down the masks and bring about the emotional and spiritual healing that we all so desperately need.
Can you imagine what life would look like if we as Christ-followers were truly demonstrating this level of intimacy? Can you imagine what life could resemble if we provided a loving and accepting environment in which everyone could put down their masks and reveal their “As-Is” tags? Lives would be changed forever. We’d all experience the kind of relationships and community we were designed for. We’d step onto holy ground as we entered into a divine “knowing and being known” and practiced a “self-giving and other-receiving love.”
We’d have as-is tags everywhere, but we’d also find that instead of devaluing the person who had them, it in all actuality made them priceless. Let’s follow the example of those four friends who “carried” their friend to Jesus. The paralytic’s life was never the same and I just have to believe so was his friends.
Grace and peace-