When I encounter individuals caught in the haze of spiritual disorientation, they are overwhelmed by unsolicited advice and demands. This typically lures them into withdrawal creating further spiritual confusion. Some are so delicate that any perceived pressure will destroy relational trust with them.
I have spent the last seven years attempting to understand how Jesus engages such persons. What I have found is a Savior who reaches out (very) carefully, creatively and compassionately. He proves that he is safe against the backdrop of many perceived (and real) dangers.
To a son who demanded inheritance from his living father, Jesus (in the role of his father) gave the boy-man his request and watched his child abandon him. In the culture of his day, this son could be stoned for such disrespect. Jesus instead protects him and then patiently waits for his return.
There was another young man who desired to please God, but he too loved money more. The scriptures say that Jesus looked at him; gently smiled; and felt deep love for him. The young man walked away sad, but he could not walk away feeling condemned.
The Pharisees were all too willing to condemn. They brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery with rocks-in-hand. Jesus paused. Bent down. Drew in the sand. Soon, the Pharisees walked off. By protecting this woman from judgment (and death!), she could hear Jesus: “Leave your life of sin.”
Jesus crosses forbidden lands to receive water from another woman. He breaks cultural and ethnic taboos in doing so. She is shocked. Before it is over, however, this woman (also an adulterer) encounters a man who truly honors her. She is not offended when Jesus tells her all about her sin.
Two men. Two women. Two age-old sins: sex and money. Jesus forsakes coercion and condemnation in favor of eye contact, listening, protection and unconditional love. By nourishing acceptance, He opens their hearts to being rescued – and recognizing their need of a Savior.
Jesus’ never untangles a lost sheep from barbed wire until the sheep senses that He came to save, rather than inflict further harm. He is always (very) careful, creative and compassionate. There are no guarantees – not all of these individuals came to Christ that we know for sure. But three did…
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