Once when my husband was on his way to a meeting, he saw a woman loudly screaming at the air as she stood in the middle of the street. Everyone nearby heard about the abuse she and her children had suffered. Perhaps her tongue was loosed by some substance, but regardless, those things were bubbling inside her. She wanted somebody to hear, somebody to understand her, somebody to help.
But, if we are honest with ourselves, we want to ignore people with problems like this woman in the street. We don’t want to hear their stories. We are too busy. We feel too helpless. Their lives are simply too messy.
Yet, the gospel of Jesus calls us to do just that. He calls us into other people’s messes, other people’s stories, because He so graciously stepped into our messes, our stories, and brought us into His Story!
Jesus sees all of us, the parts we want to put on a billboard and the parts we want to throw down a well. Really, we are “naked and exposed” before Him like a kid who lost his swimming trunks going off the diving board. But, we spend a lot of time pretending He can’t see our nakedness through the water. We convince ourselves that we are the gods of our own stories, answering to no one, crafting our own destinies. That is why as the people of God we are called to connect the broken stories of people to the
redemptive, true Story of God. But we can’t do that if we don’t make space to listen first.
Listening to people’s stories allows us to see the broken places in their lives, and while we may not feel equipped to handle those broken places, Jesus is. He is the great High Priest who made the once-and-for-all sacrifice for the salvation of His people. He is the one who sympathizes with our weaknesses. During His time on earth, He was tempted by the same stuff we are tempted by, power and pleasure, rejection and frustration. And, while He really understands where we are all coming from, He never fell into sin like we all do. So, we don’t need to worry about being able to fix people or their problems. We need to point them to Jesus.
We point people to Jesus with the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12-16 compares the Word of God to a sword, but it isn’t a sword that simply shreds a person’s soul. It is a sword that pierces the heart so that new life can take root, and we know that new life comes when a person draws near to Jesus and experiences His grace and mercy. We also know that a person can’t draw near to Jesus without the work of the Spirit. So, as we listen to people’s stories, let’s ask the Spirit to work. Let’s ask Him to reveal the broken places in their lives and to give us the right Word to speak. Let’s ask Him to redeem them and bring them into His Good Story.
While I doubt that COVID-19 is driving people to shout their troubles in the streets, it is pressing on their tender and torn places, and unfortunately, many people don’t have anyone to listen to them, seek to understand them, or offer to help them. And, just because many of us across the country (and perhaps the world) aren’t really supposed to be leaving our houses or standing closer than six feet to someone we do come in contact with, doesn’t mean we can’t pick up the phone and call someone. I bet if we ask, the Spirit will bring at least one person to mind who needs a friend to listen.
How does knowing Jesus as the Great High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses help us engage with other people’s stories without fear?
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