Let’s Get Physical

Posted: November 19, 2009 in Uncategorized

To Jesus to meet someone’s physical needs is spiritual and to meet someone spiritual need is physical.  They are one in the same.  In Gospel of Mark, chapter two, we read a story of Jesus preaching in a home.  Several men carried brought a paralytic on a mat in hopes that Jesus would heal him.  When they arrived the crowds were so large they could not get close to Jesus.  In their desperation they carried the paralytic to the roof of the home and began digging through the ceiling.  To everyone’s surprise soon a paralyzed man was being lowered through the roof above Jesus’ head.  Everyone must have wondered, “What will Jesus do now?”  Lying before Him was a frail, shriveled form of a man.   Obvious to everyone his most desperate need was to be healed this tragic state.  Obvious to everyone but Jesus.  Jesus’ first words to the paralyzed man were, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  This proclamation created quite a ruckus!  The religious scholars start in on Jesus.  Their doctrine taught them that only God has the right to forgive sin.  “Who does Jesus think He is?” “He is claiming to have the power of God!”  Hear Jesus’ response:

“Why are you thinking these things?  Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”  He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.   This amazed everyone and they praised God, say, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Jesus used the healing of the paralytic to prove His spiritual authority.  When Jesus healed the paralytic He proved to everyone that He was God.   By meeting the paralytic’s physical need Jesus amazed everyone and lead them to praise God.  Could it be that we are to operate in the same way that Jesus did?  Time and time again Jesus linked meeting physical needs in order to convey spiritual realities.   Here is the game plan, as we lovingly meet the needs of those around us, we establish the moral authority to share the message.  The message with out loving action is nothing.  It is a clanging gong or crashing symbol. The action with out the message is vague and unclear.  It is a good thing, but it is not complete.   In Christendom, we believers have exasperated tremendous amounts of energy debating what should be our priority: outreach and evangelism or social and humanitarian aid.  All the while I think we have missed the point, they are synonymous!  They are one in the same.  Jesus did not seem to divide the two.  The Bible commands both.   Love requires both.  To love is to meet needs.  Physical, emotional, spiritual, social they are all needs.  Love calls us to recognize the most pressing need and as we work to meet it, God conveys His lavish love through us.

Of course we are all in a continuum caught between who we are and who we need to be.

For some of us it is time to step up, look to meet the physical or emotional needs around us and let go a little of the sermonating.  Put some action in your words, it will soften the hearts of those who hear you.  For some of us,  it is time to step up and share the story of Christ boldly with those whom you have been sacrificially serving.  There is a reason you do this, share the reason.  Every once in a while when I am traveling I listen in to the airline stewards’ safety speeches.  I begin imaging what emotions I would experience after the pilot announces that our plane is going in for an emergency landing.   Certainly it would be appropriate for me to be in intimate prayer readying myself to meet my Heavenly Father.  Perhaps I would have the clarity of mind to share a brief Gospel plea with the passenger beside me.  But there is one person on the aircraft that I hope is not focused, eyes closed in prayer.  I certainly hope the pilot is intensely focused on bringing this plane in safely.   Surely flying with all his skill and training is his highest priority in this moment.   I maybe focused on saving a soul but I hope the pilot is focused on saving my “kiester!”  Which one is the more loving response?  Neither!  Given the particulars of the situation and scope of our influence we are both doing what we can.  It is our job to determine which needs are the most important ones we can meet.

There is certainly a priority of needs.  Some needs are urgent and vital!  Some needs must be met before someone can consider their spiritual condition.  For example, if you were trapped in an air-tight room with a rapidly decreasing supply of oxygen would you care to read these words on this page?  It probably would not be that important to you.  What if you were in a dry, sandy dessert with the sun pouring it’s heat on your skin, would you be concerned about the scores of last night’s ball game?  If your family had not eaten for a week and you were not sure where you could find another meal would you be worried about your vacation plans?  There is certainly a priority of needs!  Certain things are just more important than others.  Air, water and food are at the top of the list.  Everything else falls somewhere behind in importance.   The truth is certain needs must be met before we can think about other priorities.   A famous psychological philosopher Abraham Maslow proposed what he called the “Hierarchy of Human Needs.”  Through the years many people have debated the exact prioritization of these needs but most scholars agree that concept is sound.  As a point of reference let’s use his theory.

Maslow theorized that as someone’s needs on a particular level are met they can then concern themselves with their needs at the next level.  First, on the ground level, we all have physiological needs.  These are the basic requirements we have to live: breathing, food, water, excretion, sleep and etc.  A human being will not survive long with out meeting these essential needs.  Second, we have needs for safety.  When your physical needs are relatively satisfied one becomes concerned with their personal safety.   On this level one is concerned about protection and justice.    Maslow’s third level of needs are social.  These needs are relational, for example; friendship, intimacy, and longing for a sense of belonging.    The fourth level is for personal esteem.  Humans have the need to be respected, have a sense of personal accomplishment and be recognized.  This also includes personal self esteem, how we view ourselves.  The fifth level is called self-actualization.  At this level are the needs of creativity, morality and personal fulfillment.  This is the level where one is able to explore their gifts, talents and reach their full potentials.

With this prioritization of needs in mind, how does it influence the ways in which we love each other as Jesus has commanded?  Remember, to love is to meet someone’s needs.  It takes understanding.  It is vital to understand what are the needs that we can work to meet?  Everyone has needs at some level and though we might not ever be able to completely fulfill all of those needs completely, when we work to meet someone at their point of need we communicate through our actions that we love that person.  Love is meeting needs.   A loving approach is to take the time to see someone’s true needs and do what you can to help them meet their needs.  Following Maslow’s prioritization that most of us living in the “first world” have the luxury to be concerned with levels 3-5.  We are free to think about issues of relationship, self esteem and are afforded the opportunity to pursue creative, fulfilling endeavors.  Our fellow world citizens though are not so fortunate, daily they are concerned with acquiring the basic essentials for survival.  The majority of their time is spent on finding food, transporting water, securing shelter, and in fear of eminent danger.  In the midst of such pursuits finding time to reflect on the existential questions of human existence are surely secondary to the vital needs of life.  When you are struggling to live from one day to the next a message of the love of Jesus is better communicated through providing a source purified drinking water than eloquent sermons.   Reflect on this passage:

James 2:14-16 “What good is it my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has not deeds?  Can such a faith save him?  Suppose a brother of sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed.’  But does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”

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