Devotion for the Week...
For years I've been reading the Bible with Aiden and Zachary at night and we've always used the New International Version, which is also what I use when I'm reading for myself. A couple of weeks ago I thought it would be interesting (for them and for me) to read the New Testament in The Message. We're currently reading Matthew.
If you've never tried reading The Message, I highly recommend it. Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible is written in contemporary English, meaning it sounds a lot more like how we normally talk than other translations do. Every now and then, as I'm reading, Aiden or Zach will laugh at how the writing sounds so different even though it is the same message as is in other translations.
When we read the story of a leper who was healed by Jesus, I loved how Peterson rendered what Jesus said to the man. Jesus said, "'Don’t talk about
this all over town. Just quietly present your healed body to the priest,
along with the appropriate expressions of thanks to God. Your cleansed
and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have
done'” (Matthew 8:3,4 MSG).
Think about this for a minute. Here we have a man who was considered 'unclean' because of his disease. He couldn't live with other people, no one would touch him and if he was near others he had to loudly declare himself to be "unclean, unclean" so that they wouldn't accidentally come too close to him. What a wretched, lonely and hopeless existence that must have been. Then, with one touch from Jesus, he is instantly cured. Put yourself in his shoes...what's the first thing you want to do? For me, it's run through the streets yelling, "I'm clean, I'm clean!" And as soon as I reach my family's home I'd stand outside and shout it even louder so all the neighbors would know, and then I'd hug everyone in sight.
But Jesus tells him not to talk about it all over town. I guess that means shouting it through the streets is probably out of the question.
The man is to present himself to the priests, who were charged with formally declaring him healed, which would then allow him to return to living as a normal, clean person. After that, his "cleansed and grateful life" is all that will be needed to show the world what Jesus did for him.
Had the man returned to living as he did while afflicted with leprosy, then it wouldn't have mattered how many people he told about his healing. No one would believe him if he was still living separate from other people and wearing bandages as if his skin were still diseased. The very fact that he could live a normal life was statement enough about his healing.
The interesting thing is, the same is true for us. We can go around talking and talking and talking about how Jesus cleansed us from our sin, but if the way we live looks just like it did before Jesus then no one will really believe us. Why should they care about what we say if we deny our healing with our actions?
Our challenge, then, is to live 'cleansed and grateful lives.' To show by our actions how completely changed we are by what Jesus did for us. There are two parts to this - cleansed and grateful. Let's look at both of them.
Cleansed speaks of the way Jesus changed our lives. Leprosy is a skin disease. Sin is a soul disease. Just as the leper was separated from his family, we were separated from God because of our sin. Now we have been cleansed and we can have a relationship with God. But what if we continue to gossip and judge others and cheat on our taxes and a myriad of other 'little' sins? What would that say to those around us about the soul healing offered by Jesus? If we have been cleansed of sin (and we have!) then we need to live lives that reflect that cleansing.
Grateful speaks of our attitudes about what Jesus has done for us. Grateful and thankful are synonyms, so are we living lives that are full of thanks to Jesus for cleansing us? I'm sure we've all been around people who are constantly wanting more and more things, those who are never satisfied with what they have, no matter how good they have it. We've also been around people who are enduring a lack of some sort (financial, physical, whatever) and yet they are so grateful for what they have that somehow what they're lacking doesn't seem to matter much. Can you imagine the leper, now cleansed and living a normal life again, constantly grumbling about what he doesn't have? I can't. I imagine him as content as could be, because he remembers how bad life was before Jesus, and nothing he may lack now can compare with that. Is that how people would describe our attitudes?
Cleansed and grateful. If that is how people would describe our lives, then really there is no need for constant talking about what Jesus has done. It will be obvious in everything we say and do.