read Matthew 9. The headline news today is that publishers are terrified: Amazon has gone into the publishing business. Amazon has moved beyond Create Space, their self-publishing arm, into the new realm of paying top authors. They’re wooing best-selling authors away from established publishing houses. Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives, is quoted in the NY Times today as saying that the landscape is changing since Gutenberg invented the modern book nearly 600 years ago: “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,” he said. “Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.” NY Times 10/17/11 B4. Authors are willing to take the risk because of Amazon’s power to move books. For instance, Amazon lifted a historical novel by a first-time German writer out of obscurity: The Hangman’s Daughter
has now sold 250,000 digital copies.
In Matthew 9, Christ revealed the radical and immediate nature of his power. A paralyzed man “jumped up and went home.” Matthew “got up and followed” Christ. A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touched the hem of Christ’s robe and was healed “at that moment.” Jesus took a dead girl “by the hand and she stood up.” Jesus touched the eyes of two blind men and “their eyes were opened and they could see.” Jesus cast a demon out of a mute man “and the man began to speak.”
Just as publishing is moving toward needing only the writer and reader, the only necessary people in these stories were God and the one healed. God worked directly with each person. They responded immediately. There were no middlemen. The Bible says that each of us is God’s poem or masterpiece – the original word is poema. Eph. 2:10 (NLT). The Bible also says that Jesus is our author: he is the “author” of life, of salvation, and of our faith. Acts 3:15 (NIV); Heb. 5:9 (NKJ); Heb. 12:2 (NKJ). So in a very real sense, Jesus is the author shaping anyone who asks for his help into a perfect poem.
Christ’s power terrified the religious leaders at the time. They were jealous. They, like the publishers watching Amazon’s foray into publishing, were scared of being edged out. If people could go directly to God for healing, the religious leaders would be out of a job. They were like the baseball scouts in Moneyball – their very livelihood, existence and identity seemed threatened by this new method of choosing recruits. They said Jesus was blaspheming and that he worked for the devil. Jesus asked them a simple question: “why do you think evil and harbor malice in your hearts?” Matt. 9:4 (Amplified Bible).
It’s easy to criticize the religious leaders for their jealousy. It’s easy to see that they were thinking of themselves, and not of the people who were being healed. But I wonder how often we react like they do. “How God works with other people is God’s business.” Twelve Steps for the Recovering Pharisee, by John Fischer – a life changing book I can’t recommend enough.
You may want to read what Fisher wrote twice. This concept cuts in two different directions. It means, first of all, that when God starts to make healthy the people who have depended on us, we need to adjust, too. When someone does AA, for instance, all their primary relationships change. The people around the drinker have grown used to doing everything for them. When someone starts to get healthy, they start showing up for their own lives. It’s an adjustment for all concerned. When God heals the people around us, we’ll have to re-read Codependent No More, and especially it’s subtitle: “how to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself.” We’ll have to show up for our own lives. We’ll have to “feel the rain on your skin,” as Natasha Bedingfield puts it in her song Unwritten. “No one else can feel it for you, no one else.” No longer will we be able feel good about ourselves based on our ability to help others. If we truly love others, we won’t mourn the loss, but instead will be happy for them. We’ll see people who were too sick to do anything but tell us how depressed they are, begin to shout, look and leap for joy. We will find ourselves in the unfamiliar but joyful position of having them help us.
The flip side of accepting that God is in charge is that we have to accept it when other people choose to reject God. “How God works with other people is God’s business.” If we see people making bad choices and turning their backs on God, we have to accept that it’s their choice. “Don’t pound on a door when it’s latched from the inside,” pastor Tim Keller recently told me. Or as the Scripture says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you for the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.” 1 Peter 3:15-16. If we find ourselves preaching at others who didn’t ask for it, or if we hear ourselves talking about Christ without gentleness or without respect, we have departed from God’s plan and launched ourselves onto our own. It’s become about us, somehow, and our own need to be affirmed. It’s not God’s will for us to be harsh or preachy or disrespectful. And being outside of God’s will is a bad place to be.
The good news is that even when we mess up, God somehow manages to use us. We can apologize and take responsibility if we react with jealousy, insecurity or self-righteousness. We will probably spend our lives trying to find the balance between these two pinions of human responsibility: we are to take responsibility for our own lives, and let others take responsibility for theirs. We are to help others, but only insofar as we remember who the boss man is; we have to follow His rules. We’re His “workers.” We don’t help others for our own glory but for His.
At the end of this chapter, Jesus specifically tells his disciples to pray for “workers” to help him harvest people. If God tells us to pray for something, we need to take it seriously. Why would God ask us to pray for workers? Isn’t He God? Isn’t it up to him to recruit more people to help him? Why does he need us to pray for it?
God never asks us to do something unnecessary. I have found that whenever I pray for someone else, it changes me. Perhaps when we pray, “God, please send more workers to help you,” he whispers back: “what about you? can you help me?” When we pray for workers, something begins to shift in our own hearts. How do I know? Because prayer always shifts something in our hearts. “Only the sick need a doctor,” Christ says in this chapter. How God works with other people is His business, but how he works with you is also his business. Are you willing to admit you’re no better than anyone else? Are you willing to admit you need a doctor, too? Are you willing to ask him to make you healthy? Are you willing to let him show you how to enjoy your own life? Let go of wanting to feel needed by other people. Let him take you by the hand and lift you from your own deathbed. Let him teach you how to show up for your own life. Be honest about your own shortcomings and accept forgiveness – so that you, too, can leap off your mat and join the wedding celebration with the other lame people. There’s true joy to be had there. You are God’s poem. Let him edit you into a masterpiece.
posted by: Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com