“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”We’ve probably all heard that either in a song or conversation, right?
As I continue to climb up the age tree, I’m finding more and more about life. Many of my friends have died climbing this tree and there are many that have forgotten they are even climbing because their minds are shutting down before their bodies do. It might be funny to say those folks make new friends every day because everyone they meet is new to them, but the truth is—it’s not funny at all.
So am I trying to depress you? Nope. What I’m going to do is share with you some things that are going on in my life you may be able to relate to. For example, there is a huge bruise on my right forearm from showing a kid how to receive a serve in volleyball. My wrist is swollen and really hurts. I didn’t even do anything but let the ball come into my arms and pop it up! I did this for hours when I used to play a few years back and didn’t even get sore. I went for a 3-mile walk yesterday and my knees felt like they were sliding around in circles inside my leg, threatening to give out. I walk or ride or surf a lot—that knee thing is just a new reality my body is talking to me about. I even run now and then and, yes, I can. But when I’m finished the pain is so real it can’t be ignored. I’ve even created a new rub I call “Bobathol,” which is a rich mixture of menthol crystals and essential oils. Jackie uses it every day on her back and hips. Desperation has driven me to become an inventor! No, I don’t sell it. But you have pains, too, and you don’t even have Bobathol. But enough about my pain.
Last Sunday our Priest shared from Isaiah 53 where it says, “By His wounds we are healed.” In the olden days when I would hear that verse quoted it was usually mentioned to precede a healing service or showcase some “evangelist’s” power to perform miracles. In the context we heard from our Priest, it was about the martyrs in Egypt in the Coptic church. They are being wounded and martyred and the healing that is coming out of their persecution, through their wounds, is the miracle of forgiveness they are showing their persecutors and the effect it is making on the Islamic majority that has been doing the persecuting. It is culturally correct that in Egypt if you are hurt you hurt back. But the Copts are offering forgiveness and it’s having an impact for good. Their churches are filling up more than ever before; the Islamic majority is looking on with wonder. Who knows, they may even put down their swords.
“By His wounds” is powerful medicine, but have you ever thought what those wounds did to Jesus? He allowed men to torture and crucify Him in order to get them. His body hurt just like mine—it hurt when the nails were driven into His hands and feet or the whip ripped His back apart—a lot. Those wounds killed Him. Should we expect less from the wounds we pick up from time to time?
My Coptic brothers and sisters, along with their children, suffered a lot more wounding than I can ever imagine and they, in turn, extended forgiveness and love so that their persecutors might come to know Christ. You have been beaten up a time or two, I’m sure. Are you letting your wounds bring healing or hurt? Unforgiveness brings anger, depression, sickness, gossip and can even sap what energy you have right out of you, so go ahead, forgive that person or even church who hurt you. Let your wounds bring healing to even those who would do you harm.
My scratches don’t compare to what the Copts are going through and they are forgiving. I’d rather they not be persecuted, so I pray for them and the rest of the Church that is being persecuted in other parts of the world, and for the children who are being made into soldiers by mad men. The atrocities and evil that exist around our planet scream for Christians to intercede and bring healing. One day, I think/hope/and pray, our wounds will bring about the return of Christ and we’ll see the salvation and redemption we all long for. And, if you are wondering, of course I pray for physical healing and good health. If you are hurting and ask me to pray, I will pray for you until you get better or die and even then I’ll pray for a safe journey into eternity! I pray for many of you daily and I pray for my wife and I simply pray for what God brings to my mind. Please join me.
So, my friends, whatever stage of life you are in, serve God, love your neighbor and when you get that last wound you go to heaven. If your life is pain-free, great. If it hurts–you get wounded–that’ OK, too. Your wounds might come through someone’s verbal abuse or they might come by some nutcase with a gun and his agenda to change the world through violence. No matter how they come, allow the wounds you suffer to bring healing to your neighbor. It worked for Jesus.