Excerpt from Grace Notes: Daily Readings with Philip Yancey (eBook).
Taking God’s assignment seriously means that I must learn to look at the world upside down, as Jesus did. Instead of seeking out people who stroke my ego, I find those whose egos need stroking; instead of important people with resources who can do me favors, I find people with few resources; instead of the strong, I look for the weak; instead of the healthy, the sick. Is not this how God reconciles the world to himself? Did Jesus not insist that he came for the sinners and not the righteous, for the sick and not the healthy?
People often look upon [Jean] as mad…
The founder of the L’Arche homes for the mentally disabled, Jean Vanier, says that people often look upon him as mad. The brilliantly educated son of a governor general of Canada, he recruits skilled workers (Henri Nouwen was one) to serve and live among damaged people.
Vanier shrugs off those who second-guess his choices by saying he would rather be crazy by following the foolishness of the gospel than the nonsense of the values of our world. Furthermore, Vanier insists that those who serve the deformed and damaged benefit as much as the ones whom they are helping. Even the most disabled individuals respond instinctively to love, and in so doing they awaken what is most important in a human being: compassion, generosity, humility, love. Paradoxically, they replenish life in the very helpers who serve them.
In India I have worshiped among leprosy patients. Most of the medical advances in the treatment of leprosy came about as a result of missionary doctors, who alone were willing to live among patients and risk exposure to study the dreaded disease. As a result, Christian churches thrive in most major leprosy centers.
In Myanmar, I have visited homes for AIDS orphans, where Christian volunteers try to replace parental affection the disease has stolen away. In Jean Vanier’s center in Toronto, I have watched a scholarly priest lavish daily care on a middle-aged man so mentally handicapped that he could not speak a word. The most rousing church services I have attended took place in Chile and Peru, in the bowels of a federal prison. Among the lowly, the wretched, the downtrodden, the rejects, God’s kingdom takes root.
“The most rousing church services I have attended took place in Chile & Peru, in the bowels of a federal prison. Among the lowly … God’s kingdom takes root.”
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