I Have Been the Nine

In Luke 17:11-19 Jesus healed ten lepers–people suffering from an unexplainable and very serious skin disease. A leper was marginalized and ostracized from society. Once diagnosed with this terrible disease, he or she was forced to leave their entire life behind, including families, and place in a “leper colony” often located outside of the city. Like this colony, a leper’s life would remain filled with sickness, disease and shame. To be healed from leprosy was a second chance at life. All that he or she lost due to the disease would finally be regained. The only thing standing in the way of restoration was a ceremony and a priest-issued certificate proclaiming a clean bill of health.

It seems as though nine of the lepers Jesus healed were more interested in getting their clean bill of health than giving thanks for the new life they were graciously given. I cannot say that I blame them. Its what Jesus told them to do. Plus, new life was only one piece of paper away. Perhaps I am being a bit too critical, but could it be that these nine lepers were more interested in what they were to gain from this benevolent Teacher and gift-Giver? Who knows.

Then there is the other guy. A foreigner. He came back genuinely thankful. He seems to have been the only one willing to put off the beautiful benefit of this miraculous healing long enough to give thanks to Jesus. As a result he was the only one to experience the greatest gift of all: deep inner-transformation and wholeness. All ten were healed. Only one was forever changed.

One out of ten? These are not good odds or stats. This is not a good “success” ratio. Considering these statistics one might think that Jesus would be a little more cautious about who He would help from here. Yet He continued to help, heal and serve, despite those the ones taking advantage of His gracious and benevolent love.

I don’t know about you, but when I have given to others in need I have often been overly concerned about those who were “the nine.” I would ask questions like, “What if they just squander it?” “Do they really deserve it?” “Are they abusing the system?” “Shouldn’t there be a mandatory drug test first?” All the while I have forgotten that I too have been the nine. I’ve squandered many gifts Jesus has given. I have never deserved it. I have abused His love and grace. In the past, I would have failed a drug test. Yet, Jesus gave me a second chance at life. He still does.

As I give to others may I do so with grace offered as tangible acts of compassion, and may God give me the conviction and Kingdom-of-God-informed mind and love to follow Jesus’ lead.

Questions:

Have you ever been “the nine?” If so, would you be willing to share?

If you are to give like Jesus and become a giver of grace and love through tangible acts of compassion, what must change inside of you?

About Fred

I am a follower of Jesus, the husband to Alison Glenn, daddy to my little man Ian. I am a son, brother, friend, bi-vocational pastor of Williamsburg Christian Church, ethnographer, activist and justice seeker, founder and president of 3e Restoration Inc, adjunct professor at Regent University, and mission specialist of church renewal with Mission Alive. I received my B.S. in Ministry/Bible at Amridge University and my Masters of Religious Education in Missional Leadership (MREML) from Rochester College. I am currently working toward my Doctorate of Ministry in Contextual Theology at Northern Seminary.
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9 Responses to I Have Been the Nine

  1. James Jones says:

    My grandfather taught me to give never expecting it returned, regardless of what is promised. That really helped me later in life when I struggled with the idea of others’ squandering what is given to them.

    All I have to do is look at me to shut myself up. Do I squander my health and time? Do I do the best with what I have? God does not restrain all His blessings due to how faithful we are in using them. I just need to keep serving and loving. I never know when those actions will touch someone’s heart.

    • Fred says:

      Well said James, as always. We are our best worst-example some times. What convicted me about your response was the fact that you turned it beyond the “spiritual” and to the “physical” (I am running the risk of creating a false dichotomy here as all are connected). Do I squander my health? Wow. Yet God heals me from sickness and gives me life. Wow. Thank God He continues to give liberally and without reproach!

      Thanks for commenting, bro.

  2. Kevin Copeland says:

    I really needed to hear this right now. I minister to the homeless in my community at the Conroe House of Prayer. There is a different Church group that provide meals every morning with the exception of Sundays, and there is also a time of worship and ministry. I teach, council and pray with people on Monday mornings and whenever else I can. My buddy, Brian leads worship while the food is being prepared to serve. After worship everyone gets in line and gets their food. Then I teach while everyone is eating. Afterward, I stick around for as long as people would like for counseling and to pray for the sick and those in bondage to addictions. Some days this works great, but quite often people will eat their food and leave, and about 10 minutes into the lesson the crowd literally goes from 50 to 65 people down to 6 or 7. Sometimes that can be discouraging. On those mornings Brian and I usually find ourselves asking each other, “What are we really doing here and why?”

    This blog really helped me to realize that I shouldn’t focus so much negative attention toward those who take advantage of the free breakfast and leave without seeking community with the group, or more importantly relationship with Christ. I should compassionately focus on the handful of spiritually hungry individuals who are always there and really want to follow Christ and serve God.

    In addition, this also made me take a closer look at myself and realize that I too have been one of the nine at times, and I that I need to show more grace toward those who eat and leave, or worse yet, stick around just to be disruptive. Even if their motivation is just to feed their flesh, and they have no appreciation for the opportunities provided for them for emotional, spiritual and physical healing, transformation and restoration, I should always treat them with grace and love, regardless.

    • Fred says:

      Kevin, you serve such a difficult and taxing people through the ministry God has called you. I admire your tenacity and burden to wrestle with these issues. I confess that I get so frustrated when I serve someone for a long period of time in Jesus’ name, just to have it seemingly backfire. Truth be told, I have undue expectations. I want fruit. Tangible fruit. And if this fruit is not yielded I am not satisfied with the idea that I merely planted or watered. I want the harvest…for me and not God. This is my struggle with my self-righteous pride and ego. Tragic.So I can appreciate your heart struggle, yet knowing you as I do, you are such a beautiful example of grace. You press on. You and those who serve along side you. So keep my following Jesus my brother, as I know you well. And keep teaching us (most certainly me included) what this looks like by how you deal out grace to those who we would normally deal out judgement.

      Thank you for commenting.

  3. For me, the significance of Luke 17:11-19 is that the dude who returned to Jesus was a Samaritan willing to fall at the feet of Jesus and worship.. When we look at the other nine they actually did what Jesus told them to do, which was to go and show themselves to the priests and while they were on their way they were healed. Yet, it’s my thought that the Samaritan not only received physical healing, but also spiritual healing because of his own faith and desire to praise God.

    Who of us has not been guilty of focusing on the gift and disregarding the Giver? Still, out of obedience we must do what’s right(eous) and just by extending grace and mercy through an attitude of humility and love. If I begin to create conditions and expectations that aren’t at the heart of the gospel, my gift is not a blessing…it’s just a hand out.

    There is a place in Fort Worth where the homeless hangout and many ministries go by on the weekend to give them food. There is this one ministry in particular that won’t give out food until the homeless have sat through 30 minutes of preaching. You know, to this day that does not set well with my spirit. If we use the passage in Luke as our guide then we must feed and heal first. Then we concern ourselves with those who did and didn’t return by falling at Jesus’ feet to worship.

    My prayer is that at some point the Church will see humanity through the eyes of Jesus. May we weep and desire for all humanity to be reconciled and redeemed to God.

    grace and peace…

    • Fred says:

      Thank you for commenting bro. As always, your words are insightful. Yes, the Samaritan blows me away. Truthfully there are so many lessons to be found in this story. The one I made I think is largely incidental to the narrative, but I think it still resonates nonetheless.

      To hear stories like that in Fort Worth makes me sad. On one level, I understand (though I may not agree on that level) why ministries feel this need. Sadly many use acts of compassion or good works as an instrument toward evangelism. I am learning that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust; He does good for all simply because He is good. I would do well to follow Him. And to your great point, we can then become appropriately attentive to the ones who come back. At that point perhaps we will have “earned the right to be heard” and when asked, can offer the the Reason for which we love and do good: King Jesus. I share your prayer in hopes that I not lose sight of this truth in my evangelistic fervor.

      Thank you for commenting.

  4. Kevin Garcia says:

    To the first-
    Jesus saved my life and gave me a new lease on it in the fall of 2010, about the same time i started going back to church. I still chose the wrong things, still squandered it and made some poor choices. (Thank God for grace)

    To the second-
    What needs to change is as follows:
    Give grace in abundance without thinking if someone is going to squander it. Keep giving those around you another chance because Jesus does, but at the same time pushing them to better themselves.
    Its like in my fraternity- I don’t want to give grace to the my brother who has taken the same oath as me and yet on Thirsty Thursday says, “Oh, tonight, I don’t feel like that counts.” But I do because he is my brother and God gives him grace.

    • Fred says:

      Good word bro. Giving grace freely with no concern of it being squandered is, for me, the most difficult part. To your first point, looking to the cross is what grounds me.

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