Genuine faith might make you look silly. Be OK with that.
One of the most consequential, life-impacting decisions that the Lord led me to make when I was growing up was the decision to spend my summers working with a Christian camping ministry. It was a decision most people in my life didn’t understand, but it resulted in my faith being deepened, my experience as a disciple of Christ being strengthened, and my life-long friendships with other serious Christians and church leaders being developed.
During my high school and college years, many people in my life couldn’t understand why this decision appealed to me so much. Instead of the freedom to do whatever I wanted during the summer, I was committing to working for little or no pay. The days would be long. I wouldn’t have much free time. Often I would be serving others who may or may not have been thankful for the service. It was certainly exhausting, but I loved it. Serving in that capacity was a step of faith that didn’t make sense to most people in my life, and some thought it was silly, but for me, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
My son Daniel experienced something similar this past summer. He has become proficient at fine woodworking and often gets paid well to install crown molding and other interior trim work. But instead of using his entire summer for that purpose, he chose to volunteer a large portion of that time to serve at a Christian summer camping ministry, and he was paid nothing to do so.
This world thinks acts of faith like that are silly. Most people in this world primarily think of day-to-day life through an economic lens. But often, acts of faith don’t seem to make economic sense. Quite frequently, the person who is taking steps of faith is viewed as fanatical or eccentric. But that’s OK. If the Lord impresses upon your heart the desire to serve Him or glorify Him in a particular way, don’t worry about how you look in the process. If He inspires you to take a step of faith in any area of life, trust Him for the outcome, regardless of how that makes you look.
In the second chapter of Mark’s gospel, we’re given an uplifting account of several men who took steps of faith that made them look fanatical in the world’s eyes, but in the eyes of Jesus, their actions were welcomed and rewarded.
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. (Mark 2:1-4)
During the early days of Jesus' ministry, He operated from the city of Capernaum. Capernaum was a prosperous fishing town in proximity to the main trade route that existed between Egypt and Damascus. Its strategic location made for a useful base of operations during this season when Jesus first began teaching and gathering followers.
It even appears from this passage that Jesus owned a home in the city. We don’t typically think of Him owning property, but the most natural reading of this passage lends itself to that possibility, particularly when it says that He was “at home”.
Word of Jesus’ miraculous activity continued to spread and people joyfully gathered to hear what He would teach and see what other miraculous activity He might do. When He returned to His house and word got out that He was home, people flooded to see Him. He invited them to gather inside and they filled the place to the point that the house ran out of room. With this eager audience present, Jesus began preaching the truth of the gospel to these people. He was helping them understand that He was the long-promised Messiah who had come to break the chains of sin and death that had held them captive for so long.
As Jesus continued teaching, five additional men showed up to see him. It must have taken them longer to get there than the others because one of the men was paralyzed and the others carried him on a mat. Their hope was to see their friend healed by the touch of Jesus. They genuinely believed Jesus could do this for them, but to their dismay, they couldn’t get anywhere near Him. The house was filled, the doorway was blocked, and there was no other natural entrance to the building.
With genuine faith, they did something that some might say was extreme and they removed part of the roof so they could lower their paralyzed friend down to Jesus by ropes.
As a homeowner, I hope there is never a reason to cut a hole in my roof. My son Jay is a firefighter who actually has to do this regularly for the purpose of saving lives and property when buildings are on fire. But apart from that, no homeowner is going to feel excited about someone ripping their roofing materials off and cutting a hole in the top of their building.
By the way, when I was a child, my father and grandfather owned a grocery store in Scranton, Pennsylvania that was robbed when a couple of thieves cut through the roof of their building at night, lowered themselves into the store, and smashed open their cash registers with axes. I still remember seeing the hole in the ceiling when I was a child and getting a good look at the footprints left on top of the counters from their dirty shoes.
But Jesus, knowing that this world in its current form was not His home didn’t get angry when His roof was torn apart. Instead, he rejoiced over this over-the-top expression of faith. This clearly delighted Him.
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:5-7)
The words Jesus spoke to this man were probably not expected by those who were listening to Him teach and watching this activity take place. Most public speakers, preachers, and teachers tend to express annoyance when their teaching is interrupted. But that’s not how Jesus responded. Jesus looked at the paralyzed man with compassion and tenderness, and He simply said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
To the man he was speaking to, these were welcomed words. I don’t know what sin this man had done that may have led to his paralyzed state, but whatever it was, Jesus was willing to forgive it and restore him. To the religious leaders who were also present, Christ’s words were deeply offensive. To claim to have the ability to forgive sins was the same as equating Himself with God, and in their minds that was nothing short of blasphemy. Under Jewish law, blasphemy was punishable by death.
“Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:16)
Jesus is God, so for Him to make this statement is certainly not blasphemy. It’s a pronouncement of a spiritual reality that only one who is God can facilitate. But Jesus knew what the scribes were thinking. He knew they were disturbed, so He called them out and demonstrated that He in fact had the authority to forgive the sins of the paralyzed man, a man who clearly believed in Jesus.
And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:9-12)
So which is easier to say… Is it easier to tell someone their sins are forgiven or is it easier to tell someone to rise and walk when their body is completely paralyzed? Even though Jesus was being looked at critically for telling the man his sins were forgiven, that was actually the easier statement to make. The harder statement to make would be to tell him to walk because if the man was unable to do so, that would invalidate the authority of the one making the statement.
But in response to Christ’s forgiveness and pronouncement of his healing, the paralyzed man rose up. He picked up the bedding material he had been laying on and walked out of the house in full view of everyone who was there to witness this miracle. Just as the people were amazed at the authority Jesus conveyed when He taught in the synagogue, cast demons out of the possessed, and healed those with illnesses, they were further amazed to witness Him restore a body that was incapable of moving while declaring the sins of this man forgiven. In their amazement they even said, “We never saw anything like this!”
When I look at this account, I can’t help but wonder if many of the people in that crowded house were familiar with the sins of the paralyzed man. Did some of them grow up with him? Did he have a bad reputation in the city? Had he made himself look foolish at an earlier season of life in a way that was familiar to some of these people? Did he seem like the least likely person to come to faith in Jesus and seek His forgiveness and restoration?
I mention that because it may be possible that that’s exactly how you feel about your past. Is there a moment in your life that you would describe as your lowest moment where it feels like you may have done irreparable harm to your body or your reputation? Are you still emotionally and spiritually stuck in that moment? Are you willing to accept that Jesus would be willing to forgive and restore you if you likewise came to Him in faith and asked Him to touch your life as only He can?
Of course, there may be people who think you’re silly for coming to Jesus in faith or believing that it’s even possible for Him to restore your life, but that’s OK. Let them think that. There are critics and skeptics in every crowd. No one admires them and no one will remember their names. They’re the people who only know how to walk by sight. They reject the miraculous, but then wonder why they never seem to experience life-changing moments that leave them in awe and wonder.
Christ’s desire is that we trust Him enough to take steps of faith that may not make sense to others. He delights to see us express our trust that He alone can solve our most severe problems and meet our deepest needs. Genuine faith might make you look silly. Be OK with that because we aren’t called to live for the applause of men. We’re called to live for the glory of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, through genuine belief in the Son of God, Jesus Christ
© John Stange, 2023