His Fountain, His Touch
I hung up the phone and sat down to process what I just heard. The caller, a close friend of mine, was severely questioning his decision to join a full time outreach program his church was sponsoring. My friend joined with hopes of having positive interaction with the other young people, however he was finding out that his team was everything but that. One young man was schizophrenic and gay. Another seemed to be bipolar and would completely lock up from time to time. My friend could not handle the questionable activities one of them was involved with.
I strongly encouraged him to be honest with the leadership about what was going on. He told me later that the administration of the ministry was proactively investigating the situation and making changes. But my thoughts were still unresolved. Why was this happening? All of these people had grown up in church. What had gone wrong? These young men knew their lives were messed up. They were reaching for more, but it seemed like they could not get past themselves.
This drama my friend was going through is not uncommon. Situations like this exist all around us whether we realize it or not. This case was unusually uncomfortable and forced into the open because of the ministry context, but it doesn’t take a deep search to realize that ministering in today’s world makes it necessary to interact with humanity caught in many different expressions of sinful brokenness. There are two poignant declarations in Scripture that speak directly to me whenever I am faced with messy situations like these.
- “On that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the residents of Jerusalem, to wash away sin and impurity.” Zechariah 13:1 CSB.
In the shadow of the situation I described and many others, I cannot get this verse off my mind. It is preceded by a description of mourning and repentance; it is followed by a prophecy of drastic measures to maintain purity. Are the days of the Messiah here? Are these prophecies of cleansing and restoration being fulfilled? Is the church actually a fountain designated for “sin and impurity?” In his book God and the Transgender Debate (which I highly recommend), Andrew T. Walker states: “Too often our churches give the impression that the Son of Man came to seek and save good people, not the lost. Too quickly our church creates a list of sins that are more tolerated and excusable (these tend to be the ones we struggle with) than others (which, conveniently tend to be those that others struggle with).”123
The new covenant is for “sin and impurity.” Drastic repentance and unthinkable restoration is what Zechariah was envisioning. We believe this, but when we come into contact with individuals with deep mental issues or people from the LGBT community we often feel hopeless. Does God want to change this?
- “Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched him. “I am willing,” he told him. “Be made clean.” Mark 1:41 CSB
This comes from a story of a leper begging Jesus for cleansing. If you know anything about the Old Testament laws, touching someone with a contagious disease was forbidden. But Jesus touched him. If we think about leprosy as an illustration of sin, as it is often used in the Bible, this creates a good picture of how Jesus did not avoid getting dirty, but rather got as close as possible to those who needed him most and was an instrument of cleansing.
That’s Jesus. What about me? I know that as the Father sent Jesus into the world, he sends us too. Are we reaching into the most messed up, disgusting situations in our culture? Are we characterized by an outreaching, contagious holiness?
In my opinion, failure to realize that fountain Zechariah talked about, and failure to be in that uncomfortable proximity with the unclean, makes us ineffective to the world around us and woefully inadequate to address the sin problem among us. How are we doing? How am I doing? When I look at these realities and see my needs, this is what I pray:
“God, give me a high view of the new covenant, the tough love and the life-altering grace. Excite me with the possibilities of Your redemption. Don’t let me think any sin is too dirty for that cleansing fountain.
“Conform me to Your Son’s image. In the cases where it would seem much easier to be uninvolved, give me Your Spirit. Make me Your hands and feet to the outcast, ridiculed and awful.