Pastor Philip Anderson tells the story of a visit to his sister. She was a director of patient services for the children’s unit of a large southern California hospital. As she led him on a tour of the unit, the cries of a baby echoed through the halls. They finally came across the child, who was about one year of age and covered with terrible bruises, scratches, and scars.
At first, the pastor assumed the child was involved in an accident. Then he looked closer at the baby’s legs, where he saw obscenities written in ink. His sister told him the child was a victim, not of an accident, but of the parents. The child’s internal injuries were so severe that it couldn’t keep down any food. The scars on the bottom of the baby’s feet were caused by cigarette burns.
Anderson said, “If you’ve ever had trouble visualizing the consequences of human indifference – the perversion of life’s basic relationships – what God is up against in this world of ours – I wish you could have looked with me at that battered, crying baby.”
But then he continues on with the story. His sister leaned over the crib. She very carefully and tenderly lifted the child and held it close. At first the child screamed all the more, as if its innocent nature had come to be suspicious of every touch. But as she held the child securely and warmly, the baby slowly began to calm. And finally, despite wounds and hurts, the child felt the need to cry no more.
Anderson says the baby remains in his memory as a living symbol of the choice we face in the mission of the church. I believe everyone sitting in Stuart Auditorium today is troubled by the image of a child abused and battered. There is no doubt in my mind that you would want to do something to insure or restore the health and vitality of a child in this condition.
We wish for every hurting child to be healthy and filled with life. We wish for these children to have opportunities to grow, thrive, and reach their potential.
Jesus encountered Simon Peter’s mother-in law one day lying in bed with a fever that stopped her from ministering to him and his disciples. There is a fever living in our homes, churches, communities, and workplaces. There’s a fever in the places where we shop and in the places we avoid. But in every case, just one touch from Jesus would make the difference. It’s the same difference that Jesus made when he lifted Peter’s mother-in-law, or when Philip Anderson’s sister lifted the broken baby.
If this lifting and healing is to happen, we must first offer Christ to ourselves – receive Christ to heal our own brokenness – and then offer Christ to the hurting people and places in our communities. Will you join me in offering Christ to a world gripped with fever?
Previously printed in The Call's June 16 on-site Annual Conference edition (See all editions.)