Scripture is full of paralyzed and lame individuals being healed, but one story has always stood out for me. That is because it seems so cruel.
On the surface, what Jesus said to a lame man lying near the Bethesda pool in Jerusalem was mean. “Do you want to be healed?”
Let me back up. Myth had it that when the waters of the Bethesda pool were disturbed by an angel, the first person to touch the water would be healed of their malady. Invalids – the blind, the paralyzed, and otherwise lame – would gather there in hopes of being the first one into the water.
So, yes, Jesus; of course, he wants to be healed. That’s what I used to yell in my head. Except… we all know people who don’t. We all know people who are comfortable in their misery, who find their life’s meaning and worth wrapped up in suffering.
This man was different; he explained how he had no one to help him move into the water at the first ripple. He wanted to be healed but lacked anyone to help him. So, Jesus did help him – and it didn’t require falling into the pool.
That same “don’t want to be healed” incapacitation afflicts our body politic. Lots of people complain about the state of our country and are angered by the news of the day. To be sure, there is a lot to be angry about – but some seem to find meaning in simply being angry.
When given the opportunity to learn how to make a difference, they sniff and look away. They don’t want to do anything to address the source of frustration; they are comfortable defining themselves by their incapacitating anger.
Others, though, are tired of sitting on the couch. They are ready to redefine themselves. Rather than be passive recipients of bad news, they want to be agents of action. These are the people who end up making a difference in their communities, schools, state, and nation.
Sometimes, they just need a little help going from watching cable news to knowing what kind of meaningful actions they can take.
As an aside, scripture tells us the man at Bethesda couldn’t stop telling people what had been done for him. We don’t know what else he did, but I suspect the man didn’t slow down for the rest of his life nor stop talking about how he had been healed and by Whom.
What about us? Is it easier to stay on the couch and yell at the cable news shows? Or, are we willing to stop lying around? Are we ready to wake up our fellow citizens? Are we ready to zealously work for a better tomorrow? We can grouse about how bad things are, or we can grab the opportunity to make things better.
Our republic needs us to define ourselves not by our anger, but by our willingness as citizens to stand up and get to work.