Mark 2: 1-3
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them.
John 13: 34-35
‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
So, we have this man who, we are told, is paralysed. His whole life was confined to a mat which was 6 feet by 3 feet. He was totally dependent on other people to wash him, cook for him, carry him. On the surface he doesn’t have much to live for – but he does have something and that is 4 friends who really care about him. They love him. Maybe they’re in his small group, maybe they were neighbours, but these 4 friends care deeply about this man who is confined to a mat.
They hear rumours that Jesus is in town and like everyone else they want to be there, they want to see and hear this Jesus. It would be so much easier just to go on their own. Don’t mention it to their paralysed friend because he might want to go and if he does, then they’ll have to bring him, and it’ll slow them down. That would have been the easier thing to do. But they love their friend because they are real friends. And real friends are willing to be inconvenienced for you, real friends are willing to carry you when you can’t carry yourself, real friends want what’s best for you, real friends want you to experience Jesus with them.
Today there is a deficit of real, deep friendships. We spend more time alone in front of computers than in face to face contact with people. We don’t have real friends, we have Facebook friends. We don’t talk, we tweet. We walk around with our ipods in our ears to block out the world.
Just in case you didn't know: Not every friend on Facebook is a real friend. How many of your Facebook friends would come and visit you in hospital tomorrow if you had an accident tonight? How many would have you come and stay with them if you needed a roof over your head? How many of them would take time and effort to carry you to Jesus if you were paralysed?
In such a shallow world - real friendship, deep authentic sacrificial love for other people is becoming radical. It’s dangerous to love like that.
The church has got to be a place where we develop real, authentic community. People need to be able to walk into our churches and feel that they belong here, even if they don’t believe yet what we believe or don’t behave like we would like them to behave.
Where we have relationships which go beyond that superficial surface level. That we can take our masks off and be vulnerable and honest about the broken places in our lives knowing that we will be loved. We all have these broken places, it’s some hide them better than others.
This paralysed man’s greatest place of brokenness was that he couldn’t walk, and most people probably didn’t want the hassle associated with being friends with someone with this issue. His mat put them off getting too close. His mat symbolised his greatest weakness, his imperfection.
And yet we all have a mat. It may not be as obvious as the paralytic’s, but we all have places of brokenness and pain, we all have weaknesses and imperfections and things that hinder us and maybe even make it difficult at times to be around us. We all have secret sins, we struggle with various things, we are insecure and we have all sorts of fears.
At times the church can be the worst place to be human, to be transparent, because we can be more judgmental than the world out there. What is supposed to be a house of love, acceptance and grace can be a place of hypocrisy, harshness and self-righteousness. We cover it all up. We pretend we have it all together. We hide our brokenness.
The church should be a place of deep friendships, where we are real, vulnerable and transparent. Where we lift, carry and support each other, even with all our faults and junk and baggage. Where we are willing to be inconvenienced in our care for others. And where we love those who frankly aren’t always that lovable. That’s the sort of church which shows dangerous love in a broken world.