There are many ways to pursue something of importance. When women and men are attracted to each other they pursue moments or hours to spend time with each other in order to build a relationship, which may lead to a life-long bond. Many people pursue education or job opportunities to climb the corporate ladder or to find where their life interests are leading them in their careers. There are books that are written by people who travel the world to find a deeper meaning in life outside of their jobs. There are also millions of people who engage in seeking a closer relationship with a higher power, the universe or God. As a Christian, I have been pursuing a deeper more meaningful understanding of the Triune God.
One of those life-changing moments in my life, as a Christian, happened by listening to a sermon by a pastor who said that God is pursuing me and wooing me to trust in his love and mercy. God is pursuing me? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Aren’t I the one seeking to build a relationship with God? Where is the proof that God pursues us? For me, the source that provides me a clearer understanding into God’s intentions is the Bible. The first four New Testament gospels offer us a glimpse into the heart of God through his Son Jesus. The individuals who knew Jesus on a personal level and followed him as disciples wrote stories that are consistent in their messages of how Jesus touched the lives of many by his love and grace. Jesus had a heart for all people especially those who were marginalized by society and in need of his healing and loving presence.
While many people pursued the healing powers of Jesus, I find that Jesus himself pursued people in order to draw them closer to heal their minds, bodies and spirits while restoring them back to their communities. There are four gospel stories that stand out to me in particular which demonstrate his purposeful encounters with the people on the fringes. The first is found in Luke 8, which was about a man, from the city, who was possessed by a legion of demons in the area of Gerasene. We find in the story that the man’s name was Legion because of the many demons that controlled him. Jesus meets up with this man upon his arrival from Galilee. You could say this meeting was an unintentional encounter but was it? After Jesus and this man have a conversation, Jesus releases him from the bondage of the demons. By healing him, he restored his sanity, which in turn gave him back his community. Most importantly, Jesus gave him back his identity and his own name. Immediately after the healing Jesus was asked to leave and once again he returned to Galilee. So again I ask was this meeting in Gerasene by accident or did Jesus pursue this man in order to heal him and help him find his voice so that he could tell his community all what God had done for him?
If we continue our search to identify God’s pursuing heart, there are stories of physical healing and restoration in the gospels of Luke 13 and John 5. First let’s take a look at Luke 13 in which a crippled woman entered the synagogue where Jesus was teaching. The writer indicated this woman had been bent over for 18 years. When Jesus saw her, he asked her to come to him and when she did he set her free from her physical disability. She did not ask to be healed he pursued her. In a similar story found in John 5, a man was lying beside the pool of Bethzatha waiting for the healing waters to be stirred by the spirit. Traditionally when the waters moved, the first person into the pool would be cured of their ailment. The writer indicated that the man had been lying beside the pool for 38 years when Jesus met him and asked him if he wanted to be healed. The great healer had walked by many people who were lame, blind and paralyzed but he stopped by this man to ask a simple question. Jesus pursued him. The man could not walk and apparently did not call out to be healed but Jesus approached him, healed him and freed him from his mat and made him whole.
The last story I want to share is one of my favorites. This story, from John 4, began with Jesus and his disciples traveling through the land of Samaria. While the disciples journeyed into town to buy some food for the Master, Jesus rested beside a well, which was named after his ancestor Jacob. As he was resting a woman from Samaria came to the well to draw water. Jesus engaged this woman in a lengthy conversation regarding living and life-giving water, her marital history and their shared heritage and different worship practices. According to first-century protocol the conversation should not have happened and the woman pointed that out to Jesus right away. She knew that a Jewish Rabbi should not be speaking to a woman especially one from Samaria. By the time the disciples returned from the city, the woman had identified Jesus as the great I Am, which empowered her reach out to the town people to come and meet this man Jesus. Against all proper protocol, Jesus pursued her and by doing so restored her back into her community and gave her a voice to speak about God’s love in and through Jesus.
After reading these stories about how Jesus pursued them and changed the course of their lives, I can trust that God pursues me, which is contrary to my faith experiences of the past. For too long, I thought God stood back to watch me mess up in disobedience so that I could be punished. I knew God loved me of course, however it was in a very disciplined way. What these stories have shown me is that God loves me and is constantly pursuing me to draw me closer to his grace and love. His wooing Spirit invites me into his grace. Jesus taught his disciples to love the unlovable, to respect people on the fringes, to honor those who did not feel good enough, and to speak for those who could not speak. Much like these stories, I too have been on the fringes, felt unloved or disrespected, and above all I felt like I was not able to speak and be heard. In and through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, God has pursued me in order to make me whole and to experience His love and mercy to share that hope with others.