Who sits in need of healing and restoration near us? Who needs help in Western Kansas? How can we, as First Christian Church, offer them meaningful help? Peter and John weren’t going to the temple that day to find someone to help out. It probably wasn’t even on the forefront of their minds.
The beggar didn’t know what he needed. All he knew was how to beg, how to ask people to give him alms every day. All he knew was what he’d been born with. He didn’t know how to walk, or respect himself, or what was behind the doors to the temple. He was excluded from the life everyone else was living simply because of his physical handicap.
Nowadays, physical handicaps aren’t as excluding as they were in Peter and John’s time, but they do still exclude. As do mental handicaps, mental illnesses, or even just societal affiliation. There are ways people are excluded from everything, whether it’s a proper education, a job, or even the church. And we need to think about how people are excluded from this church, how they are sitting at the gates begging for alms when they really need to love of Christ.
That is what will change our perspective. That is what will make us more like Peter and John and less like those who walked by the beggar every day, who handed him a few coins and walked away. We want to be a people for God, we want give alms, but alms of justice and love, charity of the heart not just the coin.
This beggar didn’t know what he needed because no one going to the temple had ever stopped to take the time and talk to him, sit with him, teach him. But Peter and John did. “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. … Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’”
Peter looked deep into the heart of the man who was begging, the man who was considered an outcast, who had never been taught about God’s love and mercy and healing power. We are the same people that walked right by that man day after day, and unless we stop, unless we look at him and he looks at us, we will never be healed or experience salvation.
There was a family in one of the churches I used to go to. I won’t say names, but this family consistently went to church every Sunday for years, since before I lived there. This family had children, children who were married in the church, who grew up there. They worked for the church as the janitors, and they participated fully in almost every event the church held.
But this family was not a full part of that congregation. They were excluded, countless times, from what was happening, from being a full participation, from being fully accepted into the congregation as a part of the family of God. When I started attending that church, I picked up on it right away.
It was the same as in the temple. The temple, this Beautiful Gate to the temple, was a place where people knew they were either included or excluded. They knew whether they would be allowed inside to be a full member of God’s family or if they were left on the outer shells of what was unknown to them.
This beggar is lying outside the Beautiful Gate, which led into the Court for Women. There were multiple gates, multiple places where the circle of who was allowed would get smaller and smaller, but the beggar was completely outside all of the circles.
This family at the church was exactly like the beggar. They didn’t know what love they were missing because no one had ever thought to show it to them. They were doing all the right things, everything that was expected of them, but still no one showed them the love and mercy only God has.
This is not acceptable. It was not intentional, and in some ways it was. They were not socially on par with everyone else so they were excluded from that which could change their social status. We, the members of that congregation, were a people who were exactly like those walking by the beggar at the temple.
This passage tells us not to be like them anymore. Maybe we need to be brought into the world anew, to be changed by Peter and John in order to understand where we’ve gone wrong as a person and as a congregation. This passage gives us that opportunity. It calls us to change our perspective, to become more like Peter and John, to reach out to those who are in need around us and bring them into this wonderful love we all share together.
So I ask again: Who sits in need of healing and restoration near us? Who needs help in Western Kansas? How can we, as First Christian Church, offer them meaningful help?
This is our call as Christians, to stare at those who need assistance in the eyes, to ask them to look at us, and then to put out our hands and lift them up so they can stand in the wondrous glory of God with us. What are our priorities as the church?
Are they to make sure our bills are paid and the church maintained or is to share the good news, the good news of God’s distribution of healing and salvation to all? This is not a church that was built only for those who are insiders. We are a church, called to bring the good news of healing and salvation to all, all those who are weak, hungry and heavy laden.
Peter and John took a step. They asked the beggar to look at them, to see them for who they truly were, a people of God. They asked the beggar to take a risk on them, to stand up with help, to experience healing and restoration. Peter and John did the work of God, and they didn’t even have to enter the temple to do it. They were outside the walls, outside the precious building that was supposed to represent holiness and it didn’t.
We do not want to be like the temple in that day. We do not want to be a place of beauty on the outside and exclusion on the inside. We need to change our thinking, change our understanding, change our processes and activities so that we are a people for God who focuses on those outside these walls, who invites others to Get Up! With us.
We need to Get Up! To experience the changing power of healing and restoration. To know that this power, the power that helped us to Get Up! Will help countless others, that we are not to harness the power of the Holy Spirit, but to let it work in and through us for those who are in desperate need of that healing and restoration.
This change in Peter and John, this moment of action that they took, had dire consequences for them, ones they would never have been able to predict. But by their action, by their call to Get Up! They changed one man’s life for the better, they gave him healing, they gave him restoration, they gave him love.