A Ministry of Repair


Isaiah 42:3 “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

We live in a throw-away society, people say. We drink from disposable cups, shave with disposable razors, dress our children in disposable diapers, even purchase things we don’t need with our disposable income.

This “throw-away” mindset also affects the way we treat things which were never intended to be disposable. If your toaster stops working, do you bring it in for repair? Or do you throw it out and get a new one? When I lived with my grandmother, she still “darned” the holes in my socks. Most of our children probably know that word only as a mild expletive.

Does our “throw-away” attitude also affect the way in which we treat human beings? I am not here thinking chiefly about the great societal problems of our day, though the thought certainly has application to neglect of the starving, murder of the unborn, or the extermination of the suffering and terminally ill. Many people are willing to dispose of human life as easily as a bag of Doritos. “Munch all you want…we’ll make more.”

But what about our concern for the spiritual care of the spiritually bruised and broken? Across America, almost six out of ten church members are absent on Sunday morning. Some will be back next week, but how many are nursing some sort of spiritual wound? How many are languishing at home while the heartbeat of faith steadily declines towards total heart failure?

Are such people as disposable as used plastic silverware–they served their purpose once, but there is a big box full of new ones which don’t require so much work to make them useful again? Or do we, like Jesus, take seriously the work of spiritual repair?

Jesus described his own ministry as coming to “seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). While he sent his disciples to find them throughout the world, he himself spent the majority of his time working among the “lost sheep of Israel,” the people who, at least in name, were already “God’s people.”

The prophet Isaiah described Jesus’ approach to ministry this way: “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3, see Matthew 12:20). Jesus didn’t cut off the penitent tax collector or prostitute. He didn’t tolerate or overlook their sins, either. He steadily applied the strong medicine of law and gospel to heal their spiritual wounds. He persistently preached sin and grace to fan faith into flame again.

When our faith is at a low ebb, Jesus does not dispose of us as so much broken junk. “Whoever comes to me, I will never drive away,” he promises (John 6:37). He is in this with us for the long haul. His word is full of the fuel that will light our fire again.

But that word needs to be applied to work. If our own fires are burning brightly, let’s share some of the warmth and light with the smoldering wicks the Lord has placed within our reach.

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