“If it’s okay with you, I am going to anoint you with oil, and then we will pray for you; but I won’t let the oil get in your hair, because I know; never touch a black woman’s hair or get it wet with anything!” Chuck Wilsey, Senior Pastor, Wellspring Christian Center.
That, my friends, is what ‘phileo’, true brotherly love looks like when you are heartbroken, discouraged and struggling to find direction; when everything that can go wrong seems to decide that this would be a good time to synchronize watches; when you need somebody to just care about you and assure you that “every lickle ting, is gonna be awright”, not because Bob Marley said so, but because God is always with you and willing to help you; and especially when you need Jesus to show up with skin on.
More than two thousand years ago Jesus left His followers with a promise to encourage them when life left them discouraged and filled with despair :
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3
Then He left.
Now you and I have seen what Ty Pennington and the team from Extreme Makeover House Edition can build in seven days, and the Bible says God created heaven and earth in seven days, so can you imagine what kind of place Jesus could be building that has taken two thousand plus years already?
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the thing which God has prepared for those who love Him” I Corinthians 2:9
And before anyone is tempted to snicker and label this another ‘pie in the sky when you die’ cultic myth, let us remind ourselves again that ninety eight percent of Biblical prophecy has already happened, exactly as prophesied, so I wouldn’t snicker too much or bet good money against the remaining two percent also proving to be true.
Meanwhile, we who believe Jesus are left here to live out the number of our days on planet earth without seeing Him in the flesh, but because He promised that He would never leave us or forsake us, He sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, ‘another of the same kind’ (John 14;16). It is just as if Jesus Himself came back again at Pentecost, but this time in the form of a Spirit, who would come to live inside every believer; a concept much like Churchill’s riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside of an enigma. God is walking on our planet again, but this time, the only skin He is using to touch the lives of other people, is ours. That is what people who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ should be like, Jesus with skin on.
Of course that is so much easier said than done. Jesus was so different, even from the religious people, so counter-culture, so radical, so authentic in His expression of love and compassion, and so perfect! How is it even possible that Perfection could live in the mess that is our humanness, much less continuously purify, transform, shape and polish it, till He can see Himself in the reflection in the mirror that is our life?
“Remember, our message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’, and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious message around in unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at.” 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 The Message
The same writer also summarizes the mystery of it this way,
“…Christ in you, the hope of glory (an accurate representation or reflection of the nature, essence, and character of God). “ Colossisans 1:27b
Mere mortals, living ordinary yet extra-ordinary lives, and carrying around in them the power and the presence of God, with the ability to reach out to people who need to know that God is, that He loves perfectly and unconditionally, that he has not abandoned humanity, but has paid the ultimate price to free us from prisons of hopelessness and despair, to rescue from all that enslaves, and that He is preparing a place for us to be with Him forever.
“The Spirit of God, the Master is on me because God has anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace, a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies, and to comfort all who mourn…” Isaiah 61:1-2 The Message
And so it is that you come across people who you know are followers of Jesus Christ and you don’t see hypocrisy, you see authenticity, you don’t see demanding or self-centered behavior, you see genuine care and compassion for others, you don’t see perfection…yet, but you see them always striving to do the right thing, even when it costs them dearly. They do things like anoint you with oil to pray for you, but are careful not to get the oil in your hair, because they paid attention enough to know better; in that moment when you need to know God loves and cares for you, they become Jesus with skin on…just living the thing.