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From Exclusion To Inclusion

Life is about relationships. Life is about other people. For the Christian, life is about my relationship with God and other people. Probably all of us have a web of relationships, small or large, with family, neighbours, friends, and at church and work. One way we value ourselves is by all the people we know and the quality of our relationships with them.

And the Christian life lived in obedience to God is not only living by God's principles and commandments. In the Bible He guides us by the stories of people's lives across different countries, cultures and centuries. It's about people, not just principles. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, Isaiah and Esther are just a few. Also, God is practical in often telling us through the stories of people's lives what problems we can get ourselves into if we ignore His advice.

When we read the life of Jesus, His life was a vast web of relationships. His character was revealed through his relationships - with His Father God and with people. The way the Lord related to people can inspire, encourage or cajole us in how we respond to people.

There are valuable lessons to be learned as we explore how Jesus handled a range of relationships. For instance, the way He responded to the needs of a marginalized woman with chronic illness on His way to Jairus' house. How He related to Peter. How He related differently in various other individual cases and how the Lord related to His God and Father and the ways that relationship influenced His human relationships.

The incident of Jairus appealing to Jesus to come and heal his daughter is recorded in three Gospels. It is a compelling story of the Lord responding to the needs of this desperate father above the demands of the crowd pressing on Him. En route there is a surprising encounter when Jesus decides to stop in His tracks so that He can heal the woman with haemorrhages. With these conflicting urgent priorities, Jesus decides she comes first. 'She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 'Who touched me?' Jesus asked. ' Then he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace' (Luke 8:44,45,48 NIV). Jesus shows her respect by healing her and thereby removes her defilement and gives her dignity. Jesus gives her His time in undivided attention, thereby valuing her and calling her, 'Daughter', a name which recognises her as a member of Israel.

Although Jesus has all the power in this relationship, He makes time to create rapport with her by wanting to hear her story, she 'told him the whole truth' (Mark 5:33). He affirms her faith by saying, 'Your faith has healed you,' in contrast to those who brazenly reject her. Although 'Go in peace' was a standard farewell, here it means much more. She is healed, and we can imagine she also has a restored relationship with God and she is released from her social stigma and accepted back into her community. She is taken from the outside place of exclusion to a place of inclusion, inside her faith community as a daughter within the family of Israel. From being isolated, her healing restores her to a web of relationships. Jesus' relationship with this individual enables her to be welcomed back by her community. Jesus' relationships have a multiplying effect.

How does this cameo apply to our lives? We can often be focused and blind to what may be God-given interruption in our own plans. We may try and be polite and quick in reacting, but Jesus was undivided in His care for her. We may give importance to the social status of people, but in contrast, the Lord does not give priority to Jairus, the local community leader, but pays full attention to this marginalized, weak woman. We may be proud of our ability to fix a problem, but Jesus knows it was as much her faith that healed her as His gift to heal. We can be seduced by the pride that comes with the compliments of people we value, yet Jesus was not influenced by the expectant crowd, but focused on an individual and a family. In the busyness of our daily lives we are often reacting to what is urgent and get distracted away from the important, but on this day the Lord responds to both the urgent and important.