When I was in the fifth grade, there was a pretty blonde haired girl named Lori who moved to our school and was in my class. I was love-struck in every sense of the word, and wondered what I might be able to do to capture her attention before some other boy. Being one of the fastest boys in fifth grade, I decided I would woo her heart with my feet on the playground. I can still recall the adrenaline (perhaps it was more testosterone!) running high as I was closing in on the finish line way ahead of my rivals. However, before I would cross the finish line, I looked over to make sure she was watching and I strayed into some pea gravel which sent me tumbling onto the pavement. Bruised, battered, and bleeding, I lay there humiliated thinking I had lost the opportunity of a lifetime. How wrong I was! I looked up, and who was the first person there wiping the dirt from my wounds? It was Lori! As she carefully tended to my wounds, I saw tears welling up in her eyes and I knew this must be something special. What speed had been unable to accomplish, sympathy had perfectly achieved. By the end of the day, I had won the heart of my first girlfriend, but her tender care of my hurts had won my respect.
It doesn’t take long into the journey of life before we each discover our pathways will often lead us to experience many unavoidable wounds. Nineteenth century preacher Joseph Parker once wrote, “Preach to the suffering, and you will never lack a congregation. There is a broken heart in every pew.” Whether it be disappointments, defeats, disease, divorce, or death, we have all been touched with our fair share of damaging blows in life. But, knowing such blows are inevitable, what are we to do with the wounds they leave behind? Like putting a wounded horse out of its misery, American Christianity is noted for shooting its wounded, but we are just simply adding to the wound. When David was trying to recover from the wounds of sin, he cried out twice in Psalm 51, “Wash me…” It was the cry of a man who had been wounded deeply and was longing to have the wounds cleansed, closed, and cleared. Not everyone has the grace nor the skill to be a washer of wounds. Paul established the qualification in Galatians 6:1,, “…ye which are spiritual…” Those who are spiritual understand that but by the grace of God, the wound of another could just as easily be their wound. It takes a gracious heart to possess gentle hands! Have you ever considered the value and importance of washing wounds?
Washing wounds is an embrace of fellowship. In the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, Jesus tells that the Samaritan finds the broken man “…and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine…” There are times when you simply need someone to ease the pain and bring healing to the wounds. I love the story of a little girl who was late returning home from an errand. She explained to her mother that on the way home she had met another girl crying because her doll was broken. The mother asked, “Oh, so you helped her fix the doll?” Her daughter replied, “No, I just stopped and helped her cry.” There is a distinct difference between pity and sympathy. Pity rubs salt into a wound, while sympathy applies a salve. Perhaps it was the reminder of his own scars of worldliness that caused Abraham to intercede so diligently for the wounds of Lot. Perhaps it was seeing John Mark’s wounds of failure that drew Peter to his side. In 430 B.C., Greek historian Thucydides noted, “It was in those who had recovered from the plague that the sick and the dying found most compassion.” Those who have felt the wounded pressure in their own souls know exactly when, where, and how to touch the wound of another.
Washing wounds is an expression of forgiveness. In Acts 16, on the night when the Philippian jailer was converted, he brought Paul and Silas to his own house “…and washed their stripes…” The most intriguing part of that story is the fact the wounds he washed were more than likely wounds he had created himself! As shameful as it is to admit, while we can each be targets of hurt, we also possess the potential to be instruments of hurt. Scripture reminds us that Jesus “…was wounded in the house of my friends.” In such moments of life, the best thing to stop the bleeding is to simply stand up and say, “I’m sorry,” or “Please forgive me.” After Jacob’s revival encounter with the Lord in Genesis 32, it is interesting that the first thing the Lord had him to do afterward was face his brother Esau whom he had wounded grievously. We can never maintain a fresh and fruitful walk with the Lord while leaving lives to bleed to death in our pathway. Perhaps we have just learned to rationalize that it is easier to be a Peter and rashly swing our sword, and then leave the task to Jesus to come and mend the wounded ear of a Malcus. Nothing causes us to resemble Christ more than when we are bringing healing to the injured, and wiping the slate clean.
Washing wounds is an extension of favor. In Acts 9:37, we are told that Dorcas “…was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.” Have you ever wondered why funeral homes pay attention to even the smallest of details when it comes to their care of the bodies they attend? Perhaps it is because they recognize the fact none of us want our last memory to be recorded in the minds of others after they have seen us at our worst! As part of the laws for discerning and cleansing of leprosy in Leviticus 13-14, the priests were required to “wash the plague.” In doing so, they were able to remove the scrutiny, the shame, and the stigma attached to the lives of the leprosy victims. While many wounds will occur in our lifetime, may we ever remember that the Christian life is a series of new beginnings. After Naaman the leper washed his wounds in the Jordan river, he was given a new lease on life. After sin had ravaged his life and wounded his soul, we are told “Then David arose from the earth, and washed…” His life would be given a fresh start. When our wounds are cleaned, we feel better and we finish better!
A few years ago, my son was playing in a baseball game and did something I’ve never seen in baseball before. He foul-tipped a pitch, and it came up and hit him directly on the nose. Naturally, his nose began to bleed, but as a helpless dad, all I had to clean his wounded face with was his own tears that he shed. There may be times when no one can get to our wounded lives except the Lord. Perhaps one reason the Lord gives us tears is to help us wash our own wounds in such times. Oh, by the way, were you wondering what happened with Lori back in the fifth grade? Well, that pretty little girl who mended my wounded elbow would leave me just weeks later with my first broken heart and licking my own wounds!
Your Most Proud Pastor,
© 2010 Alan Stewart
Alan Stewart: Dr. Alan Stewart has served as Senior Pastor of Rechoboth Baptist since December 1999. He attended The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Moody Bible Institute, Covington Theological Seminary, and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary.
Prior to pastoring the Tennessee church, Alan was an evangelist for 15 years. He has preached revivals/pastor’s conferences in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He also preached crusades/conferences in India, Hungary, and conducted a crusade in South Africa in August of 2009. Pastor Alan is married to Jeanne, and they are blessed with two children – Sierra and Seth.