Don’t Back Up

Have you ever been challenged by a story?

A man leading a devotion for servant ministries on Fort Hood, told a compelling story about a prison chaplain who was called in the 1980s to minister to an inmate dying of AIDS.

Of course, we didn’t know back then how the disease was really transmitted, so there was much fear about accidentally contracting the deadly illness. When the patient who apparently was oozing bodily fluids from his facial orifices approached the chaplain, the man of God took a step back. They continued this dance until the nurses intervened and returned the sick man to his bed. When the chaplain returned to his office, he was convicted by the story of Jesus and the leper.

Jesus reached for the leper before he was clean. He didn’t move away in fear of contracting leprosy. He didn’t worry about the very real possibility that He might become ceremonial unclean and an outcast for touching a man who was so ill. He did not back up.

That was the challenge – Don’t back up.

Let’s be honest – life is messy.

It can be scary to embrace the messes we find in people’s lives. Sin and drama can be just as contagious as AIDS, leprosy, or the common cold. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that by getting too close, we could be dragged into a mess of our own.

I have been guilty of backing up like a mother evading a sticky, candy-covered toddler to avoid getting involved in other people’s messes. Steering clear of drama when I could have stepped in. Bowing out of a difficult dilemma in the name of eluding conflict. Keeping my distance because I didn’t know how to bring comfort. Giving a wide berth to a situation because I didn’t trust myself to withstand a potential temptation.

Maybe you have, too.

When those of us who are called to spread the word of God back away from the messiness we find in people, we unintentionally send them a message that they are outside of God’s healing powers. We tell them that our messes aren’t as messy as theirs. We whisper, ‘Come back when you’ve cleaned yourself up.’

That, my friends, reveals some serious issues in our own hearts. It discloses a lack of faith that God can heal anybody. It convicts us of making ourselves idols with the notion that we are more important than the work God wants to do in their lives. It unveils a belief that our cleanliness is more important than their Godliness.

It cuts deeply to admit how I’ve failed my fellow sojourners in this life. I have judged others and found them lacking (Matthew 7:1-6). I have failed to esteem others better than myself (Philippians 2:3). I have not loved my sisters and brothers as I should (1 John 4:20).

I have backed away.

Instead of backing up in fear, let’s look up in faith, bow down in humility, and reach out with love for those who are hurting.

Look up in faith.

You see, Jesus was not defiled by the leper when He put out His hand. The leper was made clean by Jesus’ touch (Matthew 8:1-4). When we are bold enough to reach out for the sick, the dying, and the messy with the Word of God, they too have the chance to be cleansed.

If God has caused a messy person to cross our life, He is faithful to make a way for us to bear all that comes with stepping up to bring His love to them (1 Corinthians 10:13). He even provides us with the armor to defend against attacks that may come our way. As we reach out to those who are hurting, let us wisely use the tools He has given us for protection – truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Spirit, and His Word (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Have you backed away from any sticky situations recently? Ask God to show you how He wants you to move forward in faith, humility, and love.


Dear Heavenly Father, Forgive me for the times when I have backed away from Your people. Remind me often how You love each of us with an everlasting love and desire that all would come to the salvation You freely offer by Your Son’s Sacrifice. Help me to step up in faith, humility, and love when something or someone messy comes my way assured of Your hedge of protection around me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


“When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And he bold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. and Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Matthew 8:1-4

For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne EllerThought Provoking Thursday, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Faith and Fellowship FridayGrace and Truth Friday, Still Saturday, Good Morning Monday, Soul SurvivalMonday Musings, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Wednesday, Women With Intention Wednesday.

29 thoughts on “Don’t Back Up

  1. Amen Liz! I absolutely LOVE this. Such an important message for us all. I will remember these words when I am tempted to avoid an issue – don’t back up! This will help me approach uncomfortable situations with confidence. Great word today, friend:)

    1. It was a tough one to write but when I heard this message I was floored. If really been struggling with a blog topic for the week. In fact I had started two other pieces earlier in the week. Wednesday mid day I get a little nervous about not having anything, but there was no doubt that God was speaking to me through this man yesterday. So happy to share the little nuggets He gives me!

  2. What a great devotional blog! It is perfect for me and my Stephen Ministers and plan to share it with them. Sometimes our care receivers have very messy lives and we want to back away. Your statement “…we unintentionally send them a message that they are outside of God’s healing power,” is so true and so convicting to me.

  3. Love this! We are called to be like Christ, and you’re so right, he did not back up. And how relevant the concept of gossip and drama! Oh my goodness, how many times have I backed up because of my fear of “being contaminated” or not knowing what to say. Liz, thank you for writing this and speaking into my heart!!

    1. Love you! It was such a convicting and challenging thing to hear the story, so it did my heart good to dig in and find out more about it!

  4. Girl…I can’t even. So much swirling in my head at this moment that all I can say is…I can see why the Lord crossed our paths. You just spoke my heart, and served up some confirmation in my own tentative journey that I feel God leading me on – thank you for that.

  5. I love this. Reminds me of our Bible study last spring.
    Christ had perfect love, and perfect love drives out all fear, all self-righteousness feelings, all self-serving intentions. Being able to reflect that love is indeed the greatest challenge of our lives.
    No skills we can learn in this life will match the power and beauty of personal charity and the outstretched hand. Seeing Christ’s sufferings in our neighbor’s sufferings and loving and uplifting them because we love Christ. That’s a great lesson and principle to live by.
    Thanks for this beautiful and necessary reminder. I’m bookmarking it.

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this! Im so touched by ‘were making ourselves idols..’.. indeed…when did we stop giving hugs or shaking hands because someone had a cold. May God help us really shine His Love and Wonders in this world of medical/scientific certainty!
    Love from Holland,

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jasmine! You are so right… I think we have “scienced” ourselves right out of believing in Gods miracle-working abilities!

  7. Hi, thanks for sharing this deep study. I have a lot of praying to do too. I back up a lot lately for various reasons, mainly concern over impact other people’s messes could have on my family and daughter. Praying for wisdom in this area.

  8. I love it when we get to be accidental neighbors at a linkup! It’s like a welcome surprise:) I know I commented before, but I’m glad God brought me back to read this one again. I remember times in life and ministry where I ‘backed up’, and the truth is that when I back up, I am not fully relying on God. If He calls me to do it, I can trust Him with the outcome. I’m needing to work on that! You are a blessing, friend.

    1. So funny! I was glad I had this for Suzie’s #livefree link up today… I thought it fit well with her “dirty dusty feet” following Jesus theme!

  9. Beautiful post!! Life and people are indeed messy, but Jesus calls us to wade in and love each other in, through and out of the mess. Stopping by from #livefreeThursday. Keep writing, sister!

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