The story of the bleeding woman pushing through the crowd totally unnoticed intrigues me. It also convicts me.
One of the greatest fears anyone has walking into a church for the first time is how they are going to be judged. Are they wearing the right clothes? What will someone say about their tattoos? Is someone going to comment about the way they smell or how their teeth look? What if the people in that church find out about the sin in their lives? Do they smell like alcohol? Is addiction written all over their face? Will they recognize the prison tattoo?
And on and on and on it goes, and we're not just talking about persons with obvious "pasts" - pretty much everyone has this fear. Divorcees. Victims of abuse. Low-wage workers. High-wage workers.
Everyone wants to know, when they walk into a church, whether they are going to be seen as a precious child of God with the inherent dignity of being created in His image...or whether the persons in that church are going to look at them and see everything they hate about themselves when they look in the mirror.
How can the church not notice a bleeding woman? Certainly, the church will see who I am at my worst.
Sadly, too many persons are finding their greatest fears confirmed. We know, sadly, that the church loves to gossip. The church loves to talk about everybody but themselves. The church loves to notice what does and doesn't fit with the image they're trying to project.
The church too often notices all the things that those who walk through our doors wish that we wouldn't...and we too often fixate on those things.
Everything from physical appearance to gender to gender identity to economic status to biblical literacy to regular literacy. We seem to be experts at noticing things.
It doesn't seem to matter to us that picking these things out is the reason that persons who walk through our doors once don't come back through them again. Actually, too many churches seem too proud of that fact - they pride themselves on who they keep out.
And they hear a story like the bleeding woman, and all they can think about is how she should have identified herself. She should have been crying out, "Unclean!" even as she worked her way through that crowd. They can't believe that she would be so bold as to put every single one of those persons at risk just because she wanted to be in that place - how selfish of her. There was a reason that someone like her couldn't be on that street. Shouldn't be on that street. Yes, when they read this story, they actually become upset with her. How dare she?
But if we're not so busy being self-righteous, the rest of us can learn a tremendous lesson from the story of the bleeding woman that would revolutionize our churches and the way that seekers encounter them. You're probably already putting the pieces together yourself, but tomorrow, I'll lay it out point blank.