The Kiss of Christ

November 5, 2010

I had a bad fever for over a week recently as a nasty virus worked its way through my system. I’m not pleasant to be around when I’m sick—I don’t even like myself. About five days into this sickness, I was lying on my bed too sick to read, pray or watch TV.

I started thinking about people I love who I had not seen for awhile. I wondered if I would ever have a chance to say good-bye to them before I died. I started to think about my memorial service. I could picture the place and a few people who might come. I wanted to address the congregation with a videotaped message. It would start with the obvious, “Thanks for coming today. If you are watching this, then I have already gone to be with the Lord.” I would then throw in Yogi Berra’s line, “You know what they say, ‘If you don’t go to their memorial service, they won’t go to yours.’ ”

Lying on my bed, I thought about Robert Fulgham, an eccentric author who occasionally lies on the grave site he purchased for himself. He goes to his cemetery plot at night, lies down, and looks up at the stars. He says that someday this will be his permanent view, so he wants to get the perspective now. Even though I don’t agree with his theology, I like the way he faces his mortality. How can we really get the most out of life unless we embrace the reality that our days our numbered?

Part of what made my sickness depressing was that I couldn’t seem to accomplish anything significant. I wasn’t getting much out of my prayer times, the Bible seemed lifeless and I couldn’t exercise or serve the people in the church I love. Out of exasperation one day, I pulled several books off our shelves. I usually give away the books I enjoy after reading them, so our shelves have books I might read someday but probably won’t. In a book by F.W. Boreham, I read a story that pierced my heart.

In the mid-1800s, Mr. Gladstone made an announcement to the House of Commons in London about the death of Princess Alice. Alice’s young son had contracted diphtheria, a fatal disease. As her little boy tossed and turned on his bed with a raging fever, Alice came and stood by his side. The doctors had warned her to not get too close because he was contagious—his breath was like poison. When the boy felt his mother’s cool palm stroke his forehead, he threw up his hands and cried, “Kiss me Mama, kiss me!” The instinct of a loving mother was stronger than the instinct of self-preservation. The lips of the mother and child met; and the Princess paid the penalty with her life.

I read that story and wept. I then threw up my arms to the Lord, “Forgive me Jesus, forgive me.” The response of Jesus to each of us is like the kiss of Princess Alice. He was willing to become vulnerable unto death so that we could live. I could feel the reality that I had nothing to offer the Lord in exchange for the mercy I needed. There was nothing good in my soul at all until the Lord kissed me with his love.

When my fever finally broke, I was weak and more aware than ever that I am a dependent man. I had gone through a trial and barely squeaked by with my faith intact. The Lord is the strength of my life. When he seems distant, I have almost no strength or joy at all. There is a big difference between sickness and sin, but the feelings we get in each condition can be very similar. I don’t want to taste the loneliness of separation from the Lord ever again. A big part of our calling is to reach out to those who live with that separation and encourage them to receive the kiss of Christ. He gave us His life so that we could live forever.

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