The Heart(less) of Technology

I’ve seen so many amazing new technological breakthroughs in my lifetime. For example, consider the phenomenal developments in the world of plumbing fixtures. We have those annoying, auto-flush toilets that are so popular in public places like airports and stadiums. You know the ones I’m talking about—those amazing machines that are so good at auto-flushing at the most inopportune moments. Then, there’s the automatic faucet on the sink, with a little sensor in the wall that detects someone standing at the sink, automatically turns on the water, and then turns it off when you walk away.

Of course, like most wonders of modern technology, these incredibly smart machines are also incredibly stupid. I was in an airport rest room the other day, and when I walked over to the automatic paper towel dispenser, the faucet in the sink next to it turned itself on as I was drying my hands. I guess that nobody thought to put a sensor on the paper towel dispenser to tell the sink if it’s a false alarm. The sink doesn’t really care what you’re doing, or whether you want to wash your hands or not. All it knows is that someone or something is within sensor range.

Being the adventurous type, and being blessed with an absolutely empty rest room at the time, I tried an experiment. I slowly walked toward the door, right in front of the row of about a dozen sinks, watching as each blind, deaf, dumb, and stupid sink turned on the water as I passed by. Now, this might have seemed like a silly thing to do, but actually, there was an important lesson in it.

As we grow more and more technologically advanced, we also grow more technologically dependent. We become accustomed to brilliant, intelligent marvels of human creation that seem to anticipate our every desire, whim, and need. Unfortunately, they also tend to DEFINE our every desire, whim, and need. We find ourselves becoming dependent upon technology, and then, before we realize it, the technology no longer serves us, but we serve the technology. In a very real sense, we become slaves to our own creation.

Our churches are among the first to suffer from this “servant shift” phenomenon. We can become so accustomed to email, FAX, text messages and voice mail that we forget the importance of people, and of intimate, caring relationships. We can become so accustomed to serving these heartless, soulless machines that we forget that the people around us are neither heartless nor soulless. It’s easy to drop an email to a brother or sister who’s hurting and really needs the touch of a fellow human. It’s easy to become as cold and heartless as the machines we serve. It’s easy to get so caught up in the fancy, multimedia presentations that we lose the healing power of a hug, or the overwhelming value of a shoulder to cry on.

One of the most impressive characteristics of Jesus during His earthly ministry was His availability. He never turned anyone away, and was never too busy to talk to a hurting person. Jesus was a warm, intimate, sensitive man who, in this writer’s opinion, was a hugger.

Jesus understood the healing power of touch. Consider this incident from Matthew 8:

(Mat 8:1-3 NNAS) When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. {2} And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” {3} Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Jesus was surrounded by large crowds. He was a “star,” the center of attraction. Yet, in the middle of this huge crowd of admirers, and all the busy activity of the day, Jesus had time for one person who needed Him. Not only was this “just one person,” but to complicate the situation even further, the person was infected with the horrible, communicative disease of leprosy, an unpleasant disease that slowly eats away at the lepers flesh. Leprosy is transmitted by physical contact, and by law, the leper had to constantly announce his or her “unclean” state to alert others and prevent their infection.

Not only did Jesus have time for this hurting individual, but He did the unthinkablehe “reached out and touched him.” Jesus, being who He is, could have simply said “be cleansed,” and healed the man without a touch, but rather than take the easy path, Jesus did the unthinkable—and gave us all a powerful example to follow—by reaching out and touching the untouchable.

The debate over whether the leper’s healing resulted from Jesus saying “be cleansed,” or from Jesus reaching across the barrier and touching a hurting man is one that I’ll leave to the theologians to discuss, just as soon as they settle that “angels on the head of a pin” issue. What I do know for sure is this: Jesus gave us an example of caring, loving, and healing touch that was head and shoulders above the norms of society in that day.

That’s an example we could all stand to follow.

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