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“I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD.  I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again.  I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak…”               (Ezekiel 34:15-16).

When she was young, Clara Barton was an extremely shy person. The youngest of five children, it was recommended that she become a teacher to overcome her profound inhibitions. She did so in her home state of Massachusetts, later moving to Washington, D.C. where she became the first female clerk at the U. S. Patent Office. Clara wanted to help with the American Civil War effort as much as she could, initially collecting and dispersing supplies and eventually nursing the wounded. In accord with her own deep desire to help others in need, Clara Barton sacrificed personal well-being to bring healing and comfort to others. Working close to the battlefields, she narrowly escaped death herself many times. It is said that once while tending to a wounded soldier during the Battle of Antietam, she felt her sleeve move as a bullet went through it and killed the man she was treating. In 1865, Clara was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to “search for missing prisoners of war,” helping soldiers separated from the units reunite with those units while also informing families of the fate of missing soldiers. While in Europe in 1870, she worked for the International Red Cross. Upon returning to the United States, she later gathered support for an American branch of the organization which was established on May 21, 1881. Clara Barton was a woman ahead of her time, always prepared for the calls for help that followed disasters. No one could have predicted that God would have created this once shy little girl to become a woman who, years later, would be referred to as the “Angel of the Battlefield.”

The American Red Cross received its first U.S. federal charter in 1900. Barton headed the organization into her 80s and died in 1912. These days, a red cross is widely used to designate first aid and medical supplies. Commonly used at the sites of medical and humanitarian relief workers in war zones as well as natural disasters, their service under this symbol of protection has grown to become unquestioned. The Son of God ministered to emotionally wounded and unhealthy sinners and was frequently questioned by those of His day before He would bear His own cross. “As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me and be my disciple,’ Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with such scum?’ When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do.’ Then he added, ‘Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’  For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners” (Matthew 9:9-13)

Jesus is known as the Great Physician offering ultimate healing to a broken world. A doctor cannot help you if you claim to be well, and Jesus cannot help you if you claim to be righteous. The Apostle Paul said that we should “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Jesus is clear that no-one is actually righteous.  Yet tragically, there are millions who cover up their bruised souls and act as if they are. Jesus would want you to know that ‘the doctor is in’ for all who acknowledge that they need to see Him. Those who seek His loving care have the privilege of leading others who are spiritually sick to a place of healing and hope.  We get to carry the bandages and crutches as we, the walking wounded, continually pursue healing from the One who can truly make us whole. Just as the red cross became the symbol adopted for a humanitarian organization providing aid to those in need, the rugged cross of Calvary represents a Godly sacrifice of salvation for all of mankind. He continues to comfort us through His Holy Spirit, a true angel for whatever battles we are facing.

REFLECTION: Have you found there are times when you need to recognize your own feelings of righteousness and realize that you are, inf fact, a sinner?  Are you part of any informal groups or organizations that are quick to notice ‘sick people’ around you but who fail to acknowledge your woundedness? How might you challenge others to examine their own self-righteousness?


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