Picture a huge, overwhelming crowd. Squashed on all sides, you can’t take a step forward or backward. Amid the heat and shuffling, you crane your ears to hear, balancing on tiptoe so that you can catch a glimpse of Jesus as He teaches.
Someone taps you on the shoulder, “Sorry, we need to get through.” You would probably assume this man is rude or oblivious of the crowd and need for quiet.
You may be able to guess where I’m going with this—the four men who carried their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Most of us are familiar with this Bible story. When the friends couldn’t squeeze through the crowd, they lowered their friend through a hole in the roof. In the end, Jesus healed the paralytic physically and spiritually.
But, let’s leave this happy ending for a moment and go back to the crowd packed tightly around Jesus in that house.
Think about the various people who may have been there. Some were Christ-followers, devoted disciples who walked in His footsteps. The religious leaders were also present – pious, proud Pharisees and Sadducees who scrutinized Jesus’ every word and action.
But, those two groups make up only a fraction of the masses. We can imagine there were people who also wanted Jesus to heal them. And let’s face it, mankind hasn’t changed much over the years. I’m sure some people showed up simply to be entertained. After all, Jesus was the celebrity of the day. And others were simply seekers, looking for truth and burning with questions.
Regardless of who was in that crowd and for what reason, they all fell into one category: they were all Barrier Builders. Jessica Cicali introduced me to the term when we were talking about how God has used her in disability ministry. She explained that these Barrier Builders, whether they knew it or not, whether they intended to or not, blocked the way for the paralytic to reach Jesus. Does this mean they were bad people? Were they doing it on purpose? Absolutely not. Most of them probably didn’t even know that someone was trying to get to Jesus. But the fact is, they still created a barrier to Jesus and healing, both spiritual and physical.
Does this scare you a little? When Jessica made this comparison, I immediately looked back at my life and wondered, Have I unintentionally kept someone from reaching Jesus, without even realizing it?
The good news is that Jessica pointed out a second group in this story: the Friend Carriers. They’re easy to pick out—they were the four determined men who braved the crowd and risked their reputations to get their friend to Jesus. Were their methods a bit extreme and untraditional? Sure, but the results were worth it.
Jessica’s contrast made me stop and wonder which group I fall into – am I a Barrier Builder or a Friend Carrier? I’m afraid that too many of us must admit that we haven’t done enough to help people who can’t get to Jesus on their own. But it’s not too late to begin the transformation from a Barrier Builder into a Friend Carrier!
Jessica shared that “over the past several years, God has transformed me from being an unintentional Barrier Builder to becoming a Friend Carrier…. turning barriers into bridges, and making sure the Gospel is accessible to all, which means, if need be, lowering our friends through the roof.”
Danielle Ledoux is a former intern with Joni and Friends’ Cause 4 Life program who enjoys writing about God’s work in people’s lives. She is a graduate of Pensacola Christian College and is currently getting her Master of Fine Arts in Dramatics.