Have you ever felt stuck in a situation you felt helpless to get out of? Maybe a bad job? A bad marriage or other close relationship? A house or apartment, or a neighborhood? A town or city? A financial debt? A chronic illness? Or anything else from which you wanted to “just get away” but…………you couldn’t? You were stuck.
If so, welcome to the human race. We’ve all been there. Stuck. Somewhere. Wanting to get away, but maybe no place to go or any way to get there. No way out. Feeling helpless.
There’s a Greek word in the Gospels of the biblical New Testament, apollumi, that is used to quote Jesus in at least two different places, John 3:16 and Luke 15:24. In John, that word is translated as “perish” and in Luke, it is translated as “lost,” for it refers to the prodigal son in that famous parable Jesus told. In the most general of terms,apollumi means loss of all hope. In my world as a clinician, think “depressed.” Loss of hope. Helpless. Stuck.
Which is why I happen to believe God so loved the world of “stuck humanity” that he sent Jesus to be our difference-maker. For the purpose of our getting unstuck. And solving our universal problem of apollumi.
Try reading the Gospel red letters sometime and notice the people Jesus came to and those who came to him. They were people in the throes of apollumi. They were stuck. Dead end diseases without treatment or cure. Blindness, leprosy, psychosis, paralysis, etc. Dead end jobs working their Dad’s fishing boat. Or collecting taxes and having to stay with it despite the abuse, because no other job would pay that well. People who were too short or too greedy. Too female or too menstrual. Too mulatto or too Samaritan. Too Gentile or too Roman. Too stuck or too helpless. Apollumi. That’s who Jesus came to. That’s who came to Jesus. For help to get away from their stuck places.
So can Jesus help us get unstuck today? And can we still come to him even today?
I believe he can. And I believe we can.
You see, the question is if we are willing to convert from our present lifestyle of helplessness to a new lifestyle of helpfulness. Are we?
If we are willing to convert from stuck to unstuck, from helpless to helpful, then we are ready to follow Jesus. Those are the people Jesus called then. And, I believe, still calls today.
To be a Jesus follower means nothing more than to give up on being helpless, to take up our mat and walk, to just go and help somebody. Anybody. I love the analogy in Mark 2 of the paralytic’s mat. To me, anytime we are stuck in a lifestyle of helplessness, can't stay sober, can’t get a job, can’t this, can’t that, we are paralyzed on one of life’s mats. And Jesus calls us to take up our mat and walk. Go help somebody. Take up a new lifestyle. That, to me, is the crux of the Gospel and the core of Christianity.
I doubt that Jesus was sent to the world God so loves so we could argue doctrine, proof-text our apologetics, or get out of hell free on the day we die. If anything, that’s the mat of paralysis Christianity itself needs to get unstuck from. The real message of Jesus for the world both then and now is get up and walk. Convert. Throw out the old wineskins of helplessness and hopelessness. Take up a new lifestyle of helpfulness.
If we follow Jesus into this new lifestyle, more than we can ever imagine we will be helping other people, apollumi people, in also getting unstuck.