A couple weeks ago I went out with a team of 8 people to cut down weeds at a woman’s house for our Summer of Love project. The owner told me she knew she had some poison ivy among the weeds but had sprayed it all with weed killer the previous week and killed it all. Our team worked for about an hour cutting down all sorts of weeds, small trees, and even large tree branches for this woman, doing the work she couldn’t do herself. At the end of the night, we felt really good about how we had served this woman.
And half our team was rewarded a week later with poison ivy spreading across our bodies. Having never had poison ivy before, I didn’t know how bad it was, but now I am wiser and more experienced (unfortunately) and can say that it is terrible. I considered scraping my skin off with a cheese grater – thats how bad my arm itched.
In a moment of misery I wondered – in the future should our church send people out to locations with known fields of poison ivy? Aren’t we just asking for discomfort and and itching arms if we knowingly go and pull weeds where this evil plant exists? I mean, I understand that our Summer of Love projects are meant to help people, but should we do it at the expense of our own pain and suffering?
And then I thought more deeply about that questions, about the suffering Jesus endured for me, about the beatings Paul endured to spread the Gospel of Jesus, about the centuries of oppression and suffering Christians have endured for sharing the love of Jesus with others. And in that reframed perspective, I realized a little bit of poison ivy rash is a small price to pay. This is no reason to stop our efforts to people who happen to have this harmful plant in their yards. This IS a reason to make sure everyone on the team dresses properly next time, but not to stop.
Showing others the love of Christ has a price. Sometimes that price isn’t what we expected, sometimes it hurts, sometimes it itches, but it is always worth it.