I’ve always been intrigued by the story in the synoptic Gospels where a group of friends go the extra mile in order that their paralyzed friend can encounter Jesus. (Matthew 9, Mark 2, Luke 5)

There is such a huge crowd gathered at the place where Jesus was staying that there is no possible way for the friends to get close to Jesus. So, rather than give up, they lift their friend onto the roof, create a hole and lower him right down in front of Jesus.

Jesus honors their commitment and the man is healed.

Stories of miraculous healings occur often in the Gospel texts. What gets me about this one is the extravagant love these friends have for the paralytic.

A couple Saturdays ago, we had some serious ice here in Big Rapids.

My driveway is located right at the bottom of a pretty steep hill. I had a funeral I needed to get to and my car — which is often more like a rollerskate in the winter — would not get up the hill.

I backed up twice to get a running start and would get near the top and just start to spin. On the third try, just as I thought I’d failed, a neighbor rushed out, got behind my car and ran. He gave me just enough help to get up and over the hill.

He had no idea that I had an important obligation to get to, nor how frustrated I was feeling about the whole process.

He went the extra mile, and I am still grateful.

Nearly every day at the church we encounter persons with great need. Some needs are spiritual, many are financial and all are important. Often, we can assist, but many have problems larger than our capabilities.

In a community where the needs are fairly visible, I am challenged by persons who wonder if “helping” is the same as “enabling,” or those who think people should “just get a job,” or are “lazy.”

As I reflect on the story of the paralytic, I am reminded that going the extra mile does not have strings attached. I am reminded that in Christ, God went the extra mile, that we might “have life and life abundant.” (John 10:10)

John Wesley is thought to have said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Jesus emphasized this by telling us to love God and to love our neighbors.

Paul encourages us not to “grow weary in doing good, that at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Just as my neighbor saved the day, and those friends opened up a pathway for Jesus’ healing power, we have the ability to do good right here, right now.

When is the last time you offered a random act of kindness to someone? When is the last time you gave without strings attached?

While we may not be able to fully meet all the needs of persons in this community, we can listen and pray, and embrace — bringing God’s Kingdom to life one person at a time.