When I was a kid, every scrape, cut, bruise, and bee sting got the same treatment. My mom used something called “black ointment.” I don’t know if you’ve ever used it, but … it’s pretty gross. It’s like Neosporin, but instead of being clean and clear looking, it looks like it’s been scraped off the bottom of a stagnant pond.
As gross as it looked, it worked! When I was a kid, it was a mysterious cure-all to me. It was always, just what I needed.
Sometimes when I look at the world, I wish black ointment could fix all the physical and emotional scrapes, cuts, and bruises people inflict on each other.
It turns out, God has a plan for that.
It makes sense that God would have a plan. After all, as it says in Psalm 24, it all belongs to God: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it.”
Ephesians 1 at verse 9 says, “God revealed his hidden design to us, which is according to his goodwill and the plan that he intended to accomplish through his Son.”
Wait, God has revealed his hidden plan to us? Great! What is it? Well, verse 10 tells us: “This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth.”
In The Message paraphrase Bible, this part of Ephesians reads this way:
God thought of everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making.
He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10, MSG.)
Everything will be brought together in Jesus. Everything, even us. We will be brought together in unity, peace, and wholeness.
That’s very different from how we live in the world today.
Think about politics in America today. It’s set up as opposing camps, with each side trying to make itself stronger and more powerful. All sides exploit our anxiety and use our fear to manipulate us. The end result is more division and more conflict.
Misunderstanding, suspicion, fear, division – none of that is God’s plan. God’s plan is to unite, heal, and reconcile us in Christ.
Once we acknowledge that everything belongs to God, political leaders aren’t left with anything but the pretense of power. The pretentious nature of human power was made evident in the resurrection, but before that, too. Remember when John the Baptist was beheaded?
Herod Antipas executed John the Baptist on the whim of his daughter (Mark 6:14-29). Herod presented himself as a mighty and powerful ruler, so powerful he could have a man beheaded and have his head served on a platter. And yet, he wasn’t powerful enough to tell his own daughter “no.”
It turns out, Herod was powerless. His power was only a pretense.
What do we do in the face of the pretense of human power? We apply the healing ointment of Jesus.
Jesus is the ointment that will heal nations, families, even the most daunting of all – the self.
The thing about black ointment, and the thing about Jesus, is that neither one does any good if you keep them on the shelf or in the tube.
We have to apply the ointment if we want it to bring healing.
To quote Will Willimon, when we “speak up for love in the face of hate, [or] tell the truth about injustice and reach out and attempt to subvert the injustice, [we] are showing power, true power, the power of God in Jesus Christ.” This power will “gather up all things in heaven and on earth and reconcile them to God’s purposes” (Ephesians 1:10).
In other words, every time we do something loving for another human being, we apply the healing ointment of Jesus.
The best news of all? We have an unlimited supply!
Did you ever use black ointment, or something similar? Did your mom have a mysterious cure-all? How do you apply that to your problems and the world’s problems? Do you see that there is something you can do? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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