The four men were clearly guilty of breaking and entering – yet God blessed their actions. The instance of forcibly breaking into a domestic dwelling was a fairly outrageous one which involved considerable structural damage to the dwelling place – a crime in almost every culture – yet God rewarded the temerity of the individuals concerned.
Mark tells the story: “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people … gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’” (Mark 2:2-5).
In this case the motives of the individuals concerned were clearly good ones. Breaking and entering usually constitutes a crime because it involves entry into a building for the purposes of committing an offence such as stealing. Here, the four men broke into a domestic dwelling not to take by force, but to ask for help and their actions certainly were rewarded.
There is also an interesting lesson in this small story that we often overlook. Mark tells us that “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” It was apparently the faith of those helping the sick man, rather than the faith of the man himself, that Jesus rewarded. The story prods us to ask ourselves a question in relation to these men of faith: To what extent do we go in seeking God’s help for others? While we may have true concern for the needs of others and may regularly take those needs to God on their behalf, just how dedicated and “extreme” are our efforts? Do they approach the dedication of the four men of Capernaum?
Another example of this kind of dedication is the “No one left behind” mantra of military units operating on battlefields or in hostile territory which has led to many examples of heroism where individuals and groups have gone to extraordinary lengths to help those unable to help themselves. It is a mantra that we might well apply in our Christian lives – the principle of “No brother or sister left behind on life’s battlefield.” It is perhaps only rarely that heroism may be involved, or “breaking and entering” on behalf of others who need help, but the principle applies if the need is present. It is, after all, a principle that God commends – we are told to strive to enter the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:24), and we must strive to help others in fulfilling their calling, too.
In the biblical example the four men guilty of breaking and entering in the city of Capernaum acted with amazing dedication, and many examples of the “No one left behind” mantra show the same. Such stories urge us to ask ourselves: “Would we go to such lengths to help someone in real need?” The answer is probably as close as the next need we see.