by Shannon Baker
Recounting his visit to an adult mental facility near a church he once served, Jim Futral shared with students at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary how he was taken to see certain patients, whom he described as humanoid figures because of their enormous disfigurement-patients who could neither see, nor hear nor talk.
Futral, now Mississippi Baptist Convention executive director, watched as a man, all twisted and misshapen, had a seizure. A nurse immediately knelt down beside the screeching and shaking man, took him in her arms and holding him close, rubbed his back. When the screeching subsided and the trembling stopped, she helped him back down to his cot.
"Not one person in this room can see anything, say anything, or get up and do one thing for himself," the facility director explained to Futral. "They only know one thing. They know that we love them."
The show of love inspired Futral.
"When Jesus stepped down here out of heaven and came and sat down beside you in your pew and to walk with you and me, He came to tell us that He loved us," Futral told the students. "And He sent us out into a world of hate and hurt and said, ‘I want you to communicate with those folks out there, folks who can't see and can't hear and can't talk and can't get along by themselves to tell them of His love.'"
He reminded them of God's Word: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, because you have love one to another."
While the substance of Jesus' communication is love, Futral said that equally important is the style of His communication. Calling Jesus "The Great Communicator," Futral noted how Jesus communicated love through speech, silence, sight, and scribbling.
He pointed out to the future preachers that more than 90 percent of communication is nonverbal. That said, he went on to note that speech was one of our Savior's chief communication tools: "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).
When Jesus spoke to the two men shuffling on the dusty road to Emmaus, they had not recognized Him, Futral recounted. Then their hearts began to burn as He spoke to them. "Do we recognize when Jesus is speaking to us?" he asked.
"Sometimes we lose sight of the importance or the impact that will be made on somebody's life when we simply say a word," Futral said, reminding them that the word God has placed on a Christian's heart may encourage or make a difference in another person's life.
Jesus also used silence when communicating to people, Futral said, noting that Jesus, like a lamb dumb before its shearers, used silence before His accusers. Futral referred to Matthew 26:62 when Caiaphas asked Jesus: "Answereth thou nothing?" "You don't have to come up with a response for everything," Futral commented. "Sometimes your best response is no response."
In a similar way, sometimes sight says it all, he continued. Referencing Luke 22, when Jesus had been denied three times by Peter, Futral pointed out that when the cock crowed, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter.
"Can you imagine what it must have been like?" the speaker asked. "I don't know about you but I've had Him look at me. I've seen His eyes of sorrow that cut into the heart of my rebellion, my needs, my faith, my denial-and Jesus with compassion and care simply turns to look."
Another style of Jesus' communication was what Futral described as "scribbling," as Jesus did on the ground when He was presented with an adulterous woman. As Jesus wrote, each of the accusers left one by one. "Where are your accusers?" He asked the woman. Finding them gone, He told her to go and sin no more.
In a like manner, "You can use your words to write down things and make a powerful difference in people's lives," Futral said.
"In every case, in every way, Jesus kept trying to get people to understand that God wants to come and do something wonderful in your life."