Hearing and accepting the Gospel is not a magical pill that makes one healthy, wealthy or prosperous. That is a false gospel that makes Jesus no more than a genie in a bottle. But a life lived in light of the Gospel may be good for your health, and the health of your community.
The church has always done its best missions and outreach work when addressing the issues of health, education, or poverty. Beyond biblical and theological training, health and educational disciplines have been the most consistent disciplines on the mission field.
Jesus and the Apostles
Much of Jesus’ ministry was characterized by healing the sick. Granted, a key distinction between His ministry and ours is the miraculous nature of Jesus’ healing work. The purpose of Jesus’ work was to prove His identity as the Messiah, but the effect was still that people were healed, and some people believed in Jesus.
The Apostles also healed miraculously. The purpose for their miracles was to demonstrate authority. Still, the effect was that people were healed and people were pointed to Christ.
I am not hugely concerned whether modern healing is miraculous, natural, or mixed. I am also not hugely concerned whether the healing is small or great. I am primarily concerned that people are healed, and that people are pointed to Christ.
Participating in someone’s healing process provides an opportunity to present the Gospel.
You don’t have to be a doctor to participate in someone’s healing process.
The Gospel and Emotional Health
At the moment we are saved, we are released from guilt. We have been forgiven, and we are called to forgive. We may still have remorse for our past sin, which is totally appropriate. But we no longer have to carry guilt. Abiding in forgiveness and setting aside guilt can do wonders for our own emotional health.
Paying forgiveness forward is another major contribution to our own emotional health. When we stop poisoning our hearts with bitterness, we have space for better emotions. What might happen when we stop treating our offenders with bitterness, and instead treat them with the love of Christ?
Beyond guilt and forgiveness, a Christian’s discovery of a new identity in Christ can bring tremendous healing to self doubt, pride, and shame.
Anyone can participate in this healing process. All you need to do is forgive and encourage others. Forgiveness can seem impossible in many cases, I don’t mean to make light of the suffering that sinful people bring to each other, but forgiveness is possible.
The Gospel and Social Health
The Great Commandment is to completely love God, and to love people as ourselves. If we really live that out, in light of our forgiveness, and by paying forgiveness forward, we influence the people around us in ways that are good for all of us.
By creating a culture of healing in our churches and communities, we can “stack the deck” for a lot of healing processes to get started. What comes next is a lot of opportunities to present the Gospel.
One thing we can do to stack the deck to advance access to affordable healthcare. I know this is a politically charged issue, but the fact is that the Church has massive opportunities that it is largely ignoring. This is a stewardship failure on a lot of levels.
How can the Church advance affordable care? There are of course the legislative solutions such as the Affordable Care Act. But I think the free market has other models that the Church can use. One possibility is a simplified version of concierge care combined with an altruistic outlet.
The Gospel and Physical Health
Forgiveness reduces guilt, bitterness, and shame, which reduces stress. Reduced stress improves sleep and health in general. Improved sleep improves health in general. A life lived in light of the Gospel will also tend to lead people to healthier behaviors.
Again, the Gospel is not a magic pill. That is bad doctrine. But it can help us feel better and function better. We can love others as Christ has loved us, and in doing so we can help them to feel better and function better.
Add Your Voice (comment below)
- What do you think? Am I out to lunch?
- What other connections can you see between the Gospel and health?