Sunday, September 30, 2018

Heal Like Jesus

It was a dark night on a deserted stretch of US Highway 6 that passes through acres and acres of Illinois cornfields. Around a hard turn, we suddenly came upon a serious wreck. A single car had rolled over and was lying on its side halfway into the dry corn stalks awaiting harvest. I was ten, but the scene and the accompanying scream remains stuck in my mind to this day. A woman was crying loudly, "Help my baby!"

My father slowed our old International panel truck as we went past, but he did not stop - another car had already pulled over. Now accelerating my father shouted over the roar of the truck engine, “Let's get to a phone and call for help.”

Why does this incident stand out so clear after all these years? What was the right thing to do? Should we have stopped to help? The ten-year-old wanted to stop but was scared. Wasn't it important to call for an ambulance? What was the right thing to do? Those questions have continued to plague me for my entire life. My father was always a compassionate and caring man, willing to help anyone. Maybe he was trying to protect me from the trauma of the scene.

We are faced with this kind of choice daily. We come in contact with a homeless person, someone acting erratically, a friend in depression, someone crippled or dying and we do not know how to react. We often may turn away and avoid even eye contact, look with pity, or cross over to the other side of the street. Seldom do we walk over and interact with them on a personal level.

Our reactions often come from fear, not knowing what to do or what to say. Deep down we want to help, but don't believe we can. Being helpful is what makes us human. So, rather than face up to our impotence, we turn our back, cross over to the other side and try to forget what we just saw. It does not work. I have never been able to forget that overturned car in the cornfield and hear that shrill scream for help.

We know what Jesus would do. The Bible narratives describe Jesus touching lepers, laying hands on dead people, and eating with sinners and tax collectors.

Our personal reactions are reflected in how we do church. Today much of the church reacts like the religious people in Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. A man was robbed, beaten and left to die in the ditch. A priest and a Levite passed by ignoring the man. But a Samaritan - equivalent today maybe to a secular humanist - took care of the man and saw to his needs.

I need to point out that the church has been very good at providing aid in major disasters - as we have just witnessed in Hurricane Florence, providing resources, and rebuilding. We personally went through Katrina, and long after FEMA, the Red Cross, and the State government left, churches continued to rebuild homes and businesses.

The church works well in providing community support, but my issue with much of the church is in their unwillingness to reach down and touch individuals lying in the ditch or in the cornfield. There are some that will pray for an instant healing or deliverance but chooses not commit the time that might be required for healing. It is cleaner and easier to pass the person off to a secular professional for help - even when the roots of the issues are spiritual. It may be because of their fear of not knowing what to do, or fear of doing the wrong thing. Our litigious society has added to the problem - even trained medical personnel have become fearful of making a mistake. So, rather than make a mistake, they do nothing.

The early church did not have this problem. They just did what they had seen Jesus do - they healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. Sometimes they were successful sometimes not, but the kept trying.

With the coming of the "Age of Enlightenment," the church began to over-analyze and began to suffer from paralysis of analysis. Rather than do what Jesus did, it was safer to cross over to the other side of the road, call for the ambulance, or close their eyes to the needy. What the church needs now more than ever is to reclaim the ministry of healing, "SOZO."


We are not restricting healing to only physical healing. The Greek word often translated as "healing" is SOZO, which may also be translated as “save,”  "heal," "recover," "whole," "wholly" and "wholesome."  SOZO is the word used when referring to an eschatological salvation. It basically means: "Saved out from under the devil's power and restored into the wholeness of God's order and well-being by the power of God's Spirit.” A literal interpretation is “becoming whole.”

One of the reasons our health care has become so costly is that the church no longer takes the time to minister to the whole person. They have abdicated that part of Jesus' ministry and turned it over to a secular government.

What should we do?

People still need to see trained professionals and follow their directions, but the church has a responsibility to be more active in ministry, beyond getting people to heaven when they die.

There is an apocryphal story concerning St. Francis on a visit to the Pope. He was shown through the storerooms at the Vatican containing great wealth. His guide remarked, "No longer can we say, 'silver and gold have we none.'" (referring to Acts 3:6) Francis responded, "It is too bad you cannot still say, 'In the name of Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.'"

  1. It is time that all churches provide training and resources to establish prayer ministries for healing the whole person, mind, body, soul, spirit, and relationships.

    The Good News that Jesus brought was the Kingdom of God is near. John The Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the One they were waiting for, he sent his followers to ask Jesus. Jesus told them, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." [Luke 7:22 (NIV)]
  2. Look around! There are people in your church and your neighborhood that need healing now. Set up intentional programs to help them. There is no one that will be a better evangelist and minister of healing than someone that has had a life-transforming event in their life. That is the way your ministry will grow.
  3. God will send you people who need ministry, as you develop the capability to minister to their needs.
I am interested to hear what you have to say about this post. Please provide comments below.

Bill Johnson

No comments:

Post a Comment