This morning—the day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the health-care measure—I feel a sense of gladness. I am glad that millions of Americans, many of them children, will have access to health insurance. I am glad that people with pre-existing medical conditions can no longer be denied coverage by insurance companies. And I am also glad that some effort is being made to curtail rising medical expenses, and that certain special interest and business groups will be held to a greater accountability, and that the growing gap between the rich and the poor might be slowed.
I am glad not because I am a Democrat or a Republican but because I think that Jesus, who seemed to take great interest in health issues, is glad. Looking back on his life among people like us, he often acted as a healer. He seemed to delight in curing diseases, restoring disabled people to wholeness, and rewiring damaged minds. You cannot divorce these encounters from the rest of his public ministry. Health-care was in his frame of reference.
My favorite of the Jesus-healing stories is the one where a group of men rip open a roof and lower a friend into the presence of Jesus. I love how the Lord flexed with the moment and used the healing to offer people a vision of holistic health: physical and spiritual. I try to imagine the freshly healed man rolling up his mat and heading out the front door, walking unassisted for the first time in who knows how long.
Then, too, I wonder about all the people (apparently including religious leaders) who had crowded into that house and who'd made it impossible for the man in his original condition of paralysis to get to Jesus in a more conventional way—through the front door. How does it happen that people rationalized, that since they got there first, the suffering guy outside should be left to his own devices?
All of my life I have felt torn between those Christian friends of mine who believe whole-heartedly in healing as a centerpoint of their gospel and those who pray (sometimes benignly) for the health of friends but end up signaling their uncertainty by stating the conditional "if it be thy will." Is there a third position that mediates between "it's-always-his-will" and "it's-probably-not-his-will"? Both extremes seem a tad foolish to me.
In my role as a pastor, there were many occasions when I laid my hands upon a sick person and prayed for healing. I confess that there were some times when I did it simply because it was my job. But in my heart I harbored doubt. Then there were other occasions when I felt a firm conviction about God's desire and ability to heal, and my prayers were filled with fervor and a faith that affirmed that God could do anything.
Sometimes there seemed to be answers to those prayers of mine. People I prayed for (not necessarily in great numbers) did experience healing: not often of the instant type that Benny Hinn seems to highlight. But I have known people who found their way back from sickness and attributed it to my prayers and the prayers of others. This has not turned me into a so-called faith healer, but it has caused me, as I've grown older, to pray more boldly and expectantly when the opportunity has presented itself.
My readings of the life of Jesus convince me that our Lord wants people to be well. As described by the Gospel writers, he often seems disgusted by disease, offended by death. I love to read about those moments when even his better friends wanted to avoid sick people and when they paid more attention to the demands of a schedule than the needs of human beings. On such occasions Jesus would usually cut through the resistance and respond to the cries of someone who was blind or who had a child that was sick, even dying.