Yesterday the Supreme Court announced its ruling on the controversial health care reform law passed in 2010, which held most of the law constitutional. Despite broad support for some of the individual provisions in the Proustian legislation, public opinion has been more strongly opposed to than in favor of the law as a whole. The ruling sets the stage for a particularly contentious conclusion to the election season. How might Christians, whose opinions on the law are no less diverse than the rest of the country's, respond to the ruling?
Regardless of what we think about the law or the court's decision, those who follow the God of the Bible are united in the belief that the world began as a good creation that overflowed from the love of the Trinity; that sickness and death marred and corrupted that good creation as a result of sin; that God came to earth in the person of Jesus to pay the penalty for sin, restore humankind's relationship with him and each other, and usher in the restoration of the world; that one day Jesus will return and we will all be bodily resurrected to enjoy eternity with the triune God in a new heaven and new earth in which the curse is no more.
That is the unifying conviction of the church throughout history and the world. And it is important to remember in a moment when national affairs can loom so large. The men and women leading our country, powerful as they may seem in the moment, are not our saviors. They, too, are both part of God's good creation yet subject to the corruption of sin—and that extends to every work of their minds and hands. We should not put undue hope in them and what they aim to accomplish, yet neither should we despair too greatly at the advance of strategies we may disagree with. God is still in control, and his ultimate plans for creation are unchanged by the events of yesterday morning.
Further, Christians should not look to our health care system, whatever it may become, as the permanent cure for sickness and death or an exemption from our obligation to care for widows and orphans, for the sick and needy. Jesus alone has overcome the grave, and it is in his victory that our hope should ultimately rest, not medical, technological or systemic advances, though God may certainly work for good through those changes.
Whatever our future health care system may be able to do for those who previously had no care, it does not permit us to abdicate our responsibility to care for the needy and vulnerable in our midst. Over and over throughout the Bible, God calls his people to this work. Although the church has sometimes emphasized care of the soul over that of the body, Isaiah 58 describes worship and obedience as intimately intertwined with material compassion:
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I."
Jesus set perhaps the most radical example of care for the needy with his extensive healing ministry on earth, which was inseparable from preaching that God's kingdom was at hand. Everything he did was about a holistic work of restoration. When the cripple's friends let him down through the ceiling, Jesus dealt with both his physical and spiritual issues. And when a leper came to him in search of healing, Jesus directed him to go to the priest, so that he might be restored both physically and socially.
The Supreme Court decision on health care reform may be good news for those seeking physical restoration, but that does not mean it fosters holistic restoration. Indeed, the law's success may come at the cost of increased relational strain between those with dramatically different ideas about how to responsibly steward our nation's resources and care for the poor and uninsured.
But what if the church could be a place where those who disagree can stand shoulder to shoulder, even arm in arm, in joint worship of the true savior and healer? That's exactly what it should be.
A few years ago, I attended a concert at a somewhat liberal-leaning church in the San Francisco Bay area, where I live. The theme was songs of war and peace, and because I presently had multiple siblings in the military—at least one of whom was then deployed to the Middle East—I entered the church somewhat warily. Berkeley had recently been the site of noisy protests over the opening of a Marine recruitment center (God forbid, people should have the option to sign up!), and the anti-war, anti-Bush buzz I encountered every day was so constant that I hadn't realized the stress it caused until I entered the church and found myself bracing for a fresh sense of feeling attacked.
But when the liturgy directed us toward the biblical narrative of God as the ultimate peacemaker through Jesus' work on the cross, I realized I'd found a safe place to process all the complex emotions I'd been carrying inside me for months. As the orchestra launched into Haydn's requiem mass in the time of war, I began to weep.
In Colossians 1, Paul writes, "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." If Jesus could bring such healing between us and God, equally so brothers and sisters who may see each other as enemies over certain positions. Are we willing to live accordingly?
Anna Broadway is a writer and web editor living in the San Francisco Bay area. She is the author of Sexless in the City: A Memoir of Reluctant Chastity and a regular contributor to Her.meneutics.