Part II of our series on Healing and Comforting
We kicked off this series by noting how deep the connection between salvation and hospitality is, ending with the question: How do salvation and hospitality relate to healing and comforting?
The answer is found in the beginning. Or a few chapters after it, to be more precise.
Sin entered the world through Adam. Or, put differently, Adam hosted sin. And as a result of that hospitality—which we call “original sin”—all human beings throughout all of history have hosted things we were never designed or intended to host.
There’s a word—and a cost—for hosting what one is never designed to host: disease.
Disease, sickness, illness: we don’t typically think of these as hospitality problems. That’s why it’s hard for us to understand Jesus expelling them, often with explicit reference to demons. But we need to come to grips with this important biblical truth: Humans host illness and death involuntarily. It’s not a natural process. It’s a forced occupation that gradually incapacitates us physically, socially, and spiritually.
And ultimately it’s fatal: we all die. As playwright Noel Coward puts it, we live on a “death-sentenced planet.” So remember these two principles about illness and death, because you’ll see them in Scripture in every story about illness:
- First, illness and death are forms of involuntary hosting due to original sin. They’re not natural parts of what it means to be human.
- Second, illness and death are involuntarily hosted in every part of the human frame. Illness is physical (i.e., it infects the body), social (i.e., it infects the soul) and spiritual (i.e., it infects the spirit).
But here is the Good News: Christ’s death and resurrection signal the eviction of sin and death!
Christ is the true host and the true guest of every human being. Human beings are created in order to be hosted by him on earth and in heaven–and we are created to host him, too: in our spirits, which will manifest his presence in our souls and in our bodies.
We bear his image to the world: that’s our purpose in creation.
So for Christians, the basic category of healing is not miracle. It’s sign.
Healing points toward something: hospitality set right. Human beings hosting God, bearing his image—all made possible because Christ first hosted us. If you miss that each healing is a signal of Christ’s eviction of sin and death, you end up with the idea that each healing is an end in itself–a miracle, a kindness that Christ grants against the backdrop of a cruel, evil world. But Christ isn’t about granting kindnesses. He’s about making all things new.
So with these thoughts in mind, let’s return to the story we started with in John 9:1-7. It begins with the disciples asking Jesus a question: Is this man blind because of his own sin or that of his parents?
It’s a fair question, because as we’ve talked about so far, illness is joined at the hip to sin. And certainly some illnesses are caused directly by our own sins, whether those be smoking or drinking or overeating.
But interestingly, absent from the Bible is a division of illness into ones we’re directly responsible for through our own sin and ones that we host as a result of Adam’s original sin. And this is consistent with how God views sin, too: Humans go to hell for sin—separation from God–whether it’s original sin from Adam or our own name brand sin that we pile on top of what we’ve inherited. So differentiating between the two is pointless, whether we’re talking about being healed of sin or illness.
Further, as Jesus makes clear, illness is not intended to point toward sin and death but rather to the power and presence of God, to which it must ultimately yield.
In the case of the man born blind, Jesus says, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
And think of Jesus’ similar words in John 11:1-4 when he heard that his friend Lazarus was ill:
“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
But when Jesus heard it he said, ”This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Illness is always the platform for the revealing of the glory of God, the restoration of God’s image in every part of the human being—spirit, soul, and body.
That’s what the Work of Mercy of healing is all about. I know what you’re wondering: if that’s true, then why are some healed and others not?
Tune into our next post and find out!
How might thinking of healing as a sign, rather than a miracle, change the way we pray for those who are sick (including ourselves)?