Healing in the News, And Not in a Good Way
I’m tempted because I love the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God to save souls for eternity, so I’m concerned that news stories like this one make healing a distraction, even a hindrance, to the Gospel. I’m tempted because I love people. I hate to see people hurt in the name of Jesus Christ. I’m tempted because I love Jesus’ mission to re-evangelise the UK and the world, and because headlines like this one aren’t helping. Lastly, I’m tempted because I love common sense. I’m as offended as any Sky News reporter by church leaders who tell sick people to ignore their doctors, throw away their medication and deny their symptoms. And I don’t think I’m the only one who is tempted to react this way.
That’s why we need to think through that Sky News headline a little bit further. If our knee-jerk reaction is to shrink back from preaching healing, then we need to take time to re-read Paul’s words in Romans 15:17-19 a little more slowly.
If we truly love the Gospel, then we will keep on praying for people to be healed. Paul told the Romans that if he or anyone else preached the Gospel without mentioning “the power of signs and miracles” then they had not “fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ.” Jesus said something similar in Matthew 10:7-8. If we truly love the Gospel, then we cannot keep quiet about God’s promises to heal.
If we truly love people, then we will keep on praying for people to be healed. Paul told the Romans that true Christianity means doing as well as saying, and Jesus turned angrily on a group of theologians in Mark 3:1-6 because they loved preaching more than helping people. Mark tells us repeatedly that Jesus healed out of compassion, even when it hindered his preaching ministry. If we truly love people, then we will keep on taking risks to tell them Jesus heals.
If we truly love Jesus’ mission, then we will keep on praying for people to be healed. Paul told the Romans that his healing ministry was “what Christ has accomplished through me”, just as Peter told a group of Romans that Jesus’ ministry basically consisted of his going “around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil.” Every time we read one of the four gospels, we find Jesus healing people on almost every page. Tom Wright reminds us in his book The Challenge of Jesus that:
Jesus was not primarily a ‘teacher’ in the sense that we usually give that word. Jesus did things and then commented on them, explained them, challenged people to figure out what they meant. He acted practically and symbolically, not least through his remarkable works of healing – works that today all but the most extreme sceptics are forced to regard as in principle historical ... Jesus soon became better known for healing than baptizing. And it was his remarkable healings, almost certainly, that won him a hearing. He was not a teacher who also healed; he was a prophet of the kingdom, first enacting and then explaining that kingdom.
If we truly love Jesus’ mission, then we will go and do the same.
If we truly love common sense, then we will keep on praying for people to be healed. Paul was very aware from his time in Ephesus that there were weird and wacky exorcists preaching healing in Jesus’ name, but rather than seeing that as a reason to go quiet on healing it made him preach it all the more. While they continued in their shouting, pretence, and anti-intellectualism, Paul told the Romans “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished.” If you are repulsed by the razzmatazz, the ignorance and the show, then Paul urges you to make sure that you do the same as him. Counter lies with truth: truth about Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, powerful resurrection and victorious ascension. Then demonstrate that truth by praying for healing in his name. If we truly love common sense, then we dare not leave the sick to be cared for by those who do not.
So let’s not be put off by Sky News headlines like this one. Jesus still says to us what he said in Matthew 10:7-8:
As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven in near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.