What the Church Does Best
As the body of the risen Master reels from aftershocks of lockdowns, a year of “virtual gatherings,” and the impact of capacity restrictions, I spent this past weekend being reminded of what the body of the King does best. The Church heals, and it heals most effectively when we spend time in the physical presence of one another. As someone who suffers daily from the effects of a rare spinal condition, one that surgery and nerve blocks cannot help, I can say without hesitation that the Church heals.
I enjoy daily prayers for physical healing from many Christians, including those who follow a doctrine that all people can and will be healed if someone prays correctly on that person’s behalf. I often see or hear the disappointment of fellow believers as my condition marches on year after year and actually worsens.
I have seen miracle healings, including the rescues of several people from the brink of death. Yet many of us do not receive requested healing after a great many prayers. Our lack of healing defies the expectations of some petitioners, including myself. Our Father gives most of the things His children request; therefore any shortage of healing provokes the big question as to why healings are the apparent exception and not the norm. Yet healing is exactly what the Church does best.
The Purposes of Healing
The King healed. When He inaugurated God’s kingdom and proclaimed His reign as “the gospel” in places like Mark 1:14-15, Jesus then went about proving His kingdom authority by healing “everyone” in passages like Matthew 8:16 and Mark 6:56. He even healed dead bodies and restored the souls of the dead back into their dying bodies.
Yet those whom He healed and those whom He revived from death all marched afterward to their graves. Therefore a cynic could quote Paul and say, “Nevertheless death reigned…” Our Master may have worked wonders, but if His authority only amounted to delaying death, then His authority failed and death reigns supreme atop of His kingdom. When we pray for healing today, we still expect death to eventually overtake all of us until the return of the King.
The King also succumbed to death, apparently failing to equal Judas Maccabeas 150 years prior, who had done to the Seleucid overlords what the Judaen crowds expected Jesus to do to their Roman overlords. Many eyewitnesses to the death of our Master presented evidence that King Jesus had conquered the grave itself, without returning to it. Their evidence proved so strong that within weeks of His apparent defeat under Roman authority, thousands became convinced of His unending authority, a different kind of authority than the world had ever seen before.
Jesus did not heal dead and dying bodies in order to prove His authority over Rome. He healed the outer human in order to prove that He could heal the inner human:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” II Corinthians 4:16 NKJV
O we of little faith. So easily we get discouraged when the outer man is not healed, while the inner man perseveres under trials, including the trials of the body. James commanded us to count it all joy when we encounter various trials. He spent most of his epistle discussing how the inner person must mature completely, with only a brief mention of physical healing near the end of his writing. In our fervor to see the outer human temporarily healed, we must not forget that such miracles happen to prove the Anointed King’s authority over the inner human.
Healing by Gathering
I spent this past weekend with former drug addicts, seeing newly sober men limp forward in life while others exuded the strength of long term sobriety and spiritual growth. Every day, every human deals with one addiction or another, either succumbing to it or trampling it underfoot.
While death reigns over the outer human, the One who reigns over the inner human (healing many in this age, and judging all in the coming age) still walks in the face of the earth in the form of the Church, which is the fullness of His body. We can say that the body of the Great Physician is also the hospital of the soul for this age, and this hospital must not resort to a “telemedicine” model.
For several days, I had the privilege of spending time with these men who now have jobs for the first time in their lives at thirty to forty years of age, providing for their families. More importantly, they work full time in God’s kingdom, ministering spiritually to their families and sharing their daily lives with current and former addicts. They heal with their lives, because they choose to operate as the body of the King, risking physical health and safety by being present as front-line workers in the spiritual pandemic:
“Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.” Mark 2:15 NKJV
King Jesus not only healed the outer man, He also practiced physical presence with the outcasts, clarifying which illness concerned Him most:
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Mark 2:17 NKJV
The Church can rightly view the Adamic race as infected by the pandemic of sin, but we must not view individuals as toxic, in contrast with the world-system around us. A healthy congregation loves the sick until they come to the Healer of their souls, then it nurtures newborns, teaching them how to put on the new person (or the “inner human,” as Paul puts it) and helping to train every twice-born person to mature with the body into the stature of the King.
Our King did not avoid even the “toxic” Judas Iscariot, whom He knew would betray Him. Instead, He washed the feet of Judas, explicitly teaching us to follow His example. We rightly counsel immature believers to avoid those who would lead them back into the bondage of their former lives; and we would do well to practice Matthew 18:17 for those inside the Church whose behavior has become toxic, but only for a season until restoration can be made. To the Church, people are not toxic. Those who are sick need the healing which comes from the King, through His body, and by His Spirit.
The Obsession of the Church
While the Church does care about the inner human, today’s prayer requests (at least in my experience) revolve far more around the outer human. For every prayer request for an unbelieving relative, I hear at least five mentions of doctor visits and MRIs. For each request on behalf of a prodigal child, I hear of a half dozen people in the hospital. For every mention of a fellow believer who is beset by unrepentant sin, I hear a dozen descriptions of bodily ailments.
The Church invented the hospital, thereby demonstrating its concern for both the inner human and the outer human. We invented hospitals, because the body of the King chose to be physically present throughout history in the midst of pandemics, in order to show His love for the outer human, a love which extends into the inner human.
We must become vigilantly mindful of the fact that outer healings prove the King’s authority to cure the inner person. Corporations and governments have taken over physical hospitals and mental hospitals, but we cannot let them detract from the church’s focus and our exclusive domain as the spiritual hospital.
Prayers for Healing
Who knows, but that the Master may choose to heal this old spine of mine. Yet I find joy in the fact that long after this outer man has perished, the inner man may thrive due to the fact that the Church was physically present nearly 30 years ago when I was destroying myself and all those around me in the name of happiness. I’m so grateful that the body of the risen King has been physically present all these years, helping me continue to heal and mature and become a more integrated part of His healing body.
The Church is the body of the One who dined and rubbed shoulders with those who needed the Physician of the soul. I appreciate the prayers on my behalf, but I appreciate far more the actions of those who choose to be present with those who tested positive in the greatest of all pandemics.
The world-system around us injects its many toxins into people, then labels them as toxic, and finally flees from their presences. In contrast, the Church must operate in the presence of the spiritually ill, label them as loved, and offer the faith which repels the world’s toxins out of their souls.
How great was the joy and privilege to dine with former addicts who pour out their lives to rescue others from bondage. Daily I outwardly hurt, but daily I remember that most people who have healthy spines also lack the Holy Spirit. I have been healed of the Adamic disease, and I’m learning more and more about how to take off the malady of the old human and put on the health of the new human. The Church heals, and the Church heals best when it draws near to the broken-hearted.