May 13, 2009

God Gave Me Scars - pt. 2

If you haven't read Part 1 yet, please do so before continuing.


I consider myself a pretty tolerant person when it comes to religion. Not tolerant in the “we’re all coming up different sides of the same mountain” kind of way. Tolerant in the “you can observe communion once a year, twice a year or every week and still be in a right relationship with God” kind of way. So I can tolerate people who aren’t Reformed, like I am, or use a different style of worship, or feel called to different forms of ministry. There are very few things within the realm of liberty in biblical Christianity that I can’t tolerate.

The biggest thing I have no tolerance for is the teaching – often present in “Christian” cults – that physical illness, injury or deformity is somehow de facto a punishment from God, or else a sign of weakness on the part of the believer.

I have no problem with people who like to use alternative medicine. Myself, I like the power of Tylenol, but that’s a personal preference.

I don’t think you should run to the doctor for every sniffle, but that we should be responsible and understand the way our bodies work as wonderfully and marvelously designed by God, and that God has allowed us and those before us to understand how the body works so that they may treat it – for example, how to repair a baby’s heart.

When we understand that all wisdom and design come from God, we know that there is nothing unbiblical or spiritually weak in seeking medical treatment.

However, I used to know a family who belonged to one of those aforementioned Christian cults. They believed that using any form of invasive or chemically-based modern medicine was sinful. Getting braces was okay, but not having your wisdom teeth removed. Going to a chiropractor to get your painful back popped into place was fine, but you can’t take any ibuprofen when you get home. Midwifery was the only option, and as such, their group had a lot of children with birth defects related to delivery, not development.

(Before you come after me, I’m not knocking midwifery. There are good, trained, qualified midwives, and then there are ones who, well, aren’t. Just like every other profession. And since they didn’t believe in medicine in any form, their midwives had no real training and hurt several of their babies, by their own admission. That’s all I’m saying.)

That’s one extreme example. Then there are the others who belong to more mainstream factions of Christianity. These people are almost Gnostic in their treatment of their physical bodies. I don’t mean full-blown Christian Scientists. I mean your Baptists and Presbyterians and Pentecostals and such who deny the existence of illness, or rather, they deny the physical nature of it.

They claim that it must be the result of sin or at the least of spiritual weakness on the part of the believer for being sick, whether it’s a cold, a headache, chronic depression, anything. You fight things spiritually and ignore the physical existence of the illness or condition, because that’s "where the real trouble is."

Of course, the flip side to that theology is that those who don’t suffer illness or injury are either without sin or somehow stronger or more spiritually mature than the one who is sick, which makes it really easy to point out, “Well, they are obviously just accepting the illness and not fighting it spiritually, and that’s why they are suffering.”

Sound familiar? It should.

Remember the story of the blind man? The disciples pointed him out to Jesus and asked him, “Who sinned that this man was born blind, him or his parents?” The teaching of the day was that physical impairment was indicative of the presence of sin.

Immediately the disciples attributed a physical problem to a spiritual problem without any reason other than their own prejudices. After all, they aren’t blind, so obviously they must be somehow higher on the spiritual ladder than this guy who was born blind. (For more on this, read the story of the paralytic that Jesus healed in front of the Pharisees, who taught this concept.)

“Born blind”. He was born that way. Like I was. So what was their real question? “Whose sin is responsible for this man’s birth defect?”

And what was Jesus’s response? “No one’s. He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him.” And then Jesus healed him, showing the power of God.

Are there physical consequences for sin? Yes. Diseases like STDs, children born with deformities to drug addict mothers, alcoholics who suffer liver disease, people who fill their bodies with toxins developing cancer – yes, there are physical consequences for sin. We live in a fallen world in fallen bodies.

However, is every physical ailment caused by individual sin? The Bible clearly says, “Absolutely not!”

Click here for Part 3

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