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Commentary Life

Jesus Healed Body and Soul

It struck me this week reading Luke 9 that everywhere Jesus went, as he taught people about God and his kingdom, that he also met physical needs.

Sometimes it was giving food. Sometimes healing. Sometimes exorcism. Sometimes physical touch. Sometimes simple friendship around the table.

I’ve always known this of course, but perhaps because of the social and cultural moment we’re in, it hit me differently.

It was Luke 9:11 this time. “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”

He healed those who needed healing.

We never see Jesus saying, “Oh, you need physical help? Well my real ministry is preaching the gospel.” He never once retorts, “Oh, you need a tender touch? Well, I only came to tell you about God, not show him to you.”

No, Jesus came to tell and show who God was and what he was up to.

To Jesus, healing body and soul went hand-in-hand.

He’d forgive your sin. Then he’d tell you to stand up and walk for the first time.

Jesus brought God’s kingdom. And to Jesus, the kingdom of God meant freedom (see Isaiah 61 and Luke 4). Freedom was God’s gift to humanity. And physical healing was a demonstration of spiritual healing that could not be seen. Physical healing was a precursor of the great and final healing and restoration that would come on the last Day.

It was a signpost of that day when there would be no more need for physical healing.

Of course, Jesus didn’t heal every single person in Israel. He still doesn’t. The kingdom has come and also is yet to come.

It’s hard for us to comprehend this and deal with the tension, but we must.

Especially in our churches and ministries. And as we deal with the tension, the way Jesus ministered should also inform our priorities. As we preach the gospel and teach and train, are we also actively seeking to bring real, tangible, physical healing to the hurting, sick, oppressed, broken, and forgotten? This can mean anything from providing food and backpacks to helping groups and communities overcome and breakdown injustices.

This isn’t a social gospel. It’s not a liberal agenda.

It’s the exact thing Jesus did.

I can hear an objection and it sounds like this, “But Paul!”

Most Christian (particularly evangelical) ministries love Paul because of his (seemingly) propositional and theological approach to ministry.

As in, if we follow Paul, we just get to bypass the kind of ministry Jesus did. We’ll just focus on the spiritual and leave the physical to the hospitals and private schools and soup kitchens.

But remember it was Paul who said, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (Gal. 2:10).

It’s clear Paul’s ministry was to expand the gospel’s reach around the Roman Empire where it had no presence. His letters don’t expound a full theology or practice of serving the poor, but they weren’t designed to do that. Instead, it’s sprinkled in, like in Galatians 2. And it’s clear Paul’s ministry, at least in some sense, imitated Jesus’.

Jesus didn’t have a “preaching ministry” and a “healing ministry.” He didn’t emphasize one over the other. He sought to bring God’s healing and freedom to men and women, from the inside-out.

If he is truly our Master and our model, then shouldn’t we seek to follow him in his methods?

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Life Theology

Where We’ve Been Swimming Lately

A week ago I emailed my wife at work after I read a passage from the book of Luke.  Here’s what I read:

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (12:33-34).

And here’s what I wrote:

I don’t want to be one of those guys who meets Jesus face-to-face and says, “I thought that was a metaphor.”

Carly and I have been wrestling with what it means to live counter-culturally and be liberal givers.  We are thinking and praying about what it looks like to reject the Christian version of the American dream.  Things like a big house, nice clothes, luxury vacations, and retirement seem meaningless.  This is what America wants. And I’m sad to say that it’s what many Christians want too; they just do it with a spiritual wrinkle and make it seem and sound like everything is “a blessing from the Lord.”

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t perfect, of course.  We wrestle.  It’s a battle.  Our sin nature tries to get the best of us. But our hearts’ desire is to live seriously, simply, minimally, and prepare to actually sell everything and give to the needy if and when God says, “Now’s the time.”

I know that I’ll hear Christians say, “There’s nothing wrong with having stuff and enjoying things.”  I get this, and I agree. But we draw a pretty thick line here in America.  Where does it stop?  At the end of the day, I always end up at this point: if life is purposeful, and if eternity lasts forever, and if Jesus really did die for our sin, and if hell is real and awful, how can I be content with living in Disneyland and accumulating stuff and comfort?  The answer is always: I can’t.

So that’s where we’ve been swimming lately. It’s a deep ocean and it’s hard to navigate sometimes. Great grace is needed, but great grace is provided.

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Life Theology

“We are rich. Filthy rich.”

I love Mondays.  You see, I have Mondays off.  So I get to kind of relax as I spend time with the Lord in his word.  There’s (usually) no distractions and no work to go too.  As I sat down on the couch this afternoon, I looked around our apartment and said, “Lord, you have given us so much stuff.  We aren’t poor.”

Carly and I both have average-paying jobs — and I work part-time at our local French retailer, Target — but we have more than, not just the average person in the world, but probably the average American. We are truly “blessed.” I was truly humbled as I sat there and stared at all this stuff in our living room.  I said, “Lord, I praise you that we can afford to have the lights on.”  You know what else is humbling? I get two days a week off. Most people get one. Some people don’t get any.

After reading the Scriptures, I read chapter 5 in Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love.  He wrote about the exact thing I was meditating on. Francis writes:

Which is more messed up — that we have so much compared to everyone else, or that we don’t think we’re rich? That on any given day we might flippantly call ourselves “broke” or “poor”? We are neither of those things. We are rich. Filthy rich.

Francis goes on to talk about how this hurts us spiritually:

The reality is that, whether we acknowledge our wealth or not, being rich is a serious disadvantage spiritually. As William Wilberforce once said, “Prosperity hardens the heart.”

Understanding that we aren’t poor, but rich — filthy rich — starts in the heart. Do I want to prosper materially or spiritually? What do I really want? Of course I need to eat and sleep and wear clothes. I need a car and I need to put gas in it. God understands this. But where is my hope and energy and adoration going? I pray that everyday it goes to God, not because he gives stuff, but because he is the only thing that will give me satisfaction.

Prosperity hardens our hearts because it causes us to depend on our money and stuff and not God. If we daily lack food and clothes and shelter, we will be on our knees begging God for help. I don’t need to do that. But I want to be on my knees thanking God for what he has given and begging him for his mercy because all I deserve is hell and damnation.  When that sobering truth is on your mind, you will never say, “I’m poor.”

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Life

Who is paying taxes?

This is staggering.  For the 2009 work year:

  • The bottom 50% of earners will pay $0 in Federal Income Taxes.
  • The top 1% of earners will pay 40.5% of taxes.
  • The top 5% will pay 60.6% of taxes.
  • The top 10% will pay 71.2% of taxes.

Here is a helpful infograph from Mint.com to break these numbers down.

HT: Eternity Matters

Categories
Life Theology

Oh to be a Giver Like This

If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them…Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity