Adventures in Healing and Wholeness #3 -God is On Your Side

One of the key theological questions is: “Is God on Our Side?” Many people see God as an enemy, out to get us, punishing us with illness or using illness as a way to teach us a lesson. Others see God as the arbitrary source of health and illness. Whatever happens is God’s will – whether it is cancer or good health, heart disease or AIDS. We just have to accept whatever comes, knowing that God has a plan behind everything, including our illness. As Rick Warren says, God plans all the important events of our lives without our consent. Everything that happens is “father-filtered,” as a test of our faith. But, too often, people fail at the test, living meaningless lives in this world and facing eternal alienation in the next.

The encounter of Jesus with a man with leprosy, a spiritually-contaminating skin disease, shows us another picture of God. (Mark 1: 40-43) In first century Judaism, persons with leprosy were “unclean,” living outside the boundaries of society, contaminating everything and everyone they touched. The man tentatively comes to Jesus, fully expecting a rebuff. “If you choose, you can make me clean.” No doubt he’s surprised at the vehemence of Jesus’ response. Jesus touches him, risking becoming unclean himself, and asserts: “I do choose. Be made clean.”

Nowhere in the gospels do we find Jesus doing the following things: 1) blaming the victim for her or his illness; 2) claiming illness is God’s punishment; or 3) asserting that illness is God’s will. In contrast, Jesus proclaims that he came that “I have come that you might have life in all its abundance.” (John 10:10)

God is on your side. God wants you to be well. Sickness is not God’s will. God does not want to punish you; God wants to heal you. This is good news whether you are healthy or sick.

About Bruce Epperly

Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, and Pastor of South Congregational United Church of Christ, Centerville (Cape Cod), Massachusetts. He is the author of twenty five books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study,The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age, and Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith lectionary. He has served as chaplain, professor, and administrator at Georgetown University, Lancaster Theological Seminary, Wesley School of Theology, and Claremont School of Theology. He may be reached at drbruceepperly@aol.com for lectures, workshops, and retreats. His latest book is Healing Marks: Healing and Spirituality in Mark’s Gospel (Energion).