Healing and Peace are the great goals of the Gospel of Christ. They are the primary values for preaching, teaching, and spiritual reflection for the Christian Church. All churches should bring glory to God by fulfilling these values. The unfortunate truth is evangelicalism, revivalism, and consumerism have distracted Christian leaders into something called “church growth.” The result has been further fragmentation, ideological division, culture wars, and making the good news of the Kingdom of God into a political movement “to take countries for Christ.” We have no healing. We have no peace. And the critics of Christianity have turned a deaf ear to the pleas of progressive Christians. How did we get into this mess?
Small minds want answers without questions. The oddest thing for a church leader to face is a person who will not think passed their childhood narrative. It is not that small minds do not like being asked questions. They really hate asking them. St. Luke talks about the broad-mindedness of the people in Beroea compared the ones in Thessalonica who became jealous of Paul and Silas. Small mindedness is a curse that poses as wisdom and security.
Consumerism and revivalism appeal to small minded people. “All I need to know is I am saved,” will ring in my ears for the rest of my life. “Don’t try to teach us something,” will as well. It is the mentality that keeps people in economic and spiritual poverty. And it is meant to keep others that way as well.
A lot of prayers made by churches are for healing. Someone we know is sick, in hospice care, or failing due to age. Churches pray for such people. It is a good thing to do. To pray in such a way for another person demonstrates compassion. But deciding prayers will always heal if the person has faith is the opposite of compassion.
The four canonical gospels include healing stories. People can be in awe of the power to destroy. Remember how the initial bombing of Bagdad in 2003 was called “shock and awe.” But people are grateful when the power to heal is demonstrated. No one is thankful for their home being destroyed in the name of liberation. However they are thankful when their health is restored. The healing stories in the Bible show us a different view of salvation (liberation) than people experienced under Roman conquest and rule. The Emperors cannot truly save the world. They can only destroy it. And they do.
Imperfect Peace and Healing
The rulers of the world can bring an imperfect peace with imperfect justice. The important fact to note is they will not do so unless they see their own interest fulfilled when doing so. The Kingdom (or kin-dom) of God offers perfect peace with perfect justice in the interest of someone else. Self-focus gets in the way of that.
Church growth strategies encourage people to be self-focused. What can we do to make the church stronger financially? How should the programs offered be tailored to the felt-needs of the people around us? Will our ministries bring back some results for the body? Such questions are not answered with healing and peace. Bringing glory to God is not the focus. When people do not experience the needs for healing and peace for their lives, they look elsewhere. The non-churched evangelicals turning to authoritarian politics is a symptom of churches losing sight of their purpose. They see authoritarian rulers as the means to have some security and justice in their lives. It is understandable in that light. Evangelical churches do not offer those things.
Grace and Peace
St. Paul uses the phrase “grace and peace” as a greeting in some of his letters. We often skip over these words because we are looking for moral and theological points to grab onto. But has all of the struggling over the big controversies brought peace and grace? Of course not. Why should it? Winning the fight is seen as how we achieve grace and peace. We say, “we cannot wish grace and peace to people who hate the truth.” Really? Personally, I have received a lot of grace when I had no idea what truth was, let along uphold it.
Grace and peace are related gifts given for all of us. But, someone will argue, doesn’t John say we should not welcome people who do not bring the doctrine of Christ? (2 John) Anyone intending harm should be held at arms length. No one should wish them success in causing harm. To do so is antithetical to healing. But John did not support people deciding for others what was true and false.(3 John) Wishing grace and peace assumes the best (see 1 Corinthians 13 for further meditation on this).
The Healing Purpose of the Gospel
The Gospel of Jesus desires the purpose of God. Healing the world brings the Kingdom of God into existence. The church communities set up by Paul and the other Apostles are expressions of this healing. The practices Luke describes in Acts 2:43-47 and 4:32-37 sit near stories of miraculous healing and restoration. The practices are non-miraculous actions of the same offers of healing and peace. They are also imperfect. But they are closer to perfection than any the peace and unity of the Empire. Christian practice demonstrates the desire to bring healing, restoration, and peace. Or it is not a Christian practice.
What is the purpose of the Gospel? To bring healing to the world. The healing and overcoming of evil brings the peaceable kingdom our hearts seek. Move toward it again. Live lives for healing and peace with everyone you can.