Real Health Care Reform, part 1

The infamous health care reform bill heads to the President’s desk today to be signed into law. I am saddened, but not because I am especially opposed to the bill. I am anxious, but not because I believe this is a sign of the government taking away our freedom. I am hurt, but not because Congress passed a bill that was the target of intense public opposition. I am disappointed because we Christians have not fulfilled our mission, and this bill is a glaring reminder of that fact.

Early in the ministry of Jesus, even John the Baptist was still unsure if the Christ had come. At the time, John was in prison, so we can understand his doubts and questions. He sent some of his students to Jesus to find out once and for all if He was “the one who is to come.” Jesus’ response is incredible:

Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.

The proof of Messiah-ship, says Jesus, is in His ministry–He rescued the lame, blind, deaf, broken, poor, and dead. His reference is to Isaiah 61:1-2, a prophecy about the Christ that He also read to kick off His ministry in Luke 4:18-19:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Of course, we know that Jesus’ ministry was characterized by his compassion for the sick and oppressed. He divided His time fairly evenly between teaching people and healing people. He thought that helping the poor and physically afflicted was so important that He not only devoted vast amounts of His time helping people, He also pointed to this focus as the evidence that He was the Christ, that “the year of the Lord’s favor” had come, and that the long-awaited new era of God’s reign, the Kingdom, had broken into human history.

So, it should not surprise us that the early church adopted this focus as well. The apostles and other Christians had miraculous gifts that they used to heal diseases. (Acts 3:1f; 5:12-16) And the church as a whole was devoted to helping the poor and needy. (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37) They understood that their role, responsibility, and mission as disciples of Jesus was to continue the ministry He began, the ministry of rescuing people.

But, that is a mission that we disciples today have largely ignored. Bold and loving evangelism and sacrificial giving for those in physical distress were works that displayed the power of God in the early church, but are conspicuously lacking in many churches today.

And the health care reform bill emphasizes that fact. The Church should be helping the poor. The Church should be providing for the sick. The Church should be giving aid to those who cannot afford health insurance. But, we have not fulfilled our role, so the government has stepped in to make an attempt.

Jesus was extremely concerned about the spiritual and physical well-being of people. We, as the body of Christ in the world today, must have that same concern. A concern characterized by sacrificial, devoted, loving action. A concern that changed the world in Jesus’ day, and could do the same again today.

Go on to part 2.

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13 thoughts on “Real Health Care Reform, part 1

  1. Yeah but it’s easier to gripe and complain about the government than it is to take action. Some would even argue that their grumbling is a reflection of their concern for the poor. It’s sad really, God has given us so much power for good and we the church actually use so very little of it.

    • I agree 100%, Clint. Especially with what you said about God giving us so much power for good that we do not use. Service and giving are some of the most powerful tools we have to fulfill our mission, but we have trouble making those our lifestyle rather than something we do now and then. Thanks for your comments.

  2. I would agree with all of this EXCEPT the next to last paragraph. I am thinking of the Hernandez family, the Graham family, the Johnson family, Yvette, my own mother, Virgina ………

    When called on the Coffeyville family steps up!

    The real problem for the future will be that Christians will no longer feel the need to give $$$ for medical help when the Government is doing it as a mandatory program. The “I gave at the office” syndrome.

    The Spiritual warfare here is the right to determine who/what/when/where/how our giving is going to take place. Is is a government mandated tithe or what we give from the heart b/c we are christians.

    Thanks LM

    • Oh I agree, Larry, that the Coffeyville church has done wonderful things for many in difficult medical circumstances. But, we can always do more…I see a disconnect between the Church today (in general and in Coffeyville) struggling to get their members to give 10%, and the early church that overflowed with resources because people sold homes, possessions, and land to be able to provide. I have heard stories of people selling cars and giving away houses for those in need, but that ought to become the norm rather than the rare occurrence.

      I also agree with you that there is a danger in allowing the government to take care of what we should be doing because it makes us all the more apathetic if we think it is already being taken care of.

      BUT, as for the right to determine our giving, don’t tell anyone, but in some ways I am glad to have the government forcing us to give to the needy while we learn to give sacrificially as we are called to do, rather than us not giving sufficiently and the needs of the poor going unmet. I know that’s probably not popular, and obviously not the best solution…but until we start giving from the heart we may need someone to make us give (like my parents did before I learned to put money in the collection plate of my own accord). Our wealth has spoiled us, and we need a wake-up call…and maybe this bill isn’t the best, but it is something.

      Thanks for the comments and insight.

  3. AMEN! Clint this is a great exposition of the disease that is causing the sin. Thanks for the punch in the nose. Also, may I encourage you and your readers to do something for those who we consider the least. Go to Sevensonline.org we just returned from working with Benny and Niki Nowell who are missionaries in Boulder, CO. I know that they have lost some of their support recently.

  4. I don’t know, Clint. I don’t agree that the Church is responsible for helping people buy or pay for health insurance. And I’m not fully convinced the Church was some kind of welfare organization, handing out goods and services to just anyone. You read those passages in Acts and see who the Church was helping. Not everyone got a handout or help. The Church was helping each other. “There was not a needy among THEM” (Acts 4.34), “them” being the believers. I think our focus should be inward first. We take care of our own.

    Think of the family: Do mommy and daddy take care of Joe Bag-of-donuts on the street corner with food and shelter before they take care of the kids? In the same way, the family of God takes care of her members before we take care of those outside the body. Should we “do good to everyone” as we have opportunity? Absolutely. But “especially to those of the household of faith” (Gal 6.10).

    • Agreed, we should take care of our own first. But, it was Jesus’ ministry to outsiders that garnered much of His following…and persecution. And the early church had “favor with all the people” because of their servant hearts.

      Your comment about the church not being a welfare program is interesting…because it seems that is a lot of what Jesus did. He fed thousands, He healed thousands, and He balanced that with astonishing teaching. He also said, in the Sermon on the Mount, to give to those who ask. I do think it takes some wisdom in determining when and who to give to, but I also think we over-analyze, and fail to give too many times because we try to justify. If we are going to err in our giving it better be on the side of compassion….we better be guilty of giving too much rather than guilty of giving too little.

      Thanks for the comments, and we’ll discuss it some more.

    • Hey Mac,
      I haven’t been called LC…at least since Blake Lercher called me that yesterday on Facebook chat 🙂 Oh, and your mom saw me in Little Rock several weeks ago and came up to me saying, “Little Clint?” It was a very nostalgic moment…

      Thanks for reading and for your comment. Come back anytime.

  5. Remember that Jesus’ main purpose was teaching. However, He had true compassion, and that comapssion brought listeners. How are we going to get the attention of the world without compassion?

    Lawrence

    • Hey Lawrence,

      I’m not so sure I agree that Jesus’ main purpose was teaching…at least not in the oratorical sense. I believe it was one part of His purpose, but His ultimate role was to live and die a kingdom lifestyle…to show us and teach us what it looks like to live completely for God and to love others, and then to die and resurrect for us so that we could live that life (now and forever). Preaching and teaching was an important part of that, but no more important than healing the sick and eating with sinners.

      That’s why He taught that love and good works are the evidence of true disciples (Matt 5:16; John 13:14-15,34-35; 15:8,17). And that’s why He began His ministry by pointing to the physical healing He would bring as evidence of His mission as the Messiah.

      Of course, one of our goals is to turn people to Christ, but, even still, we also have the goal in-and-of itself to love people the way Christ loved…in sacrificial service. Though we become all things to all men and only save some, we become all things to all men none-the-less.

      Jesus served not just because He wanted people to listen…He served because that is what kingdom living is all about. Then He served those who would listen by teaching them, too.

      I appreciate your comments and look forward to seeing you in a couple weeks.

  6. Pingback: Real Health Care Reform, part 2 « Everyday Mountains

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