A church in New Zealand this week posted and then abruptly removed this billboard after “heated response” from several nearby residents.
“The Equippers Church billboard which displayed the phrase ‘Jesus heals cancer’ caused outrage amongst many, and sparked an Advertising Standards Authority investigation after nine complaints were laid. The sign bore a tally of six to signify the number of people the church claimed had been healed of cancer. The church has now replaced the sign with a new billboard displaying a summarised sentence of a Bible verse: “Jesus heals every sickness and every disease – Matthew 4:23″. The original billboard’s claim particularly disgusted the Condin family, whose 3-year-old son is undergoing treatment for leukaemia. Taradale resident and mother of two Jody Condin said she saw the new billboard yesterday. She felt the replacement was still misleading.”
Now, I’m not Pentecostal (the tradition most closely associated with divine healing), but I’m also not ready to completely dismiss God’s ability to miraculously heal the sick.
After all, healing people both spiritually and physically was at the heart of Jesus’ mission.
So, I’m torn on this issue.
I’ve never been miraculously healed myself or seen anyone miraculously healed with my own eyes, but I’ve heard countless stories, often times from very reputable people, that attest to God’s continued ability to heal the sick.
But then there’s that part of my brain that says “God doesn’t work that way anymore. There’s probably a “rational” (whatever that means), scientific/medical explanation for why their stage 4 cancer suddenly went into remission.”
Perhaps there is. I’m sure there is. I know that we have the tendency to insert God into the vaccum of our inability to explain things we don’t understand. Often times, we learn later that there is a less than divine explanation for what happened.
But as people of faith who profess allegiance to a Jesus who held divine healing as a central part of his ministry, what do we do with claims like the one on this bilboard?
Do we play the “God doesn’t work that way anymore” card? And if so, why doesn’t God? Has God chosen for some mysterious reason to withhold God’s ability to heal? And if so, what would that say about God?
Were the gospels, as the lady in the report said, simply “misleading”? Were Jesus’ miracles mere metaphors for some spiritual truth? Perhaps, but wouldn’t people who had known the blind, demon possessed, or dead people before the miracles happened called out the gospel writers for making the story up?
Or perhaps we face a situation like Santa Claus did in the movie Elf. Maybe Jesus’s divine healing powers, like Santa’s sleigh in Central Park, can’t get off the ground because enough people don’t still believe in him. Honestly, that sounds far more absurd to me than the idea of a pastor healing someone through the laying on of hands.
What then do we with our great 21st century, scientifically grounded intellect do with claims of divine healing? It doesn’t seem to me that we can simply dismiss them, for to do so, I think we would likewise have to dismiss the gospels since at their core is the story of the greatest medical miracle of all time: resurrection from the dead.
So, I’m torn.
I think I believe that God still heals the sick. I want to believe that God still heals the sick. I wonder if perhaps I suffer a disease myself and am in need of my own healing.
I wonder if I suffer from what John Milbank calls a “false humility” of faith. I wonder if in my need to be accepted and affirmed by an increasingly agnostic/atheistic society I cower away from the more “extreme” claims of my faith. I wonder if perhaps I’m ok with God’s grace being radical, so long as it fits within my parameters for acceptability. I wonder if maybe I don’t really believe that God is actually capable of all the incredible things I’ve claimed God is capable of.
To be honest, I just don’t know. So, I’m left with a bunch of unanswered questions and for now that will have to do.
What I do know is there are people who have been seriously ill and whether through divine intervention or more earthly methods they are well today and that is something worth celebrating.
What do you think? Does God still miraculously heal the sick?
Grace and peace,