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Jesus And Healthcare

April 29, 2010

Jesus Forgives the Sinful Woman

This is a note I shared with a few people on facebook. I share it here, because it reflects a change I have made in my point of view on this issue as a result of Orthodoxy. It is also a response to several of my Protestant friends who express a view I believe to be inconsistent with the Scriptures and the Traditions of the Church. So here goes:

Let me say on the outset that this is NOT an endorsement of any political point of view, legislation or anything of the kind. Nor is it an assumption of what political view Jesus would have on the issue. This is a reflection based on what I believe the scriptures would have the attitudes of Christians (or maybe I should say those who claim to be Christian) to be towards others, as it relates to this issue.

To my non-christian friends, I again reiterate that this is not meant to be a political discussion, and is not directed towards you (though I respect every one of you and your opinions).

I have noticed a lot of talk about the new healthcare legislation has sparked a very passionate backlash among some of my Christian friends. And most of that backlash comes in the form of statements like, “Healthcare is not a right.” or, “These people are in their situations because of their own choices, and should have to pay the consequences.” and, “The government wants to take MY money to pay for THEM.”
In the not too distant past, I would have totally agreed and had “Scripture to back it up.” But I have begun to reevaluate my view on scripture in regards to this healthcare issue. Why? Because it comes down to three words: Mercy, Grace and Love. Before, I thought these were simply to be applied spiritually, but now I see that Mercy, Grace and Love are infinitely practical. Yes, they are spiritual, but if they are not lived out practically, then I am a liar (1 John).
I have begun to finally, really see myself as a wretched sinner (not that I hadn’t before now, but I think I’m finally grasping it) and I have no business judging my fellow human beings on this earth. Jesus has shown me mercy, given me His grace and Loved me when I was His enemy. How do I have the arrogance to deny that to another? All I can say for myself, as I come to this revelation, “Lord, have mercy.”
So when I hear my fellow Christians making statements like the ones above, I have to say something. Not in judgement, but in admonishment to be turn from our hard-hearted attitude.
I can see if we were saying we disagree based on the fact that we don’t think such a system would truly work, or even make things worse. I can see if we were opposed because a better idea is out there, and we just need to let more people know about it, and get the votes. But that’s not our beef. “They don’t have a RIGHT to healthcare.” “I shouldn’t have to foot the bill.” “It’s not government’s job.” I submit to you all that this is a merciless attitude and has NO place in the heart of a true Christian.
First: If “They” don’t have a right to healthcare, then do you? I challenge you to find any part of the Scripture that speaks of our rights. You definitely won’t find it in the New Testament. John the Baptist says “Him who has two cloaks, give one to him who has none.” Our Lord says, “To him who asks, give and do not deny anything.” and again, “Give, expecting nothing in return.” We are not asked to determine if the recipient is worthy, just give. We are told to have mercy, to give, not just for the benefit of others, but our own too. We are told in 1 Peter that all things are ours in Christ. As Christians, we possess everything, and nothing. So how can we hoard what we think is ours, and keep it from those who do not have? According to the Gospel and the Epistles, this is a sin.
Second: If people are only in bad circumstances because of their own choices, do you suppose yourself better than other people because you are not in that situation? I hope not. In fact, Fr Thomas Hopko points out that, given the same circumstances of life, we might have fared the same as anyone else. We might have been the Prodigal son, and not the righteous son, given the circumstances. As a matter of fact, the attitude of the “righteous” son is what I am getting at.
Last: We don’t want to pay for the bill. James tells us if we tell someone in need, “Be warm and be filled.” and do nothing, our faith is false. How can we, who have been GIVEN all by God, withhold anything from others? Even if that means higher taxes? We all pay taxes for Fire, Police and Emergency Medical Services, and yet almost never use it. We pay, and someone else uses it. Why aren’t we up in arms about that? Because WE benefit from it too. This shouldn’t be the concern of the Christian. Yes, we need to be wise and responsible with our finances, but generosity is never foolish, nor irresponsible. Selfishness, however, is.
I have had it argued that if the government takes the taxes, it negates our blessing through charity, which should be our prerogative, not theirs (the gub-ment). Whoever, however the money comes isn’t the point, nor is your “feeling good about giving”. It comes back to the attitude of our heart.

Allow me a little creative license for a moment to illustrate my point by changing the words of a popular parable of Christ:

Two people came into a church to pray. A well-dressed, middle-class working man, and a poor, recovering addict mother. The man prayed within himself, “I thank you Lord, that I am not as bad as some. I go to three services a week, I volunteer, I have a good job with benefits, pay my tithe and my taxes, and I don’t get involved in bad things, like that druggy over there.” The woman, with eyes full of tears, looking at the floor said, “Lord, forgive me, and don’t let my child get sick again. I can’t afford the medicines.”
Many of us would never presume to pray such a prayer, but it is secretly our attitude. A prayer during Lent in the Orthodox Church, which comes from the parable of the publican and the pharisee, reads something like this: “Lord, I have not been as righteous as the pharisee, and yet I boast. I have sinned worse than the publican, and yet I have not repented.” When I heard that prayer, I was rocked to my core. I think it illustrates our deepest attitudes, and our need for repentance.
My hope is that we all learn to show mercy to those in need, give grace, and love them. Not just because our salvation depends on it (show me your faith without works), but because we love the God who first loved us. Thank you for allowing me to reflect on this issue.
Lord have mercy on us all.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sean permalink
    May 1, 2010 7:43 am

    That one would say anyone does not deserve healthcare sounds to me strikingly un-christian. The dilemma “social healthcare or charity” is, in my humble opinion, a delusion. The very essence of love is guarantee nobody is in need when there is abundance of goods (and our modern society provides such abundance, if only in the material realm). Saying “I want there to be people in need, so that I can give charity” sounds totally absurd to me. Maybe I’m wrong, I dunno.

  2. handmaid leah permalink
    May 12, 2010 9:10 am

    read this:
    St. John Chrysostom: The Prophet of Charity

    • May 13, 2010 12:30 pm

      Handmaid Leah,
      This article lays out what I was trying to say, a lot more clearly. Thank you for sharing that.

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