Health-care reform is an economic, political and medical issue. But On Faith panelist and evangelical leader Jim Wallis says it’s also a “deeply theological issue, a Biblical issue and a moral issue.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
Jesus didn’t go around telling people that healing the sick was a moral or theological issue; he treated all people who were sick and expected his followers to do likewise. That’s what all decent people need to do right now–make sure everybody gets health care.
That’s why this week it’s religious leaders from different faiths and many perspectives who are standing up to the sleaze-peddling health insurance lobbyists and the lying tweeters and calling for real reform. Faith in Public Life, an interfaith resource center that promotes the common good, and its partners have organized “Forty Days for Health Reform” that begins with a nation-wide conversation with President Obama. In addition, dozens upon dozens of faith groups have been signing on to the project. I am proud to say that I am on the board of Faith in Public Life and we are expecting a huge turnout for this call.
Biblically informed, religious leaders of conscience may be one of the last acts standing when it comes to calling for the kind of reform of health care that Jesus pursued in his life and ministry. Jesus was not about debating whether we should or should not heal the sick; Jesus went ahead and delivered health care directly to people who didn’t have any health care.
Jesus’ healing ministry was absolutely central to his life and ministry. It was what he was best known for. “Jesus went throughout Galilee…curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” (Matt 4:23) Jesus healed the sick and it drew huge crowds to him, not only from Galilee, but also from the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and even beyond the Jordan.
Why did so many sick people follow Jesus to get healed? Because the oppressive Roman Empire had reduced them to poverty and they had no health care.
So many Christians today reduce Jesus’ healing ministry to a metaphor–the conservatives want to say that it’s really about forgiving sin, not about how central to Jesus life and work was taking care of people who are sick. But one of the most important facts about Jesus and the work that he did on earth is that he was a healer. This isn’t a metaphor that means something else. It’s the literal truth.
I cannot speak for the other religious leaders who are organizing for real health care reform, but I can speak for myself. I am tired of the lies. I’m tired of the fear-mongering. Enough of this.
As a Christian, I believe the biblical truth of the matter is that if you don’t take care of the sick and the poor, you are rejecting Jesus himself. “‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you? Then he will answer them, Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'” (Matt 25:44-45)