Healing Line

Healing Line

Should We Be Shocked?

by Francis MacNutt
Sep/Oct 2003

Over and over it happens. Christian leaders with a great healing ministry are exposed as having very human weaknesses. They fall.

Should that tempt us to be disillusioned? Would God gift such a sinner with a great ministry? Were the healings real in the first place?

It should reassure you to know that these problems — and their answers — go back to the very earliest days of Christianity. Jesus himself said that there are followers who will call upon his name and cast out evil spirits but ultimately are lost. How can this be?

The answer is simple. Traditionally, there are two kinds of spiritual gifts or charisms. One entire group of gifts are given to us, not necessarily for our own spiritual growth, but in order to help others. These are the gifts listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11, which includes the gift of healing. Our dear friend, Tommy Tyson, used to say that God even gave Balaam's ass the ability to prophesy, on at least one occasion!

Jesus was not surprised that some of his gifted followers were also failures in their personal lives:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? ' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Mt. 7: 21–2 3)

On the other hand, there is a second category of gifts which only indirectly help others, but are given to help us personally grow as Christians and to become holy.1 These are the "fruits of the Holy Spirit," some of which are listed by Paul in Galatians (5:22–23a).

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self–control.

The ideal, of course, is that we become blessed by both — the gifting we need for our own interior growth, but we also hope to be used by Jesus to help others. It's not an either/or, but a both/and situation. It's more important, of course, that we ourselves become loving, joyful, long–suffering — that we demonstrate all the fruits of the Spirit. This growth in Christian character takes time, as well as God's help. In fact, without Christian character we may be tempted to use the other spiritual gifts for our own selfish purposes. Jesus specifically tells his disciples, when he commissions them to heal, that they shouldn't try to make money off their healing gift: "You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourselves with no gold or silver ... " (Mt. 10:9). He balances this by saying that the laborer is worthy of his hire (Mt. 10: 1 Ob), but he clearly recognizes the dangers and temptations the healer may face. The desire to achieve fame as well as fortune may also allure anyone who has a great gift of healing.

And yet, by God's mercy, many are healed even though the minister of healing may display moral gaps in his/her personality. This should not surprise or shock us — although we are saddened, because these failures cause the healing ministry to be criticized by skeptics. In my library I have a book totally given over to showing that Christian healers are nothing but frauds. In the 13th century Thomas Aquinas directly asks the question, "Can evil people work miracles?" and his answer is "Yes."2

So we can hope that the Lord gifts us with his power to help others — even to ask for more of the gift of healing — but we need to be ready to face the temptations that come along with it. Are you up to it? In any case, you can't go wrong in praying for the gifts of love and humility, the fruits of the Spirit.

"Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven"
(Lk. 10:20).

1 Traditionally, in scholastic theology, the first class of gifts were called "gratiae gratis datae" — these were the gifts that flow through us to others — and "gratiae gratis dantis" — gifts to help us become more like Christ.
2 Summa Theologica, II–llae, q. 178, art. 2.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Sep/Oct 2003 Issue