Healing Line

Healing Line

The Greatest Gift of All: Love

by Francis MacNutt
Nov/Dec 2007

Every Christian knows about Jesus’ great Command, but the great question is, “Why hasn’t it happened?”
— Ghandi

Intellectual Understanding

We all know Jesus’ answer to the scribe’s question (What is the greatest Commandment?): “You must love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37). The second part is like the first: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The rabbis of Jesus’ time already knew this from their study of the Scriptures. What is not so well–known — and certainly not lived — is that Jesus amazingly expanded this commandment by teaching a new version at the Last Supper: The New Command is “to love one another as I have loved you” (Mt. 15:12). This command goes counter to all our natural inclinations, because it means that God now wants us to love our enemies. The history of the last 2000 years shows that most Christians have not been able to do this. We have often simply ignored Jesus’ teaching or have found clever ways of making exceptions to it. This is because the natural way of dealing with enemies is to kill them or dominate them.

No longer is it enough merely to love our family, our friends (our “neighbors”), or our national group. We now must love our enemies. We must have compassion on their suffering and not rejoice in their getting what they deserve. Yet our unredeemed humanity does not want to do this. It seems unfair, unjust — even immoral. Even the people Jesus taught felt this way: the first attempt on Jesus’ life came very early (Luke 4) when he pointed out in the synagogue that God chose to bless and heal Arabs rather than Israelites. This came immediately after his audience marveled at how well he spoke about liberation and healing in his commentary on Isaiah 61 (Lk. 4:22). Even today, you can imagine how chilly a reception you would get if you talked about how God healed an Arab (Syrian) general of his leprosy when there were many Jewish lepers that God could have chosen. The other example he used was the feeding of an Arab widow in Zareptha when many Jewish widows were suffering from a three–and–a–half–year famine in Israel (Lk. 4:25). The congregation’s response was to try to throw Jesus off a cliff (Lk 4:29–30).

First, we need to recognize in our own lives that Jesus really gives us a New Commandment — and then we need to repent of the ways we use to argue our way out of his command. In Jesus we find that God’s intention is to unify the entire human race and bring us all into his Kingdom. He especially wants to bring in the outsiders: the disreputable, the poor, and the outcasts. Jesus was first sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and then his kingdom was extended to the entire human race.

This is the main point of many of Jesus’ parables, such as the Good Samaritan (Samaritans were considered heretics and, moreover, were a mixed race), the Prodigal Son (compared to the respectable Elder Son), and the Rich Man (who scorns the starving Lazarus at his gate). The most common criticism made about Jesus by religious people was that he consorted with “sinners,” such as prostitutes and tax collectors. When the religious elite of his day quoted the Law to him, he responded that his “Father wanted mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt. 12:7). He taught us to avoid seeking possessions, fame and power, the ordinary perks that come with advancing in society — everything in our lives that would set one group over or against another. His teachings were so counter to our natural inclinations that he said — even to his chosen disciples — that they were not yet ready to receive all his teachings, but that the Spirit would be sent to give them the further, deeper instruction that they needed.

We Demonize the Enemy

Historically, what we have always done to justify our hatred and willingness to even kill has been to claim that the enemy group is not worthy of being loved. We do this because:

  1. The person or group is evil. Therefore, the most moral action is to eradicate the person or the group. We believe that the other group is part of an “axis of evil” (and you do not even talk to people like that). Over and over this happens: heretics should be killed by the Inquisition; we need the Death Penalty to rid society of major criminals; the French Revolution rids France of its destructive upper class; communists get rid of capitalism by executing capitalists.
  2. Another way out is simply to regard some people as subhuman, beings that have no rights. For 2,000 years, Christians justified slavery and, as a result, the enslaved race could be tortured or killed like animals. Consider how the Spaniards dealt with the Native Americans in Central and South America, how the English dealt with ‘Indians’ in their Colonies, and how Americans massacred them later. Oliver Cromwell claimed that the Irish soldiers they killed had tails on them; and so it goes. The groups who are our enemies are evil or subhuman and have no rights. Our prison system is another example: its primary intent is to punish, and the saving and restoration of criminals is not a jail’s major purpose. We retain the Death Penalty and some Christians do not sense that this goes counter to the primary purpose of a Christian prison system, which is to redeem and save whatever can be salvaged in a criminal’s life. It seems much easier for us to see evil than to see good in people.

The Myth of Redemptive Violence

Redemptive violence seems to be part of our national ethic — even among Christians, in spite of Jesus’ non–violent teachings. The myth assumes that evil can be wiped out by wiping out violent people, provided your intentions are good. Many of our movies are based on this traditional, pre–Christian myth. For example, a typical Mel Gibson movie, like Braveheart, features a hero who is pushed to the brink by evil men, but then fights back and kills them all, or dies trying. We all feel like applauding at the end.

In Born to Fight, which is a history of the Scotch–Irish people, the author points out with pride that his race (my race, too) never backs down from a fight. They were the pioneers in Kentucky who, unlike the Quakers, looked for fights with the Indians. To them, mercy was seen as weakness. They were the gunslingers in the West (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and, like General Patton, were often the heroes in our wars. In the face of evil enemies, they got out the posse and a rope. The author takes pride in claiming that this view of how to deal with enemies has become the basis of our own national foreign policy. Many Christians praise these warlike attitudes. Yet, Jesus choose to be the victim — the Lamb of God — rather than the victorious warrior, the Lion of Judah.

The Greatest is Love

Our first need is to know, to realize, what Jesus’ teaching on love was.

Next, we need the Spirit to live it. We need the power of the Spirit to transform us so that we see people with God’s own love and love them with His love: “The love of God is poured into our heart by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). The traditional understanding of Pentecost and the gift of tongues is that the Spirit removes the curse of the tower of Babel and enables the human race to communicate and love each other once again. Without the Spirit, it does not happen (Romans 7).

We desperately need the fruits of the Spirit (the first being love) or we will never be transformed and become like Jesus.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Nov/Dec 2007 Issue

Cure vs. Wholeness

by The Rev. Paul Feider
Nov/Dec 2007

The gospels make an important distinction between being cured and being made whole. Jesus could cure people because of his intense love, but if they wanted to be well or whole, they had to enter into a faith relationship with him. This distinction is best seen in the story of the cleansing of the 10 lepers (Lk 17:11–19). The gospel story says that by the power of Jesus’ word, all 10 of the lepers were cleansed of their skin disease. Jesus’ intense love, even at a distance, could re–create a person just as that love once created them.

As in many cases in the Gospel, this cure was an invitation to be made whole. One man came back and entered into a faith relationship with Jesus. His bowing down to worship him was an indication of his decision. Jesus says to him, “Your faith has made you well.” Ten were cured, but only one was “made well” or made whole. He used the cure as an invitation to be made whole.

There are different words in the Greek text of the gospel for being “cured” and being “made whole.” In verse 15 of this story, the Greek word iathe is used to describe that the 10 lepers were cured; that is, their skin was cleansed. In Mk 1:34 and other places in the gospels, the Greek word etheropoisen is used to describe people being physically cured, but in verse 19 of this story, the word Sesoken is used which means to be “made well.” It can include the meaning of being physically cured, but it describes being made well on a larger perspective. The Gospels tell us that the intense love of Jesus cures people, even if they do not know him, but if the cured person enters a faith relationship with Jesus, they are “made well” or “saved.” They will be well forever. The healing ministry of Jesus demonstrated the power of his love and his deep desire to invite people to wholeness, namely, an eternal love relationship with him.

It may be important to note that nowhere in the original Gospel does Jesus say your faith “cured” you. Jesus cured out of love for people, and if the person returned that love by entering into a commitment to him, he would say, “Your faith has made you well.” In the Gospel, a person was described as being well only if they had chosen to connect themselves to God through a commitment. One of the unique things about Jesus’ healing ministry is that it always had an eternal goal; namely, the salvation or wholeness of the person. His healing ministry was the most powerful tool for drawing people into that saving, eternal relationship. Christians are commissioned to carry on his work by doing the same.

The Rev. Paul Feider is a member of CHM’s National Advisory Board and vicar of St. John’s Community Episcopal Church and Center for Inner Peace in New London, Wisconsin. Nov/Dec 2007 Issue

Power of the Testimony

by Linda Strickland
Nov/Dec 2007

Everybody has a story, and on a few occasions I have been asked to share mine. Like most people I have many stories from my life, and while some are fun to share, some are, well — not so fun. The fun ones, for example, consist of the miraculous ways in which the Lord used “loaves and fishes math” to save my husband and me from starvation while in seminary; or how a prayer was answered concerning a health issue. I even have some stories about the way tithing changed our life, and how the Lord gave me a dog just when I needed something to love that would love me back.

However, I am most often asked to share the more painful of these memories and experiences. These are the stories from the time in my life that were the darkest and most shameful. You know what I mean — the stories that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt just how imperfect I am.

On one such occasion, Judith asked me to share my testimony about how God healed my marriage. I have to admit I was a little reluctant. Although my marriage has been completely restored, I have kept the details of that painful time closely guarded. Remember the “not so fun” stories I mentioned earlier? Well, this one is at the top of that list. Besides, I assumed this particular group Judith wanted me to share with probably held me in some form of high regard since I was with her. I found myself feeling concerned that the intimate details I would have to reveal about myself could possibly ruin my presumed good standing.

As I considered whether or not to expose myself and my pain, the Lord led me to a particular passage of scripture. It was the story where Jesus had been resurrected and Thomas had not yet seen Him. He told the other disciples that he would not believe (that Jesus was alive) until he saw the wound in His side and hands. When Jesus found Thomas, what did He do? He showed him His wounds and then invited him to touch them. The scripture then tells us that in that moment Thomas believed.

As I meditated on this powerful scripture, I heard the Lord say to me “If I can show my wounds, so can you.” And so, after confession and under conviction, I obeyed and shared my story that day. Much to my surprise, many people related to my story and opened their hearts for healing. Scripture tells us that “by His stripes we are healed,” and what I have discovered is that Jesus will use “my stripes” to heal as well. As a bonus, every time I share my story I personally experience more healing. Redemption! Isn’t Jesus sweet?

I now consider it a joy and a privilege to tell my story; a story of how God can heal broken people and broken relationships. Paul speaks to this in Philippians when he says “…in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice " (Philippians 2:16b–17). I believe that what he is saying is that “if the story of my suffering can encourage and help you, I will be glad and will rejoice to share it.”

There’s power in the testimony! Now go and share yours!!

Nov/Dec 2007 Issue

The Old "One-Two" From Jesus

by The Rev. Nigel Mumford
Nov/Dec 2007

It was a normal Wednesday: up at 4am to write, off to work at 8.30am, phone calls, prayer appointments and the usual ministry “stuff.” I had decided to have breakfast at Christ the King Spiritual Life Center before going to the Oratory of Christ the Healer. At breakfast, 26 teens and their chaperones were dining. I introduced myself, and then the leader asked me if I was free during the week to talk about the healing ministry to this Lutheran confirmation class. I had set apart that afternoon to tackle my paper work that was about two feet high and in danger of falling over! I jumped at the chance — anything to get away from that pile! We met after lunch. I introduced myself and then started a brief talk on Christ and His healing ministry, hoping that we would end with a teaching on how to pray with each other for healing. After a while, one of the teens, a sixteen year old, hiccuped in a most extraordinary way. There was an embarrassing pause before the leader told me that Rebecca had been hiccuping for the past four years — that she had painful hiccups about four to eight times an hour. He told me that she had been to several doctors, but nothing seemed to help. There was a pause… it is a pause in life that I am very familiar with. It is the “Holy Pause” — a moment where God is saying, “OK, now you pray!”

“Right, let’s pray for Rebecca.” I told the class how to lay hands on someone and said that I would lead the prayer. The rest of the class did not hold back: they were right there, in faith and a gentle holy boldness. We prayed.

I then continued my extemporaneous talk with a doubt in the back of my mind: “Oh Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief. Oh God, what if she hiccups again?” It was as if God replied, “Well, if she does, you will just have to pray again, won’t you? You remember the story of the blind man and the trees?” She did not hiccup once in the next hour and a half!

A month after this impromptu meeting I got a most wonderful email from Rebecca’s mother. It read, “Thank you for the teaching on healing with the confirmation class that my daughter attended. I thank God that she has only hiccuped four times in the past month and that was with no pain. The problem hiccups stopped immediately the moment you all prayed.” This is an email I will keep for the rest of my life. Faith in action. This taught me a lesson in faith and God was faithful for Rebecca and her family and, indeed, He opened the eyes of the 26 kids and their parents, and me. Thank you, God: I just had a faith lift!

That was the one, here comes the two! I thank Judith and Francis for asking me to join them for the Emerging Leaders in Healing conference in Traverse City, Michigan. I have just spoken to Pastor Gregory Culver from Frankfurt, Michigan (name used with permission): he came to the conference rather tired and stretched, as many pastors do, but he informed me that he is doing very well now. His life was touched by the Holy Spirit at Emerging Leaders and he has a lot to think about. He felt that he has a second calling on his ministry. Seminary was all in the mind, with doctrine and theology, but the healing ministry intrigued him. Since attending Emerging Leaders, he has witnessed a second calling on himself and on the church he is serving. “God has a sense of humor,” he told me: Formerly, his church was conflicted and at odds with one another — clearly the burden he brought to the conference. Now, his church has become a healing church. Greg said with joy, “The Holy Spirit is working this all out.”

Be well, do good works, and love one another.

Nigel Mumford The Rev. Nigel Mumford is a member of CHM’s National Advisory Board and serves as director of The Oratory of Christ the Healer, Christ the King Spiritual Life Center in Greenwich, New York. Nov/Dec 2007 Issue