Time Magazine, this week focuses on “How Faith Can Heal.” It sits along side other major articles such as “The trouble with talking to Iran” and “25 People to Blame for the Economic Mess We’re in.”
Faith has a healing power to offer the messes we find ourselves in. The articles focus on the experiences of faith and healing by exploring scientific understandings about religious experience. All of this is good and well.
In checking out the articles in Time, I think the deeper power of faith to bring healing is largely ignored. As the articles explore religious experiences of the individual, they completely ignore the role of faith communities as centers for God’s healing and redemptive work in the world. We need to focus more on the power of faith to bring healing to the world.
Now, just in case you’re starting to get nervous that I’m about to advocate for a return to a church-state relationship, where the church is an extension of the state or where the state functions on behalf of the Church, don’t worry. I value the separation of church and state. I’m not interested in a resurrection of the Moral Majority, nor will you ever find me advocating for a reinvigorated religious right.
The healing power of God comes from the power released within the community of faith as it becomes and furthers the emergence of God’s kingdom in this world. As God’s way emerges in the world God’s will is done. God’s way emerges and things become as God intends them to be: the broken ways of this world are replaced by the ways God hopes for. This healing power of God’s kingdom is unleashed when the people of God heeds the call of Jesus to live the new way exemplified by and lived out by, Jesus Christ. God’s healing power is made real when God’s people fall in love with God and the neighbors around us.
If we are serious about healing this fractured world, we have to come to terms with our responsibility to live as God’s loving people who value all the neighbors of the world. This includes Iran. We need to commit ourselves to the tasks of peace and justice. This is not to say that we need to become a floormat on which the dangerous people of the world wipe their feet. Instead, we need to look at the needs of those around us and to love others by living the ways of justice.
The real power of faith to bring healing in this world is found in the ways we (the people of God) live in the various communities of the world. Imagine the difference it would have made if the twenty five notorious people listed by Time as the people to blame for the economic meltdown underway had used their power and resources to protect the vulnerable. Their lack of concern for the “least of these,” their love of money and advocacy for that which pays big dividends for the rich and powerful led us to our current turmoil.
It’s too late to go back and fix what has happened in the past. Yet, the future is still ahead of us. The call of Jesus remains before us. And as I quote from the book of Matthew below, I’ve noted where the original language makes a careful distinction between the individual and the community. The individual is singular. The community is plural.
Jesus said, “You (singluar) have heard it said ‘You (singular) shall love your (singular) neighbor and hate your (singular) enemy.’ But I say to you (plural) Love your (plural) enemies and pray for those who persecute you (plural), so that you (plural) may be children of your Father…” Matthew 5:43-45a
The healing power of God comes from love lived in and by the community. When God’s people work together for justice and peace, the world is healed and what God hopes for in this world begins to emerge.
Let our prayer continue to be as Jesus taught us: “Our Father in heaven… (note the plural, it is a prayer for the community to pray) …Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” In seeking God’s coming kingdom, we commit ourselves to the ways of justice: We live the ways of love.