Heard S. Lowry, III

Margaret Mead, the noted anthropologist, once claimed that the earliest sign of civilization was a healed femur which had been excavated. This was obvious evidence to her that people were beginning to care for each other and was in her opinion the beginning of society. There should also be evidence of caring in our spiritual family, the church, when we soothe each other's wounds and do whatever we can to help heal them. I don't really think that we emphasize healing enough in our fellowship.

I am not necessarily talking about physical healing. God speaks in Psalms 147:3 about "healing the brokenhearted." One of the functions of the church should be to heal the wounded. So many people are hurting for one reason or another; they may be sick, lonely through divorce or death, aged, or had a personal conflict. There are many other sources of hurt in our lives. I have seen times when the church was a comfort to these, but I have also seen church members be the cause of that hurt, or totally ignore it when they see it.

We can be so afraid of someone who is a "sinner." But we don't want to associate with someone who commits one of a certain group of sins; we toss them off, or cast them adrift so that they slowly die in isolation. Do we not care for their souls, for their hurt? We must realize that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23)! None of us is fit to judge another! Jonah, after he was virtually forced to preach the gospel to the Assyrians, hated the idea that they might be saved so much that he sat outside the city in the dim hope that God might destroy them anyway. He did not care about them at all; he only cared about himself. He did not want them to be healed! In contrast, we must be concerned about people and their problems; this is to be the sign of the church, our love and concern (John 13:35).

God established the nation of Israel and promised to heal them (Exodus 15:26), but they turned from Him and refused to listen to Him. God attempted again and again to draw them to him, but the people continued to reject Him. This nation was to be an instrument of God's healing. God wanted a people, a family, a unity, a body. The message is clearer about the NT church being a body, but the parallel exists in the Old Testament. We must remember that healing is a natural function of the body. Whenever some part of the body is injured, we know that the entire body moves in reflex to that pain; white blood cells are rushed to the point of a cut; the heart begins to beat faster to supply energy that might be needed.

Look at these passages from the eighth chapter of the book of Jeremiah:

"They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace,. peace,' when there is no peace...We look for peace, but no good came, for a time of healing, but behold, terror...My grief is beyond healing, my heart is sick within me...For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded, I mourn, and my dismay has taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?" (vv. 11, 15, 18, 21-22).

In these verses, the great suffering and sickness of the nation is described. But the climax is verse 22: The gist is that the nation had the healing power; there was healing balm in Gilead, but it was not used. And at another point, in Jeremiah 46:11, we read that there is indeed balm in Gilead, but now it is too late for it to do any good. In Jeremiah 30:12 and verse 17 this wound is described as incurable, with no healing possible. In Lamentations 2:13, also written by Jeremiah, the wound is "as deep as the sea." Though there seems to be no hope, not within the nation itself, at least, in Jeremiah 33:6 we read that God will indeed heal. This will be according to his own good will, through the remnant that will return once the now existing nation has succumbed to the illness that has laid it low.

There is a similar theme found in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 34 verses 1-16. There are two very essential points that we must think about in addition to the obvious theme of healing mentioned here. First, this passage is talking about the lack of leadership, a problem with the shepherds. But I see that this applies to all of us; we all have the power of taking care of others, of applying healing comforts to them when they are in need. Then we see that those who don't do this are guilty of thinking only of themselves, making sure that they are taking care of themselves. Much like Jonah they don't care about the saving of souls; only in the fulfillment of their own goals and desires.

But we finally get to the most important of all in this passage: that when all is said and done, God is the only one who can heal. Even though the nation does not meet its responsibility for caring and healing, God will take care of his sickly lambs. This is a great comfort to us all, knowing that God will always care and look after us, even though we won't look after ourselves.

The church's mission, like the mission of the chosen people, should be to heal the scars of the world. In Romans 15:1, those who are strong are to help with the infirmities of the weak. Christ praised those who visited "him" while "he" was sick (Matthew 25). But to my mind comes the same question that Jeremiah asked: Is there no balm in Gilead? Are we also neglecting the caring, healing power that we have? Can we say that we are healers? Charles Swindoll in his book Dropping Your Guard writes that the Lord's army is the only army that exists that shoots their wounded. Again we come to this point: are we more concerned in lambasting sinners or saving them? Do we withdraw from those who are in need of help or do we draw close to them to support, comfort, and strengthen them? This is a matter for very serious consideration for each of us. Our every effort must be to heal those who are hurting, those who need our strength. We must reflect the healing concern of God to those around us. We must offer the great comfort, hope, and love of the gospel, and show that through Jesus Christ the healing of all who are his will be accomplished.