In the third chapter of the book of Acts, there is a story where Peter and John heal a man who is lame. It is a story that is familiar — reminiscent of one of the many healing stories that occur throughout the Gospels.
One day, Peter and John were heading to the Temple, and they pass by a man who was lame. The man had been lame since birth, and every day, people would lay him by the Temple gate so that he could ask for alms.
So as Peter and John pass by, the man sees them and asks them for some money. Peter and John have something else in mind, though — and filled with the Holy Spirit and with the excitement of this new Jesus movement, they give the man a gift that is better than alms.
Peter lays his hands on the lame man, and he is instantly healed. The man walks away, leaping and praising God.
The book of Acts is one of the books of the Bible that a lot of folks use as a pattern. Kind of like a guidebook.
Acts is full of stories about the baby Church and their struggles and triumphs as they tried to figure out what it means to follow Jesus as a community. So when you have a story about healing a lame man in the very beginning of your discipleship manual, things get a little weird.
As modern people, the idea of healing weirds us out.
When we’re sick, we go and see a doctor. Not many of us go to church and expect Aunt Doris to lay her hands on your kid to cure him of the chicken pox.
So what do stories of followers of Jesus healing one another mean for us, as people who have access to medical science and technology that Peter and John never would have dreamed of? As disciples of Jesus, are we called to heal?
I would say yes. But I say that only because I have learned recently that there is a difference in healing and in curing.
Curing is a fast fix. It’s an end to a means. To cure is to eradicate the problem.
But healing isn’t like that. Healing is much different.
Healing is a process — a process that is born out of love for the people around us. It’s a natural part of building communities and of striking up friendships.
I don’t know of many families or groups of friends that have not been faced with a situation in which a person among them is in need of healing. To love another human being is to put oneself smack dab into the healing process — whether that process is occurring presently or will occur in the future.
Healing is a commitment. It’s a promise to sit with your friends in their grief and to offer a shoulder to cry on — knowing that you do not have the ability to fix it. It’s a promise to support your father in the wake of his cancer diagnosis — refraining from offering meaningless platitudes and to just be present. It’s a promise to hear your sister out, and to really listen to her pain instead of making suggestions of what you think she could do to solve her problem.
Healing is a promise to get messy and to hang out for a while in the midst of discomfort. It’s a promise to be vulnerable, to be open, to be patient, and to love your neighbors with wild abandon.
Healing is difficult and convoluted, and it requires self-sacrifice — but it’s also gorgeous, glorious, and holy all at the same time.
Healing is the journey of sitting alongside your fellow person — investing in that relationship and offering all our love is something that we are called to do as followers of Jesus.
God doesn’t ask us to cure — to solve all of the world’s problems or to somehow learn to mend broken arms if we don’t have medical training.
Curing seems to just always convince us that we can be our own gods — but that’s a different article for a different time. The point here is that God does ask us to heal one another, simply by putting on the attitude of Christ and by embodying His love.
So, I’d like to invite you to take some time to consider this call to healing.
What can being an agent of healing look like in your life? Have you experienced healing through the love of a person at church, or through the love of a relative or friend before? What did that experience mean to you? What does it mean to be the hands of feet of Jesus, in terms of healing?
Could our lives be different if we were to really depend on God — handing the business of curing over to Him — and taking our rightful place as healers instead?
Are you willing to be like Peter and John — to immerse yourself in the mess and to settle in for the long haul with someone who is in need of a healing touch?
Like the lame man, are you willing to be vulnerable and open, and to accept the love that your community might offer to you?
Are you open to the idea of healing?
Are you open to the wild, reckless love that is the character of God, and that lives in the hearts of each of us?
Hannah Mullikin Lutz is Pastor of Ada Chapel Friends Meeting.