This is the piece I wrote for the Theology Slam Competition run by Church Times. I didn’t get through to the final but I’m still quite proud of it and want to share it with you!
As a disabled Christian, I have wrestled, struggled and wondered about the Biblical narrative in which Jesus and his followers perform many healing miracles; the pressure in Churches to pray for healing and the low number of such miracles reported in the modern church.
Here are some of my thoughts:
“Everywhere Jesus went he performed miracles that amazed and astounded people. Nowadays miracles seem to be few and far between, particularly in the Western world. Why is this?
The majority of the miracles Jesus performed, as documented in the four gospels, revolved around the most important factors for a person’s survival at that time – food and health.
There are more than seventy passages where Jesus cures an illness, raises a person from the dead or takes away a disability. We know that Jesus did more miracles than those documented (John 21:25), but we assume that the gospel authors included those chosen for a reason; perhaps because of how dramatically the miracles changed people’s lives and circumstances.
In the first century accurate medical knowledge was in short supply, and unfortunately, this led to the assumption that sickness and disability was a result of sin and evil. People with disabilities or those who became ill were excluded from society because they were seen to be impure or unclean. They often lived lives of poverty and isolation, if they survived at all.
Our medical knowledge, while still not perfect, has vastly improved in the 2000 odd years since Jesus died. For example, we now know that leprosy is treatable and isn’t highly contagious as previously thought. Increased scientific understanding of biology, genetics, sanitation and the discovery of effective drugs has resulted in a changed world.
When Jesus was alive, disability & sickness limited people’s participation in Temple worship. This emphasised society’s belief that they were separate from God.
We understand now that disability and ill health are not the fault of the person experiencing them, the result of a sinful life, or something that can always be fixed with ‘a little more faith’. Many disabilities and illnesses including depression have a genetic component, which brings a whole other level of meaning to “You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
Sin is what separates us from God, and Jesus came and died so that we can be fully reconciled with Him. This was an act of grace and not dependant on our health or lack thereof.
I believe that through a combination of human intellect, scientific innovation & divine inspiration, we have been able to use creation to improve health and welfare worldwide. In these days of antibiotics, organ transplantation and more, perhaps a healing miracle doesn’t have the same social impact as it would have done in the first century?
In the West, our basic requirements for food & health are met and the areas in our lives requiring miraculous healing have changed. Many people with disabilities are able to manage their health, but still face massive injustice and isolation in other areas of life.
How we look to the needs of those with disability and illness remains a challenge. Transforming our world, and peoples lives for the better will surely continue to need God’s miraculous intervention …”
I’d love to hear your what you think! Particularly thoughts from other disabled Christians and people interested in Disability Theology who can point me in the direction of books to read!
Photo by Tamara Menzi on Unsplash