Academic journal article International Review of Mission

God's Grace, Healing and Suffering

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

God's Grace, Healing and Suffering

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper shows that people have always attempted to stamp out diseases and other misfortunes on earth through both spiritual and natural means. The approach adopted by the Lord in the Old Testament as Yahweh-Rapha, whereby he was a powerful healer to those who obey him, was, in a way, a response to this. Healing was vital in the ministry of Jesus in the execution of his divine mission to save human life. However, scepticism towards divine healing began during the Enlightenment. The emergence of the Pentecostal movement in the 20th century sought to change this trend. However, there is a tendency among some practitioners of healing that makes #appear that healing is a sign of living right with God, while lack of healing, or steering of any kind is a curse or a result of disobedience by a person or their progenitors. There are indications in the New Testament that Jesus was selective in his healing ministry, and that in the presence of the apostles not all people were healed. The Christian "lives between the times" of "the already" and the "not yet", and thus is still exposed to physical afflictions, including any type of suffering. Prayer for healing must be seen as part of the means of dealing with a variety of manifestations of evil and frailty in human life. The place of steering in the Bible needs to be brought to bear on the healing ministry.

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People have continued to battle with diseases and other causes of suffering on earth since the fall of humankind. The earliest records of civilization have shown that there have been various responses to fighting these afflictions; some have been spiritual and others natural. The spiritual responses have included prayer and appeasement of spirit forces or deifies. The natural responses took the form of basic medical care, such as treating wounds and diagnosing illness, and the application of various herbs. Often, the spiritual and natural approaches were interrelated, and the desired success of the natural treatments was tied into the imagined efficacy of the spiritual method employed. In the main, affliction was perceived to be more than a merely biological process; it was viewed as an attack by a higher power on human beings. Therefore, faith was put in deities who could heal and provide protection from other powerful ones. The deity who could heal and protect was the powerful one, and at the same time viewed as healer, saviour and deliverer. (1)

In the Old Testament, therefore, the mission of God was not separated from his miraculous powers. Yahweh was seen as Israel's divine healer. The ministry of Jesus also was characterized with healing and miracles to authenticate him as the saviour of the world. A healing ministry was one of the characteristics of the early church. However, scepticism towards "divine healing" began during the Enlightenment. (2) Scientific medicine began strictly to consider all illness as a result of physiological malfunctioning, and offer other scientific explanations for various human sufferings. Thus, there was no room for divine healing or intervention.

Although, throughout the centuries within the church, there have always been some healing ministers, Christians mainly resorted to scientific healing, and neglected almost completely prayer for physical healing. The mission of the church was in a way separated from prayer and miraculous interventions.

The emergence of the Pentecostal movement in the 20th century changed this trend. Pentecostals teach that the gifts of the Spirit should accompany the baptism in the Spirit. Often, the gifts singled out are speaking in tongues and healing. The ministry of the Pentecostals impacted the then-existing churches, and gave rise to the charismatic movements, which emphasized faith and healing. This trend brings to existence once again the relation between prayer and divine healing/miracles. However, there is a tendency among some practitioners of healing, which makes it appear that healing is a sign of living right with God, while lack of it, or suffering of any kind, is a curse or a result of disobedience of a person or his/her progenitors. …

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