Friday, March 26, 2010

Following Jesus - Health Care

"Following Jesus and following a list of rules is not the same thing. At times they may look the same. But they aren't."

I have a confession to make. I am an idiot when it comes to politics. Any politics. Church politics, school politics, municipal, provincial/state or national politics. I try, I really do. The whole thing just overwhelms me. I have a hard time seeing the big picture, and to think of making decisions for such a large group of people on such a large scale makes me want to run the other way. I see the world one person at a time. I'm not saying that this is right or wrong. It's the way I am, and I thank God for people who God has gifted to lead others politically. They amaze me, as do most people who's gifts and abilities are so different from mine. That being said, I am aware of the new health care legislation in the States, and have no idea if it is the right thing or not. I am not from the U.S., and to me the problem seems so huge and the information so copious, I don't know that I would have anything helpful to say even if I did have a vote that could make a difference.

I mentioned that I see the world one person at a time. I have been listening to a lot of the talk surrounding the issue of health care. Some of it is pretty intense. People have strong feelings, on either side of the issue. I have been especially interesting in the reaction of Christians. I was thinking of taking a break from the Following Jesus series to write about what I have been hearing from Christians on the subject of finding a way to make sure everyone is adequately taken care of, health-wise, in the U.S. I was lying in bed this morning praying about it, and I realized that what I have been hearing illustrates the point that I wanted to make anyway, about the difference between following rules in order to appear as if one is following Jesus with one's whole heart as opposed to actually following Him.

Yesterday I read a statement on a website run by a Christian ministry that I respect and have benefited from. The leader of this ministry wrote in opposition to the new legislation. I'm not going to go into the details, because believe it or not, the details don't matter, except when they are useful to highlight motives and heart attitudes. People were invited to comment on the ministry leader's letter. Remember, these are all proclaiming Christians.

In reference to someone's reminder of Jesus' words in Matt 25:31 - 46, where he says that those who do not care for the hungry, homeless, needy, prisoners, or sick will have not cared for Him, and therefore He will not know them at the judgment: "Keep reading that is about taking care of the BRETHERN... not the world."

In reference to the Canadian health care system: "@ ****, then leave if you cannot handle the TRUTH.......I am from Canada and the health care there sucks. Why to you think many come to the US for health care." Later, from the same guy, "The truth is Jesus. and ****, Canada's healthcare SUCKS" I posted and let people know that I am a chronically ill Canadian, and out of over 80 posts, not one person asked me MY opinion about Canadian health care. Given the opportunity to expand their knowledge base by hearing the thoughts of another Canadian who obviously frequently uses Canadian health care, they refused.

In reference to those who do not have health insurance: "Healthcare is not a right. many do not by it because they do not what it."

"Entitlements cripple us - giving "free" healthcare to all will just encourage people to continue overspending someone else's money. "

"It is pure selfishness and greed for people to expect and demand that others pay for their healthcare(or anything for that matter)."

Add to this lots of biblical references on who we have to help and who we don't, whether our mandate to serve applies to believers and/or non-believers, the deserving and/or the non-deserving, etc. There were also much discussion on the scriptural view of the gov't's role in things like this. Lots of intelligent, learned, practical discussion. Lots of opinions on how much we, as Christians, have to help the poor and hurting. And a few lone voices proclaiming the absolute joy of serving those that Jesus was and is passionate about. It made me want to pull my hair out.

Hence the difference between following the Law, and following Jesus. Hence the reason why the Law could not save, but Jesus can. Hence the reason why the Law, if solely depended on, brings death and destruction while following Jesus brings life abundantly. Put the issues, the facts, the politics aside and listen to a group of Christians talking about people in their communities who suffer daily from lack of adequate health care. Following the Law means we scour the scriptures to find the boundaries of what is required of us. What is the least that I have to do in order to please God? Yes, I have to help the poor...oh, but look this verse could be interpreted as meaning I only have to help Christian poor people. Okay, I can handle that. I like most Christians...even the poor ones. How much do I have to do to be okay?

Following Jesus means walking the road He walked for the reason He walked it. And He walked it for love. Love says, not how much do I have to help, but how much do I get to help. Love is compelled to help. Love doesn't count the cost, or look for loopholes. When the Holy Spirit of God lives in us, we are passionate for the things He is passionate about, and He is passionate about people. All people. That doesn't mean that we always help. There are times when I am unable to help, or when I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to say no. But I want to help. The more of me that I give over to the Holy Spirit of God, the harder it is for me to say no, not because I am a pushover, but because I am wounded by the pain of others.

Last week, a dear struggling friend of mine came to ask us for help. She was dealing with problems caused by her own choices, and she was still adamant about sticking to the choices that she was making. The consequences, though, were rough. My husband and I tried to find a way to help her, but were unsuccessful. Circumstances prevented us, and later my husband told me he realized that if we had been able to help, we might have gotten in the way of her growth in obedience to the Lord. But we were (and still are) both heartbroken for her. Part of the consequences she would have to deal with included not having a clean, warm place to sleep at night. Before she left, I took her in my arms and told her that we would keep the porch light on, blankets and a pillow on the couch, the front door unlocked, and it would be our joy to see her on our couch any time she needed it. Every night as Marc & I prepare for bed, he flips on the porch light and I fold the blankets and place them neatly with the pillow on the couch. Every morning when I come down, I look for her. She has not come. Marc and I share the pain of this. Of course it is her choice. She even deserves to be in the cold and dark alone. But every night Marc and I lie in our warm beds and think of our precious friend alone in the cold dark and ache for her. We will do this until we know that she is warm and safe. We cannot take credit for this. It is the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts who is loving her in us. We simply agreed to give ourselves over to His love.

Yesterday I walked into a theological debate about ministering to the poor and sick, presented myself as a poor, sick person who knew other poor, sick people who needed help, and was for the most part over-looked. Because the Law pays attention to the rules, the behavior, the limits, while the Spirit of God sees only people. I tried to share the sheer joy of giving out of our poverty, of pouring God's love extravagantly into the lives of others. It was as if I was speaking a different language. If a Jesus follower has a problem with the gov't taking over the responsibilities of health care for the people, it is only because he or she wants to take care of the needy themselves!

I really want to write more about this tomorrow. I want to study Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan and address it here. God has a glorious plan for us, if we will follow HIM!

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