Throughout the gospels, the healing acts of Jesus were visible evidence that the in-breaking of God's kingdom had arrived. "Healing was so clearly at the center of Jesus' mission that the only way to escape it is to deny that the miracles really happened and to claim that they are fanciful legends. There is no other option: In the gospels, "signs and wonders" are at the center of the story." 1
Acts 10:38 summarizes well the focus of Jesus' ministry:
"And no doubt you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil, for God was with him." (NLT)
And this was precisely the model and norm for the early church's ministry. And during the Church's first 325 years, Holy Spirit-enabled healing was widespread, and attested to by the church fathers and others. Tertullian claimed that the noblest Christian life is "to exorcise evil spirits -- to perform cures -- to live to God," and went so far as to try to convince pagans that they would get more real enjoyment in healing the sick and casting out evil spirits than by attending pagan plays and gladatorial contests." 2
But the ministry of healing has nearly disappeared from much of the Church today, replaced by our growing confidence in the "miracles" of modern medicine, as well as a growing embarrassment over those claiming to be "faith healers." This has contributed to a culture of suspicion within the Church, distancing us further and further from the ministry practices of Jesus.
Whether or not we verbally acknowledge it, we've adopted a "pick-and-choose" approach in relation to Jesus -- embracing his teachings but distancing ourselves from his practice of healing and deliverance. Apparently, many "Christians" are too sophisticated for the practice of healing ministry anymore. It may have been good enough for Jesus, but let's face it -- we're beyond that now.
But are we?
In his recently released book, "The Nearly Perfect Crime: How the Church Almost Killed the Ministry of Healing," Francis MacNutt lays out a convincing case for why the Church must repent of its past and embrace anew the early church's passion for the healing ministry of the Kingdom.
And so I ask, are we too sophisticated in our day to heal people in the power of the Holy Spirit? Whether Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant -- whether Modern or Postmodern, Emerging or Traditional, what are we prepared to do with the ministry of healing?
1 - Francis MacNutt, The Nearly Perfect Crime: How the Church Almost Killed the Ministry of Healing, Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2005, p.47.
2 - MacNutt, p. 83.