When the Affordable Healthcare Act was upheld by Chief Justice Roberts and the Supreme Court, it seemed nothing short of miraculous. As expected, the Republicans immediately began their full-throated outrage of “Obamacare,” promising to repeal it every chance they got. Fundamentally, this law is about insuring the uninsurable by creating bigger pools of patients and providing lower cost alternatives. Despite all the rhetoric and hyperbole, the fact is, this law will help a lot of people. That fact alone makes this a moral issue that at least every Christian should care about.
In Jesus day, if you had an ailment, there was a belief that you had somehow brought it on yourself. When asked why a man was blind, Jesus had to explain, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” (John 9:3) In our ‘modern’ society, most of us don’t subscribe to the notion that victims of cancer or Alzheimer’s somehow had it coming. However, there is a thought that if you’re poor and/or uninsured, you don’t want to work for your bread or your blood work. While that describes a popular belief in our nation, it is not based on anything resembling “Christianity.”
Jesus did not turn anyone away, in spite of the fact that many of those he healed were ungrateful. Never-the-less, he was drawn to the most desperate cases: the lepers, the blind beggars, the cripples. These were the people who didn’t have many options when it came to healthcare. We’re told that the infirmed would go to the pools of Bethesda where the first one to get in after the water was “stirred” would be healed. A crippled man explained that since he didn’t have anyone to help him, he could never get in first. (John 5:7) Even this method was rigged against the sickest in their society.
We have come a long way in medical treatment from the pools of Bethesda, at least for those who have insurance. However, many Americans are deemed too sick for the health industry. Of course, in a cruel twist, these are the very people that need insurance the most. And so, the uninsurable are reduced to wading into emergency rooms and free clinics as if they were the Pools of Bethesda. “The current situation is not sustainable,” said Dr. Thomas Smith, who helped establish a free clinic that visits rural parts of Tennessee. The system is clearly broken, leaving millions to eek out help wherever they can find it.
Perhaps it’s worth stepping back to consider why Jesus chose to heal people in the first place? Sure, it was a good attention getter, but he could have demonstrated his divinity in any number of ways. He could have summoned lightening to smite his enemies or hovered in mid-air over the crowd while he spoke. Yes, he walked on water and cursed a fig tree but, for the most part, he was a teacher and a healer. Why? Well, he seemed to have a great big heart for people who had been condemned to a life of pain and misery, people for whom relief was out of reach.
After Jesus healed the crippled man at Bethesda, the Pharisees were outraged when they learned that he had been healed on the Sabbath. While they were obviously threatened by someone usurping their authority, it’s also apparent they did not have a lot of compassion for the sick. They wanted to squabble about the correct time and place to heal someone rather than simply help them. In a not too dissimilar way, this country has debated healthcare for sixty years without any significant movement until President Obama stepped up and, at great political risk, led the effort.
In the 9th Chapter of John, Jesus heals a blind man by placing mud on his eyes. After the Pharisees criticized this healed man and threw him out of the synagogue, Jesus sought the man out to heal his spiritual sight as well. “I have come into the world so the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (39) Jesus wanted the blind man to recognize the man before him as the Son of Man and the light of the world. This spiritual awareness is the beginning of every Christian’s journey.
As we progress as Christians, we should begin to see the world through the eyes of Jesus, and having compassion for the sick is a basic character trait of Christ. While we can’t put mud on a blind person’s eyes and expect them to see, we do have other ways to heal a multitude of crippling diseases. To do so may require sacrifice and re-prioritizing our goals. There will always be people who had rather argue about when and where to help than to actually do something about it. However, when we turn a blind eye to the needs around us, we are exposing our own spiritual blindness.