Stop trying to heal me!

© Sarah Dousse for the BBC

Damon Rose’s thought-provoking article Stop Trying to Heal Me for the BBC has raised some significant issues and has been circulated with widespread approval on Christian social media.

It’s important for us to recognise that everyone has a right to be consulted before being prayed for, and people with disabilities in particular have a right to be accepted for who they are and not be confronted with a solution to a problem they don’t think they have.

A quick survey of the Gospels shows many individual stories of Jesus healing people.  In nearly all cases it is clear he has permission, either because they have come to him to ask for healing, or they are brought by friends or family for healing.  On one occasion when this isn’t so, Jesus doesn’t disempower the person by assuming he needs healing.  “What do you want me to do for you?” he asks Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51).  Even though it is obvious to everyone that Bartimaeus is blind, Jesus clearly treats him as an independent person who can make his own choices rather than a case to be dealt with.

But for me the wider point that arises from a discussion like this is that too often Christians work enthusiastically at scratching where other people aren’t itching.  Offering people salvation when they don’t think they’re in danger is not a good strategy.  We need to be more targeted in how we approach the work of making Jesus known.

We need to start our mission by asking relevant questions which make people think about their need.  The outbreak of salvations in a British prison earlier in this century began when the chaplain started to ask people “Do you want God to help you?”  Nearly everybody wants help, and even if they don’t believe in a god, such a question will engage them in discussion.

Another question that is good for people of other faiths is “How can you be certain you will go to heaven when you die?”  That does not force our faith on anyone.  It may even encourage them to examine their own faith more thoroughly.  But it can be the trigger to soul-searching which can bring them to Christian faith.

Taking time to get to know people and find out what they feel their needs are is a good start to our mission.  And we might be surprised.  As we’ve commented before, a person in the Bible who suffered from leprosy didn’t see his illness as the main problem – it was his inability to get right with God.

Having a good strategy for mission enables us to avoid wasting our resources and get straight to the heart of key life issues. Or as Lesslie Newbigin said:

Do things that will get people asking questions, the answer to which is the Gospel.