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Forming (in) Community – The Practice of Healing (1)

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Recap on Forming (in) Community – The Second Practice of Healing 

Last week Meg Willows introduced the practice of healing… in forming, and being formed in, God’s community. She shared our vision for healing ministry in Following Jesus: what is healing and why we practice the healing ministry that Jesus committed to his followers, the local church. I want to focus on the how to of healing. But first some general comments.

Our highest core value is following Jesus (relationship with God) with its four practices. Our second value is forming and being formed in community (relationship with one another) with its four practices. Relational intimacy with God leads to relational intimacy with one another, and vice versa, which in turn facilitates healing. Relationship is the first, and healing is the second practice of community. The practice of healing as two sides: a) how to receive healing for personal growth and wholeness, and b) how to minister healing to others in the name of Jesus. Healthy community is a primary means of healing, growth and formation toward wholeness, while dysfunctional relationships is a primary source of brokenness, sickness and destruction. Thus we face the ongoing challenge to build healthy community/relationships in marriage, family, home groups, ministry teams, and church.

The Practice of Receiving Healing

Sickness and healing is not just physical as most people think. We are far more complex than mere matter! Brokenness in all its forms is due to original sin and the consequent intrusion of death into creation. Sickness is the foretaste of death and mortality, affecting the whole of who we are. Healing is the forestaste or power-surge of our future resurrection, experienced in the present as the process of restoring wholeness to the whole person:

  • Spiritually: from sin, guilt, shame, broken moral character, distance from God
  • Psycho-emotionally: healing insecurities, poor self-image, past hurts, and traumas
  • Freedom from evil powers: as in darkness, torment, addictions, and compulsions
  • Physical healing: trusting God for healing for all sorts of bodily pain and suffering
  • Relational healing: from relational dysfunction, hurt and abuse, and unforgivenenss
  • Death and dying: facing our mortality, growing old graciously, and dying well

This is what we call ‘The Six Dimensions of Healing’. We’re ALL broken to one degree or another, in various dimensions of our personhood. Therefore we ALL need healing, whether we acknowledge it or not. We should ALL be on the intentional journey of a life-long whole-life pursuit of wholeness toward maturity. Why not decide to grow up before you grow old? Or else all your inner unresolved ‘stuff’ gains power over you the older you grow! Own your brokenness and work on receiving healing, not only for your own sake, but for the sake of those who love you, who live with you, who work with you – they will be eternally grateful! Turn to God and go get healing, for society’s sake and the good of the planet!

Our problem is denial and avoidance. We suppress and avoid the brokenness that affects us in how we live and relate. We deny the ‘stuff’ in us that others see so clearly. Honest feedback of how others experience us is not easy – we mostly take offence due to our pride. There is no real healing and personal growth without our egos being humiliated! Followers of Jesus deny themselves, take up their cross (die to self) and follow him… in his local communitythat rubs us up the wrong way! Our ‘stuff’ is progressively revealed so that we can face and humble ourselves, and learn to receive healing as and when our brokenness presents itself.

Therefore followers of Messiah Jesus are ‘wounded healers’ as taught in the Jewish Talmud. 

The Wounded Healer – And Wounded Healers

Rabbi Yoshua ben Levi came upon Elijah the prophet while he was standing at the entrance of Rabbi Simeron ben Yohai’s cave.
He asked Elijah, “When will the Messiah come?”
Elijah replied, “Go and ask him yourself.”
“Where is he?”
“Sitting at the gates of the city.”
“How shall I know him?”
“He is sitting among the poor covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and then bind them up again. But he unbinds only one at a time and then binds it up again, saying to himself, ‘Perhaps I shall be needed to help someone else bind up their wounds, and if so, I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment’.
He is the Messiah, the wounded healer.”

The story teaches us who the Messiah is and how we recognise him when he comes. He bears our wounds in his own body, and therefore has compassion and heals us: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases… he was pierced for our sins… the punishment that brought us peace (Shalom) was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Jesus came to fulfill this as God’s suffering servant, the wounded healer, the Messiah. Because he’s in touch with his own wounds – which in reality are our wounds that he suffered in his body – he has compassion on us and reaches out to touch and heal our brokenness.

The followers of Messiah – you and me – become wounded healers in the tradition and Spirit the Wounded Healer. Before I comment on what this means for us, an important qualification: Only Jesus could/can take into his body our sin, sickness and brokenness, and bring healing to us in the ultimate sense. As sinners we cannot take on one another’s sickness and heal each other. Only Jesus can do that as the Sinless One. Only he is the Messiah, the Healer.

But what we can do – what this story means for us as followers of Jesus – is to be in touch with our own wounds so as to seek and receive healing from Jesus, so that we can have compassion on others in their wounds, and reach out to help them receive healing from Jesus.

There are two extremes in this story:

  1. a) The navel-gazers: being so preoccupied with your own wounds that you’re self-absorbed – your wounding becomes your life-orientation and identity – so that you’re are not aware of, or capable of reaching out to help others around you.
    b) The Messianic complex: being so preoccupied with others in the name of helping/saving them – your ministry becomes your identity – that you’re not in touch with your own wounds, and you’re not receiving healing from Jesus for yourself. Then you pass on more your own (unresolved) brokenness to others, rather than ministering wholeness to them.

So the lesson of the Wounded Healer story is that we must learn to be in touch with our own brokenness, and take responsibility for it, seeking healing and growth from Jesus – by making ourselves vulnerable to others, to the touch and ministry and counselling of others. While at the same we reach out in the name of Jesus to those around us, touching them with compassion, holding their pain tenderly before God, ministering Christ’s healing love in the whole of who they are. To the extent we’re in touch and working with our own wounds before God we will have mercy and compassion on others in their brokenness. To the extent we’re in denial about our own ‘stuff’ – not in touch and working with our own brokenness – we will treat others harshly and superficially in their wounds, seeing and using them as objects of ministry.

So, the practice of receiving healing is VERY important – it gives integrity and authority to our ministry of healing to others in Christ’s name. If our brokenness outweighs our wholeness we should not minister to others but work on our own healing, so that we don’t project and pass on our ‘stuff’ to others – in the name of Jesus!

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