You Don’t Have to Be a Doctor to Be a Healer

Doctor makes patient wait 3 hoursMark 1:29-34

From church, they went straight home to Simon and Andrew’s house along with James and John. They told him that Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. But when he came in, he took her by the hand and she got up, the fever gone, and began to serve them.

That evening, as the sun set, people started bringing their sick and deranged to the door – the whole city turned out – and he cured many with various illnesses and cast out many demons, but without allowing them to speak – they knew him.

Buried in the dustbins of theological research, in a 1985 issue (15:4, pp 142-50) of Biblical Theology Bulletin, there is a wonderful little paper by John J. Pilch: Healing in Mark: A Social Science Analysis. Pilch writes:

Jesus and all healers of that period could only perceive illnesses and not diseases…. Notice in each healing instance the almost total disregard of symptoms (something very essential to disease). Instead there is constant concern for meaning…. Jesus’ activity is best described etically as healing, not curing. He provides social meaning for the life problems resulting from sickness.

The wholeness of persons is essential to Jesus’ mission. Remember, in Jesus’ day and in ours, sickness is not so much what makes you sick, but about what makes you unable to participate in meaningful community. When you’ve got malignant cell growth you have a disease – call it cancer. When you are bedridden with cancer and no insurance coverage and are a financial and emotional burden on your family and neighbors, you are ill – and so is everyone else who is affected. When you have plaque that prevents adequate signal transmission between brain cells, you have a disease – call it Alzheimer’s. When you (without knowing what you’re doing) disrupt your family’s life and abuse your caregivers, its effects are demonic.

In both cases, it’s the second condition Jesus is addressing. He’s providing new conditions for those who were not able to participate in life to do so. The miracle is not in the suspension of the laws of nature – the demons already know and acknowledge Jesus. The miracle is in the rehabilitation of people who have no access to meaningful participation or self-determination.

Think about it. Doctors don’t get famous for curing diseases. You might say she’s a great doctor and recommend her to your friends if they have a similar complaint. But the doctors who are famous – the ones on TV, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Dr. Chopra – are addressing the larger issue of illnesses that are largely sociologically constructed and perpetuated.

Bonus: You don’t have to be in medicine to be a great healer. All you have to do, in whatever field you’re in, is address the larger issues that keep people from meaningful participation and self-determination.