For the next few posts, I’m back to more spiritual awareness. This next series of posts may be bit dark, but I hope that they help people understand why man-controlled religion can be deadly, and why it is of the utmost importance to have a relationship with God for ourselves. I distinguish mainstream religion from walking with Jesus because from what I see in America, we tend to get the two confused. When we look at scripture, God says that he will dwell in his people and that those who accept and receive Christ into their hearts and follow his words would be his people. He no longer needed his people to have a temple with His presence dwelling in the ark and the tablets of stone to remind them of righteousness. We, his people were to be living epistles, read by all men. The word of God was to be written in our hearts. We as the people of God were to be his dwelling place, his priesthood and he would establish a new covenant. Finally, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, the veil that separated man from God was pulled away. We no longer need a mediator or anyone to go to God for us, we could approach God directly through prayer and walk with him in a personal way.
In each of these next posts I’m going to use some profound sayings from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking to talk about the reality of this idea in my life. This book talks about the unconscious decision-making process and the intuitive knowledge we have about certain things. He posits that snap judgments and gut feeling can often be more valuable than an in-depth analysis of a situation.
This week’s quote:
“We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
How often I experienced this in religion. If we don’t understand, we make up an explanation. If we don’t know what to do, we just follow what someone in authority or our religious environment tells us is right. We will create a false reality of how something should be just because it seems to fill a void in our head. The human mind needs answers, and the devil will often give those answers.
Men love to follow other men. If something becomes an accepted practice, we all tend to follow suit, and when it comes to religious practice, how many follow a method is merely an indication of the popularity of opinion and not moral quality. As a minister, I’ve visited large megachurches and small storefront places of worship. From experience, I know that the location doesn’t matter. It’s the people inside those places and how serious they are about following the word of God that tells the tale.
In my own religion, even though sincere, they had created their own version of what it meant to follow God. There was a big chasm between what was preached and what was practiced, and it began to widen over the years. So if I am an expert in anything, having lived in a Bible-believing fundamentalist church for over 30 years, my gut has become finely tuned to religious lies
This quote of Gladwell’s reminded me of people’s often misguided practices about divine healing. Although the Bible clearly teaches that Christ came to earth with healing power and God promises that we can ask what we will and it shall be done, he wanted us to know who he was, the great physician and healer for our bodies. However, he did not leave on record what to do if we pray and nothing happens. He did not condemn or place a “woe” on people who sought help from a physician. We accept the Book of Acts as scripture, and this book was penned by Luke, a physician “one who heals” who is mentioned as such in several places in scriptures. This was not a point of contention in the Bible that he was a medical doctor.
Our church highly honors biblical inspiration toward divine healing. Yet, over the years the leaders failed to adjust their practices of simply refusing medical help even when people were not healed and died trying. Maybe not as much now, but there was tremendous pressure to “trust God with your body.” And I would challenge anyone from my religious group who may read this to say otherwise. Diving Healing became such an identifier of our group, especially the African American side of our group, that it was placed in our creed statement.
Are You Trusting God For Healing?
In truth, whether you trusted God for healing became more important than whether you had sinned. If you failed you were treated as if you had sinned or at the very least, failed a test God put you through. It was a point of shame. This is a lesson on how a good thing can go too far in religion and become very, very bad. There was all this talk about “standing” for divine healing, especially for ministers. However, I knew of ministers that had surgery.
So if it was ok for them, then it’s ok, right? Well, no, as it was explained to me, it was ok to have repairs done to your body, but other things like, disease and cancers should be left up to the divine hand of God. That was acceptable.
Besides, it was explained, these male ministers had to work so it was ok to get a surgical repair so their families wouldn’t suffer and these the men had to go to work to support their families. What????? When did we decide that little caveat? I had to have a hernia repair at the time, and it was a big deal worthy of discussion by the ministry. I was asking really for prayer and not permission, but it became an issue because I was lay-minister. It was all about the image of the ministers and not me. They never once asked how this was hurting me or my family. Fortunately, they didn’t have an issue with the operation, but that’s how it was explained to me as being alright to do. What kept going through my head was a blink moment of sorts that something was seriously wrong. I wanted to ask Later I thought about how everyone didn’t know this tidbit of information. Did the leaders ever have a meeting to let other people know they considered that type of surgery acceptable because Dude, there’s folks out here refusing to have broken legs set, refusing novocaine for dental procedures and everything else. They knew about people doing these things, but provided no public direction. They were afraid to say any surgery was fine. So, if you knew it was acceptable fine, if you didn’t, oh well, I guess you’d find out later, somehow; when your DEAD!
I personally didn’t have a problem with any medical procedure a person chose to have, everyone was not going to have the gift of faith, the bible says that ( I Corinthians 12:27-31). However, we practiced that every minister and family should be an example of everything when biblically, that is not the statement of scripture–AT ALL. To me, that was a personal decision between them and God, but often in our religion as in other churches with this bent, whoever has the loudest mouth has the most influence.
As Christians, our primary mission is to introduce people to Jesus Christ and help them walk with God. When did this become second place?.
Case in point: Our former Pastor had beautiful testimonies of God healing him through prayer. Not just him, but others in our congregation did as well. This came from a strong faith in God and their gifts of healing, but also just because God honored their commitment and honesty and just worked on their behalf. However wonderful those testimonies, the Bible never meant for these inspirational things to be a rule that would kick you out of the kingdom if you didn’t practice them. In James 5:14-15 Healing is connected with forgiveness of sins. One problem though, in practice we only focused on the first part of these passages-the healing and not the forgiveness of the sins of the Christian (I am assuming he is talking to saved people in this passage). The direction is given here to call for the elders to pray, they will anoint him with oil (as a symbol of health and the Holy Spirit) and God would heal them and forgive their sins.
Because the bible said this, you were a second class citizen if you chose the route of medical help. One of our ministers did have surgery at the urging of his family to save his life, and he lost his ministry because it so offended the congregation. He was able to get back up later but was so hurt about how he was treated, when his sickness reoccurred he didn’t want to go through that rejection again and just took on fate as his option. In fact, my husband used to say, “Some of these people don’t have faith, they’re simply leaving themselves to fate.”
However, the atmosphere and teaching by some in our congregation (don’t ask me how it got like that) was that if you were adequately obeying God, you would have the faith to refuse medical help and only trust his divine hand to heal you.
This became not only a test of your present faith but your spirituality. I am writing this because Christians must be careful how far they take scriptural things. God is all wise enough to explicitly state what we must do to be saved. If he didn’t say it, you don’t have to obey it.
In my life, I’ve experienced both: miraculous healings and times that I should have gone to the doctor.
There are no scriptures about the “method” of practicing divine healing. God simply encourages us that we can trust him with our bodies, yet nowhere does he make this a command; but it was in our church, and when the Pastor saw what was happening and tried to put balance in the teaching, some called him backslidden and would not accept his “new”, actually more correct teaching.
Preachers from other congregations came through in the early 2000s and decried “saints going to hospitals” as if they had sinned or had started going to taverns and bars and nightclubs. It was put on the same level.
On top of this, our church fell into the warm waters of De-Nile (denial) about how dogmatic they had made the atmosphere of our churches. Babies had died or were damaged, young people died all on the altar of Divine Healing. Verbally it was said “oh, it’s not a sin to go to the doctor or accept medical treatment” but everyone knew that it was seen as a failure if you did. To this day, many congregations have an unsaid rule and try to keep quiet that a person is undergoing chemotherapy or medical treatment, because “it may disturb the saints’ faith” as if this knowledge will somehow destroy what God would do. One person got up and said, “the devil is trying to take divine healing out of the camp” (meaning, the camp of the saints for the non-initialed). I thought how can that be? If God wants to heal someone, he is all-powerful, who can stop him from performing a miracle?
What I believe he meant was this: If people start going to hospitals and doctors no one will try to practice what we’ve been practicing. Someone may steal the nostalgic practice of the way we do this, and I won’t hear the same prayer requests and testimonies I’ve heard in the past. The only testimonies I accept (No medication was taken for this healing).
In some cases, we were only guessing God would heal. Then, when the person died, we’d say,
“God did heal them, they’re not in pain now, he took them home.” What???? Where was death equated to healing in the bible? People who were healed lived.
See what I mean. We find an explanation for things we can’t explain.
What I believe happened is that what was once a natural outpouring of God on a particular people began to be a forced practice. They looked at divine healing as a calling card that God is with us. Signs and wonders. It started to overtake certain aspects of their teaching until it began to be treated like a command. Sincerity does not mean that a person is right. God gave men gifts and every good and perfect gift comes from above.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:16-17
To be able to have hearts transplanted, and body parts repaired and go to sleep while someone surgically works you, and to be able to go back to your family and live your life and make things better with God, that is a knowledge and a chance that came from God to mankind. This is the mercy of God to mankind. The devil doesn’t want good. So however the healing comes, it’s a blessing from God.
In religious practice, one has to be careful that something admired or inspirational doesn’t become a required for everyone. What was an inspiration about the healing hand of God, became a golden calf upon which some lives were sacrificed, an object of worship that gave our religious group identity. But did we ever stop to think that Jesus stated that our identity is wrapped up in our love for one another?
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35