Sunday, March 9, 2014

Luke 17:19 -- On Faith and Wholeness

"And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole."
Luke 17:19

This verse comes at the end of a story about ten lepers.  Christ healed all of them of leprosy, but only one came back to say thank you.  And he tells him that his faith has made him whole.  A similar story is in Mark 10 where a blind man asks Christ to be able to see.  He is also told "thy faith hath made thee whole."  A third story where this same phrase is used is with the woman who had an issue of blood twelve years, and who knows she will be healed if she can only touch Christ's clothing.  And she *is* ... and he stops to find her and to tell her this message as well.
I don't think that the message of wholeness is only about physical illness here.  The nine other lepers that were healed were still whole, physically, even though they didn't return to give thanks.  I don't think that Christ withdrew his gift because the rest didn't turn back.  And the woman, even before Christ stopped in the crowd and she felt compelled to come forward, had *already* been healed.  A similar story is the woman who comes in with ointment, bathes Christ's feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, anoints them with ointment, and kisses them repeatedly.  He forgives her sins, and he doesn't say exactly the same thing to her, but it is similar: "Thy faith hath saved thee."  I think it is probably a phrase that is synonymous in this context.
So, what is the difference between the nine lepers and the one, or what do all of these people have in common that made them whole and forgiven and saved?  The last woman was spiritually healed rather than physically healed... so they all have some kind of healing in common... but I think what makes the one different from the nine is that he turned around, and decided to take action.  We learn in James 2 that faith without works is dead.  We have to *act* on our beliefs in order to have faith.  And we also learn in Galatians 5 that faith works by love.  These people all acted on their love.  The leper turned back because he cared about something beyond being healed.  The man who had been blind followed Christ after he was healed.  The woman with the issue of blood showed her love by making the effort to touch Christ's clothing, and when he stopped, by telling him what she had done.  The woman with the ointment showed her love abundantly.
There are many things we can learn here.  I think one of them is that faith is powerful, and that it is much more than belief.  It isn't passive, but wildly active.  It is a belief and love that makes us get up out of our chairs to *do* something about it.  And also, it can make us whole.  It can save us.
Today, let's think about our faith.  If we're resting on some passive belief... if we're going through the motions out of obligation... let's break out of that flawed pattern.  Let's have faith... let's actively seek Christ out, and ask for what we need... which is usually wholeness.  We don't have to live with emptiness inside.  We don't have to feel like a hole has been ripped in our chest, or feel broken, or feel alone, or feel worthless, or feel incomplete.  God has the ability to make us whole... to save us.  And it isn't just some kind of band-aid on top of a black hole... God fills the hole, no matter how dark or how full of despair.  We know he can... now let's do something about it.  Let's talk to him.  Let's build a relationship with him, and let him help us through the steps to learning what we need to learn.  Let's listen, and love, and act on that love, until God can say the same thing to us... our faith has made us whole.

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