There is a Balm in Gilead…

This is what the Lord says… Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me.  Is there no balm in Gilead?  Is there no physician there?  Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?  (Jeremiah 8:4, 21-22)

In Biblical times, Gilead was known for producing a balm that was valued for it’s medicinal/healing qualities.  As the prophet Jeremiah wept over the brokenness of God’s people, God asked, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”  Of course there is.  But, apparently this wound would require stronger medicine, and a better healer.

To which, one of the great African American spirituals responded…

There is balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole ;
There’s power enough in heaven,
To cure a sin-sick soul.
How lost was my condition
Till Jesus made me whole!
There is but one Physician
Can cure a sin–sick soul.

A year, or so, ago, I had a moment of inspiration.  Unfortunately, those moments are too few and too fleeting.  But, I think this was a particularly good one.  I wondered, “what if the primary work of the Church is healing?”

What if the primary meaning and purpose of “salvation” is healing?  After all, the root of the word salvation is the same as the word “salve” – which is a healing balm.  What if salvation is not just being “saved” from my sinful condition?  What if salvation is the healing of my sinful condition?

What if salvation is meant to be holistic – the healing of all that is broken within us, in this life?  What if God cares about our whole being, including (but not limited to)…

  • Our sin-sick souls
  • Our broken relationships (forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration)
  • Our pasts (new beginnings)
  • Our fears (why do you worry?)
  • Our relationship with God (repentance, forgiveness)
  • Our identity (child of God)
  • Our bodies (healing prayer)
  • Our broken communities and world (thy kingdom come…)

Did you hear what God said to Jeremiah?  “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed.”  God, himself, weeps for our brokenness, and longs to restore to wholeness.

And, taking the notion of salvation-as-healing a step further, what if our collective brokenness, and lack of healing, undermines the primary tasks of the church… EVANGELISM, WORSHIP, DISCIPLESHIP, SERVICE, COMMUNITY, HOSPITALITY…

  • Evangelism – How do I share the good news, if I haven’t experienced it and remain broken?
  • Worship – How do I worship, while wearing a mask to cover my brokenness?
  • Discipleship – How do I grow spiritually, if I am too broken?
  • Service – How do I serve others, if my own life is falling apart?
  • Community – How do I participate in community if I am consumed in shame, anger, hurt?
  • Hospitality – how do I welcome the stranger if I am fearful and guarded?
  • How do I do any of it if I am physically sick and incapacitated?

 What if we are neglecting healing?

What if NOT addressing and healing the “brokenness” in us and among us, we are actually handicapping the Church’s mission and effectiveness?  What if Church’s primary task is to facilitate physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, relational, familial, communal healing, health and wholeness?   How would we function differently?

What if the Church was a place that people could be honest about their brokenness, and became the primary place broken people and broken families became whole in Christ?

Is there a balm in the Church?

2 thoughts on “There is a Balm in Gilead…

  1. What if Church’s primary task is to facilitate physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, relational, familial, communal healing, health and wholeness?

    That’s alot for a bumper sticker.


  2. Thank you for your blog. I look forward to reading it every day. I breathe in each one and think about it throughout the day.


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