Monday, July 16, 2012

Healthcare and the Kingdom of God

Many Christians are fascinated with "the end times" or what "heaven" will be like.  I used to wonder, too, and I even read all the Left Behind books out of curiosity.  Many people are focused on who gets in and how they get in, but let's not think about that right now.  I'm curious about what it will be like.  Sometimes, I think that those of us living in the United States (since we tend to think our way of life is the best in the world)  think that it might just be American culture extended.  I started to change when I read Breaking the Code by Bruce Metzger and multiple books and articles by N.T. Wright (including Surprised by Hope).  Through these, I started thinking differently about "heaven".  

I especially appreciated N.T. Wright's explanation about "life after life after death".  We are often so focused on what happens when a person dies and we combine it with what happens for eternity that it was helpful to me to be able to distinguish the two.

To my understanding, the Bible doesn't give us a clear picture about The Resurrection.  We have some hints here and there but we cannot know for certain what life will be like.

In our country today, especially because it is an election year, we are focused on a few things in particular:  gay marriage, healthcare, and the economy/unemployment.  

As I was thinking about the things that I see in the New Testament, it occurred to me that these things will eventually be a non-issue.
  • There will be no marriage at all, straight or gay. (Matthew 22:30 "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.")
  • We also expect it to be a time of world-wide peace.  We will have no need for a military or weapons manufacturers.
  • There will be no sadness or depression, no death, no pain of any kind.  (Revelation 21:4 "he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.")
So, the three things that we find to be so very important to us in the United States right now will be of no consequence in the Resurrection.

It is this one about healthcare that got me really thinking.  Because these things will not exist, we will have no need for doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, therapists, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacists, insurance companies, funeral directors, lab workers, physical therapists, or kleenex.  Since none of these medical facilities will be needed, there will be no need for anyone to research diseases or medications, no need for custodians to clean facilities, no managers for them, no receptionists, no people for medical billing, no need for any kind of medical equipment to be made for facilities, no need for construction to upgrade or build new facilities.

Unemployment will be very high.

When the Kingdom of God is fully realized, what will our lives look like?  What will our relationships be like?  What will our day to day activities be like?  Will we have jobs?  Will we eat?  Will we sleep?  The usual Hollywood vision is that of wearing robes and walking around on fluffy white clouds, but that seems pretty boring to me.

Revelation 21:5 tells us "And the one who was seated on the throne said, 'See, I am making all things new.'" All things new.  Everything new.  Nothing that we know now will be the same.  For those of us who aren't usually too keen on change and like to have some kind of control over our lives, that's a disturbing thought.  

What would it look like now if we thought more about God's dreams and plans for The Resurrection?  In many churches each week people pray "thy kingdom come...on earth as it is in heaven".  We pray for God's kingdom to come and be realized now, not just later.  If we mean this and we truly want God's kingdom now, and if the future kingdom/heaven/world to come/resurrection has all healthy people, it brings up some questions for us now:

  • How is healthcare related to God's kingdom coming now?  Is it related?  
  • Is it something that we should do something about now or do we think that it is something that we just have to wait for to happen then?
  • What is an individual's responsibility regarding healthcare for oneself, one's family, and one's neighbors?  
  • What is a nation's responsibility regarding the health of its citizens?
  • What is the Christian church's (read:  all Christians, no matter the denomination) responsibility to these things?
I don't have the answers to these questions; I'm usually much better with questions and theories than practical applications, but I think they are good questions to ask, especially because so many Christians believe that the United States is a Christian nation/was founded on Christian principles.  Many Christians have no problems fighting for the right to life, but should we also fight for the quality of life, once it begins?  If many Christians insist on being a Christian nation, then how should a Christian nation look at healthcare?  


Eternal Lizdom said...

I believe it is in Matthew, and I am paraphrasing since I'm going from a faulty memory, that Jesus said, "I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." I guess, for me, if I choose to follow Jesus, that means I am choosing to take care of my brothers and sisters, therefore taking care of Him. Healthcare in our country before "Obamacare" meant a lot of people went without care at all. I don't know if government run is the answer or if Obamacare has the best plan- but I Know it's better than what is currently a very broken system.

Kelly J Youngblood said...

Yes, that's in Matthew 25. I also don't think Obamacare is THE final answer, but it seems to me as if it is at least a beginning and there are a lot of good things about it. I would like people who disagree with it to come up with some kind of alternate plan to present, but I haven't seen one (I also don't pay attention as well as I should, so perhaps there is one out there and I just don't know about it).