Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sickness in Church

I want to be careful the way I write out my thoughts, because I am aiming NOT to offend anyone over this. I'm just wondering out loud, and maybe throwing just the tiniest bit of gentle challenge out there for us to re-think...

I woke up this morning at around 3 a.m. running a very high fever. I took meds, it came down, but my body hurt and I struggled to go back to sleep. When time came to get ready to go to church, I was seriously debating whether I should push through and go, or stay home and sleep. I decided to go, and incidentally, I am glad I went, even though I had to go straight home and nap.

I was feeling kinda icky though, and so I asked a friend to pray for me before the worship service started. I was singing today with the worship team and was a little shaky, for some reason. I mentioned I felt clammy- kind of hot and sweaty but cold at the same time. My friend told me it sounded to her like the beginnings of the flu and jokingly (but maybe partially truthfully?) told me to turn my face away from her while she prays. Another lady on the worship team waved me away with her hand, telling me she can not get the flu, it always hits her hard.

So here's what I'm wondering. If we are sick, should we stay home? There are a lot of factors that go into this, for instance whether the illness is contagious or not. I have certainly found myself frustrated at times when people go out horribly sick and contagious because people like me, with autoimmune issues, are at an alarmingly increased risk for catching everything under the sun. The elderly and little babies fall into this category as well.

I know the book of James advices that if one is sick, they should call for the elders to come anoint them with oil and pray. As I think about it, that sounds like the sick person stays home, and the elders come to them to pray. Maybe this is a ministry that is lacking today. I know there are many that would reluctantly acquiesce to any such request, fearing for their own health by contagion. I know we are meant to be wise, but we aren't meant to be people who are driven to make decisions based on fear.

I remember a few years back, a friend of mine got horribly ill. She had four children, her husband was deployed, and she was sick as a dog. She called to tell me what was going on and I brought her medicine, food, helped clean her house... and I got reprimanded by a (hopefully well-meaning) woman at our church who told me that I was putting my own children at risk by doing so. She made me feel as though she thought I had done something wrong by helping my sick friend because I could have possibly gotten sick in the process.

We don't share a communion cup these days because, frankly, people are freaked out by germs.

A friend of mine posted about immunizations a couple weeks back, and I am going to avoid discussing that here, but he followed up with a question he is wrestling with: What does it look like to love our neighbors as ourselves? What does that mean in exercising our freedom in Christ? If we refuse to get a flu vaccine and then get the flu and pass it on to our co-workers, have we practiced our *freedom* in a way honoring to God?

{Now again, I don't want to go there with the whole vaccine debate because there are lots of factors at play in that discussion that makes it an extremely complicated issue for me.}

I don't really have an answer. Part of me feels like sick people SHOULD come to church, that prayers offered in faith on their behalf by the body just may heal them, and that being with family and worshiping together is medicine in itself. The other part of me is concerned for the health of the rest of the congregation. And again, I think maybe we are missing a much needed ministry in the church- namely elders who make house calls.

A huge part of the gospel focuses on how the sick were regularly brought to Jesus. He didn't turn them away, and you don't get the faintest inkling he was worried that he would get sick from touching them and breathing the same air. He touched LEPERS, for heaven's sake. Following church history, I've read so many times how ministry towards the sick was one of the things that set early believers apart, their willingness to serve the weak and the sick and, at times, even lay down their lives for others.

Am I saying you should go out when you're sick with no regard for the people around you? No, of course not. I just wonder if the church as a whole, might need to rethink this thing.

What do you think?


1 comment:

  1. I think that if you can make it to church, you should go to church. Breathing is not the primary means of contagion for most diseases. People know how to wash their hands, cover their mouths, carry hand sanitizer, etc. And people who refuse to care for their neighbor because they're afraid of disease should be rebuked along the lines of Matthew 25.

    I can see making an exception to that rule for children, who are notoriously unhygienic, but even then, I see a lot of parents who are apparently afraid of their children catching colds.


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