Health Care and the Cross

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death –
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under
the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”

-Philippians 2:5-11

Yesterday afternoon, president Barak Obama gave an online press conference for his supporters. The “town hall” style interaction and Obama’s remarks were designed both to allay fears and to rally the energy and support of those who are in favor of health care reform and who have been disoriented by the right-wing offensive against any kind of reform that we have witnessed in the media and online in the past couple of weeks. In these times I really do eny our brothers and sisters from Europe, over the pond you only need to renew your EU card and basic health care is accessible.

What the president said did reassure me. As far as his remarks yesterday were concerned, he displayed a stance that indicated an enduring support for a public health care option and a desire to push this legislation through, even if it’s ultimately along party lines. I was pleased to see him re-affirming his support for the public option and his unwillingness to put up with obstructionism on the part of the Republicans who only seek to destroy the president and the emergent progressive political wave in the United States. He and members of Congress still need to be pressured on a regular basis and not allowed to forget why we elected them – but it was reassuring to hear him say the things that he said.

In my relief, I began to reflect on the extremely negative reaction that I had to a New York Times report a few days ago, which suggested that Obama was possibly backing down on providing a public option for health care. This afternoon, it has occurred to me that while my position on the issue is to some extent based on righteous indignation and a demand for justice, there is also an element of personal fear and defensiveness in it. I am afraid of what might happen to me and my family should our present system of for-profit medicine continue.

It came to me in a flash that, if I allow myself to act out of this fear and instinct for self-preservation, I will deny the cross. If I try to defend myself – or even those I love – from the injustice of the for-profit health care system, I will take the way of the zealot instead of the way of the cross. The way of the zealot, lashing out defensively against injustice and seeking to defend myself and other through force or evasion, is the way that comes naturally to me; but I know that I am called to follow the example of my crucified Lord.

I must not put my trust in chariots or high walls, nor in human rulers. As a Christian, I am called to speak and witness prophetically to those who are powerful in our society – to civil authorities, powerful organizations and elite families – but my prophecy cannot be from a position of power or defensiveness. On the contrary, it must be from the position of one who is willing to endure the punishment of the powerful and the consequences of their sin. I as a son of God must be prepared to be crucified just like our Lord. I cannot hang onto any pretentions of self-defense.

So, yes, I am called to witness to those who are seated on the thrones of human power. I am called to announce the year of the Lord’s favor, the setting free of the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and healing for all, regardless of economic condition. I am called to appeal to the imprisioned Seed of Christ in the hearts of temporal authorities. But if these powerful people are unmoved by my testimony and proceed to trample the children of God with their wickedness and greed, I am called to suffer.

Instead of feeling indignant at those who value profit more than my life and health, I am called to witness to them, seeking their redemption that they may be turned from darkness to light and made sons and daughters of God. I am called to witness to them in my suffering; even my death. I am called to bear witness to Christ’s unspeakable love for them through my willingness to die for them to bring them this message.

The Kingdom I am called to live in is one in which perfect love has cast out all fear. Where the fear has gone, all that remains is loving concern for those who despise and persecute the innocent lambs of God. I trust my Good Shepherd to see me through all suffering. My focus is not to be on my own trials but on the terrible spiritual danger of my fellow men and women who oppress the Seed of Christ with their greed, ambition and fear.

I am called to be life, a giver of life and true love – a love that confronts evil, even when evil threatens to kill it. I am called to lay down my life for my friends, yes, and for my enemies as well. When I am in Christ, I am free to lay down my life because I have been given so much more. Eternal life. Unlimited life. Unbounded, indescribable, free life. When I am in Christ, those who seek my life can have it: for all I desire is their entrance into the true life of our beautiful Savior, Jesus Christ.

I see in the Spirit of Christ how we are called out of all war and strife, and into the blessed peace of the cross. All contention is silenced because we have been nailed to the cross, put to death, and raised to new life in our Lord and Redeemer. When I know this love and life, I am ready to lay down my life so that the insurance executive or member of congress might be brought into the Truth of Christ and out of their wickedness and greed. The Seed of Christ struggles within them to bring them into true peace and the mercy of God. May I be an instrument of that salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.