"Your faith has made you well."
A Call for Inclusive Ministry
Over the years a group of statements Jesus made has captured much of my attention. Throughout the New Testament scriptures we read time and time again Jesus saying something like, “Your faith has made you well,” or, “Your faith has healed you,” and even a comparison that another’s faith is greater than all in Israel (Matthew 8:5-13, 9:22, 15:28; Mark 5:34, 10:52; Luke 7:50, 17:19, 18:42). I struggled with this and still do on occasion. What does it mean? How can Jesus say, “Your faith...” when that person was not an Israelite, not Hebrew, not of the God-Fearing faith that Jesus himself descends from? I have come to the conclusion that these affirmations in Jesus’ ministry are examples by which we as clergy should strive to live by and to emulate. I say this because, from my understanding, Jesus knew these women and men were not of the Hebrew Abrahamic faith. The crucial part here is that the person's faith origins, whatever they were, do not matter. It doesn't matter if the woman was an Islamist; the man was a Zoroastrian, or the Centurion was a Hellenist. What matters is that Jesus saw a faith in each of them that moved him to then heal and in some cases bless them. It did not matter to Jesus that these people were not of his faith, that they may not have at that time believed in him or his ministry, but rather that it mattered a great deal to Jesus that they believed in something and had some form of spiritual faith. What I take away from this is that we must love and serve all who come before us. We are not to impose our values, morals, ethics, and beliefs upon them. While that may sound akin to heresy to some, I say that I agree that we should live and work in a Christian manner. I agree that we should teach the Gospel to all who will hear it, but we are not to cram it down someone’s gullet. We are not to impose our personal interpretations of the Scriptures upon unwilling ears, hearts, and minds. The faith that another person carries is not for us to judge, lest as Jesus says, ‘we be judged.’
Christianity is not ours to possess or to control as gatekeepers and key masters but rather we are called to accompany people on their own personal and unique journeys in faith. In this walk of faith with those we minister to we are not leading them down our own path, helping them identify our own obstacles and obstructions, but rather helping them to understand their own paths, identify their own beliefs, understandings, and in this way, we simply act as a guide for them helping them to find the ultimate goal. In my opinion, this is a humbling experience. Reserving what we believe and think we know to be true in light of what another brings forward, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to be wrong and open enough to learn from anyone. If we can be humble and walk softly with another in faith to me, we are upholding a great lesson that Jesus taught us, “Your faith has made you well”. To this end, I often wonder if this is not then the gateway into greater and more inclusive ministries? Many women and men I know in my own life struggle with identifying with a church or denomination over theological interpretations and belief. One such topic that helped bring me to the UCC is the issue of Openness and Affirmation. I have seen such great and strong faith and spiritual resolve in many who identify as LBGTQ above and beyond any I have ever seen in any “ardent ‘conservative’ Christian” and yet there are churches who will not welcome or commune with those in the LGBTQ community. To me, this is a great travesty and injustice. Jesus offers us solid examples of accepting other people from other nations, tongues, races, lifestyles, and faith. Jesus asks us time and again to, “love our neighbor as ourselves” and in my experience exceptions can be found to discredit whom my neighbor really is. I stand with the UCC in that we are called to love our gay neighbor, our Muslim neighbor, our immigrant neighbor, and our homeless neighbor. Beyond the love command I now see that Jesus did not judge other’s faith when ministering to them and by his supreme example, neither should we.