Health care. I imagine, if you are like most Americans, these two words stir up some emotions for you. There are few issues as politically charged in our society right now, and that’s saying something.
There are numerous factors that influence people’s positions on this topic. A person’s starting point for thinking about this issue certainly influences the stand they end up taking in the current health care debate. For example, people whose starting point is the merit of a free market economy will likely have a very different perspective than people whose starting point is the merit of universal health care systems used in other western industrialized societies.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on crafting public policy on an issue as complex as health care in our country. I believe good-hearted and thoughtful people hold a variety of opinions and ideas about how to heal health care in our society. However, it is disconcerting to me, as part of the Christian community, the church hasn’t found a common starting point for this conversation.
It seems, more often than not, the ideological lines that polarize and divide our country are mirrored in the church. Though churches are certainly comprised of people from the entire spectrum of political affiliations, I believe our confessed Christian identity calls us away from absolute loyalty to any one political ideology. Instead, as followers of Jesus, there is a gravitational pull on our lives toward a common starting point when considering issues that impact our neighbors.
At the risk of simply naming the obvious, I believe this starting point for Christians is Jesus himself. Of course, this isn’t some radical new idea. Jesus’ life and teachings have always been the starting point for Christians to determine how to live a life faithful to God’s will and purposes.
When we read the Gospels, it’s clear Jesus’ first followers were captivated — and sometimes even startled — by Jesus’ heart for the hurting. Story after story recalls how Jesus’ attention and concern was particularly turned toward people on the margins of society.
Jesus’ heart for the hurting became the starting point for how his earliest followers thought about the needs of others. Consequently, one of the first things people outside of the church observed about the followers of Jesus was how odd — and even offensive — their compassion and care for the sick was. The general starting point in the Roman world was ridicule and scorn for the destitute and dispossessed. But from within this ethos, Jesus’ followers had a conviction that their starting point should be the compassion and care displayed by the one they now confessed as Lord.
The call for Christians to claim this same starting point when thinking about the sick in our society is as urgent — and sometimes even as offensive — today as it was in the earliest days of the church. Starting with Jesus’ heart for the hurting may still lead Christians to different ideas for specific health care policies. It is likely we won’t reach a unanimous consensus on whether Obamacare or Trumpcare is the best way forward. But if we are able to agree Jesus cared about the sick and vulnerable, this can serve as a faithful starting point for Christians to consider an issue that has a significant impact on our neighbors.
— Rev. Ben Konecny is an associate minister for First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.