Beyond the Cure

This is my column in the latest SC Baptist Courier newspaper.  Link and text.

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Beyond the Cure

By Ed Leap

Published September 15, 2011

One of the things one learns as a physician is that disease, even when defeated, leaves damage. Surgeries to repair injuries result in scars, and sometimes permanent disabilities. Radiation leaves hoarseness, pain, and its own kind of scars both on the skin above and the organs below. Chemotherapy, which can save lives, also causes miserable nausea, hair loss and effects on the immunity of its recipient.

 Edwin Leap

Even when physicians succeed in eradicating a cancer, or rescuing a victim of trauma; even when they excise or drain an infection or repair a congenital defect, there is residual. The evidence of the struggle remains.

Sin is like that struggle with disease. Each and every human, throughout history, has been afflicted by sin. Every soul in the great span that stretches out and down time, backwards through the ages and forward into the present, has known sin�s predations. For we are all assaulted by sin, infected with sin, born with its marring mutation on the perfect plan of the Creator. Its effect is pervasive. Sin causes the decay of our bodies, the dissolution and confusion of our minds, and the frustration and misery of our souls. Of course, sin is not a disease, for we are complicit in it, so it is a limited metaphor but a relevant one.

In much the same way, when we are changed by God�s grace, when we are saved, our healing occurs. When we accept Christ, the disease of sin is finished, the therapy successful. It is well represented in our baptism by immersion, our rising from death to life.

However, as with physical disease, the healing leaves marks. Even when it is expunged from us, scars remain. Even after it is removed, nailed to the cross and taken to the tomb in time and outside of time, the effects and marks of our sin may remain. A dangerous tumor is not removed without an incision An abscess is not drained without a puncture. And so, our salvation, our transformation, is not without effect, just as our sin was not.

As we move forward in faith, we are often tempted to believe that we were not made whole. When we see how easily we are tempted, when we contemplate the consequences that remain of our sinful actions (like depressions in the skin where tumors once were), we can easily hear our enemy say, like the charlatan he is, �You are not healed; you are still sick. You are not good, you are still wicked. God has no place for one like you! Unclean!�

But he is a liar, a false diagnostician, who would have us share his eternal doom � or at least wallow in his eternal hopelessness. He is beyond the cure. But our therapy came from the Great Physician, fully prepared to heal us, whereas the devil is unlicensed to practice.

Equally unprepared are we. When we assess ourselves as unlovable, unsavable, unhealed because scars and tendencies, patterns and �symptoms� remain, we must step back and look at the statistics on our cure. The salvation rate is 100 percent for those who submit themselves to redemption. (We physicians should do so well!)

Of course, it isn�t only the devil who speaks words of sickness. Sometimes we do it to one another. We judge harshly, and we fail to see the progress, however incremental, of those who were most horribly engaged with the misery of sin. They are not whole, but they are healing. They are no longer sinners, though they may sin. Their scars are fresh, their infection newly removed.

Focusing on scars may occupy us, and worry and fear may plague us, but they are worthless occupations that distract us from the wonder, the miracle of our transformation, our journey from death to life. Just as a mother whose child was snatched from death will see the child, not the wound, we must look at ourselves, and others, with thanksgiving and with blindness to those things which would cause us to doubt what transpired. For we are whole, even as we grow more in the knowledge and likeness of the one who rescued us from death.

One day our wounds will be gone. One day, the only wounds, the only scars we will ever see will be His. What a day that will be! Until then, rest assured that the marks are marks of healing, and the pains and struggles that remain do not negate our cure.

(My wife, for whom many of you prayed in the past winter, is healing wonderfully. Thank you for your intercession.)

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