Lately a lot of discussion has centered around postmodernity, but i see another issue coming to the forefront. i would like to call this a Post-Job (as in the guy who got nailed by Satan) Theology. If you recall, Job Theology said that if anything bad happened to anyone, it was becuase they had sinned against God. God taught Job that suffering was not necessarily the result of sin. This had evidently been the strong cultural presupposition, and it continued to permeate Jewish society through the times of Christ. So much so, that when Christ discussed the ultimate question of theodicy in Luke 13:1-5, He said that those on whom the Tower of Siloam had fallen were not any more wicked than any others – in fact, He said, all were deserving of even greater punishment. Again, when the disciples asked Christ about the blind man and whose fault it was that he was born blind, Christ testified that it was not due to any man’s sin, but that “the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:1-5) Given the modern advances in technology and medicine, and the ability to determine the exact cause of many medical conditions, this “no fault” mentality has overtaken the Church, to the extent that when illness or death comes to a Christian, the thought is rarely “is God showing me sin.” Rather, a martyr mentality is taken which says, “God, you’re testing me, but i’ll just learn to trust you more.” Obviously, given the Biblical support of the beginning of this post, there will be times when this is the case. But all trials are intended as refinement in one sense of the term or another. Let me get to the point.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian Church, said:
“for this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep (that is, are dead). For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the World.” (I Cor. 11:30-32)
The author of Hebrews said:
“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten…now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:7, 11)
John said in his first epistle:
“If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.” (I John 5:16-17)
To put these passages together, we understand that God chastens those who are saved. Since the Bible teaches that one cannot lose one’s salvation, and since God’s name is at stake in the Church, He does discipline those who are His, to the point of death if need be. Paul specifically mentioned sickness to death, which means that sickness is a punishment which God uses to chasten His children. This perspective has been all but forsaken in modern Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. This is why neo-Fundamentalism – “Biblical-ism” – must learn to look at life Biblically. The first thing one ought to examine when one finds oneself consistently sick is one’s spiritual walk with God. Is God trying to get your attention? Though it may simply be a sickness like any other, clearly God does not view life the way Christianity often does. God does use sickness and death to get people’s attention, and to bring repentance.
God intends purity in His Church, and will discipline and chasten those who are His to bring that purity. Though sickness will not always be the means of Divine discipline, surely it takes a part. Therefore, as we are seeking to be discerning, let us examine our lives in light of this (or, to borrow Paul’s words, “judge ourselves”), that we be not judged or further disciplined by God.
*Disclaimer: i am not advocating a witch hunt on the part of neo-fundamentalists. i am calling for personal examination. But, Galatians 6:1 does play into this: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”