THE CHRIST METHOD
Horatio W. Dresser
Spiritual Health and Healing
AT first thought it seems too great a claim on our part to endeavor to heal by the method of Christ. For was not Jesus master of life and death, direct giver of life to men? Were not the works of healing different in kind from those wrought today? We find the Master speaking “with authority,” not as men, but uttering decisive words which brought immediate consequence as by a miracle. Why then should we presume to accomplish works of a kindred nature?
Yet if Jesus’s works of healing were wrought according to a science, this science becomes our standard and we can do no less than try to be faithful as far as the divine light has led us on our way. The Master does indeed speak with authority. He utters the affirmative words, “Be thou made clean,” “Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it unto thee,” “Stretch forth thine hand.” It is our privilege, however, to consider how the affirmative word reaches the heart and sets the sufferer free. Jesus everywhere appeals to men to believe and follow. Attributing all the works of healing to the Father, he drew attention to those works as evidences of a principle which was known by its fruits. He promised other works to those believing on him, and taught that belief in him meant belief in God. Why should one do less than to take Jesus at his word, endeavoring faithfully to understand?
Comparison of the works of healing shows that Jesus proceeded according to a principle. Responding and appealing to faith, he healed when there was readiness to receive. This appealing attitude was so strong and outreaching that the centurion responded with implicit faith in behalf of his servant, not then present; the leper declared with full conviction, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” One sufferer merely begged the privilege of touching the hem of Jesus’s garment. Then, too, the Master repeatedly declared that he came to perform his works for “the last sheep,” he sent the disciples forth in quest of the lost and faithful, once more showing that works were to be wrought by a principle of intelligent response according to need. The disciples were not merely commissioned with power for special purposes, as if their works were to end by the withdrawing of that power. They were taught by precept and example in line with the whole Gospel as “the way, the truth, and the life.” These instructions lose all their force if we try to confine them by the supposition that they implied special privileges.
Again, we find the Master displaying what seems like special knowledge of the hearts and minds of people around him, also knowledge of suffering people at a distance. He not only knows the thoughts of critics who hesitate to express their adverse sentiments, and the timid questionings of the disciples; but is able to tell the condition of the maid who was “not dead, but sleeping,” and of Lazarus in successive stages of his sleep unto death. This discernment of the real in contrast with the apparent state was characteristic of his work among the sick as a whole. Surely this intuition was akin to that which we all possess in some degree, which some have had in marked degree who have recovered the method of spiritual healing, and which may be recognized and cultivated by all who believe in “the Christ within.” To aspire to heal in this way is to make ready for that discernment which reveals the spiritual states of men and women ready for such healing.
Studying a given instance of healing, we note that Jesus took the clue from the affirmative attitude and its possibilities on the part of the sick or sorrowing. In the case of the man blind from his birth, Jesus explained that it was not that this man had sinned or that his parents were sinners. What he emphasized was the positive consideration, that is, the work of God which was made manifest through healing. The anointing with clay was incidental to this. The man when restored was true to the Master’s confidence in him, as he courageously met the scepticism of the multitude. Presently the man went further and began to plead for recognition of the power of God, since no sinner could have wrought so marvellous a thing. “If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.” Then Jesus met this display of faith with a further expression of confidence: “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” The man did indeed believe, and he entered into the joys of his faith through acceptance of the Messiah. If this experience is in any way typical, we may see in it a verification of the science which the Master was teaching the disciples. Doubtless others responded in the same way through adopting the affirmative attitude.
The most touching incident, perhaps, is that of the woman taken in the act. Conventionally speaking there was every reason for condemnation. The Christians of the world at large have taken much the same position as that of the self-righteous men who gloried in their discovery of the woman. It is still customary to condemn, and to uphold a double standard of morality, instead of trying to discern the heart of both men and women with open vision. It was contrary to all expectations that Jesus should quietly occupy himself with drawing a figure upon the ground, then bid each guiltless critic cast a stone at the poor creature. The world has scarcely begun to make trial as yet of that higher resistance which left the Master alone with the accused–so persistently have we misunderstood what “non-resistance” means.
Connection having been broken with those forces which would have swept the guilty woman to her condemnation and made her an outcast for life, the Master turned in far-sighted charity to the accused. Jesus was not there to condemn. He took no account of conventional standards, or social appearances, but, as in all other instances of which we have record, looked deeply into the heart. For it was a question of the continued life of this woman, not of her mere past. She was a human spirit and had all the rights which any soul in need can ever have to be regarded as an individual, not as a mere unit in a social group belonging to a given nation. As a human spirit endowed with affection, she was summoned by the Master to come out into the light of her nobler self, to go and live for that self, the connection being broken with her sin. She was thus called toward the fulness of life because it was possible for her to respond. May we read in this an expression of that method which is universal either in disease or sin?
This faith in the human spirit did not mean neglect of actual circumstances under which the spirit meets experience. For on other occasions we find Jesus speaking plainly about dark spots in human society. He speaks of the good man and the evil man, according to the expressions they make of the Life within. He refers to blind leaders of the blind, and warns his disciples regarding various forms of deceit. Throughout his teaching he shows that our words condemn or justify us, that every idle word brings its effect; hence that no man escapes from impurity of thought by any theoretic device meant to conceal or minimize. The Master in fact says plainly that his teaching comes to cause dissension, as a sword brings pain. Not in any way could he be said to compromise with destructive forces. Yet all his judgments are constructive. He comes to find lost sheep and call them home to that kingdom of love which every man may enter who will turn about and adopt the affirmative attitude. He comes that men may have life and have it more abundantly.
To be the Master’s follower in the field of spiritual healing is to adopt as one’s ideal this standard of spiritual health and see why people are held up to that standard. It would be impossible to emulate the Master without trying to live the Christian life in fulness, taking up the cross, losing one’s life to find it, going and selling whatever riches one may have that stand in the way of loving Christ. He who would lead men as Little children must himself become like those the Master blessed. He who would teach others how to forgive should begin by forgiving if he have aught against anyone. In short, he who would guide his fellow men into life is bidden first to “enter into life” himself. But all this is understood when we are speaking of any phase of Christian service whatever. There is but one law.
What we have so long failed to see is that the mode of life which the world has accepted as the ideal in a certain direction is the guide in all directions. That life, for example, is a life of giving, not “getting.” It means acting unflinchingly by a higher principle, never resisting any force unfriendly to man on its own level but always on the upper level, through love. Healing in accordance with the Christ is an instance of this law of giving. Christ is the Giver of life. What all men need in their spiritual illnesses is this Life that quickens the heart, frees the spirit from its bondages. What all men need, Christ in the heart already knows. It is our human privilege to be a messenger of this gospel. If we have seen its truth in one sphere of human needs we realize that it applies equally to all. The world has not to any extent tried the principle of unstinted giving. So the world has not seen that this principle applies to healing.
In his sins and illnesses man shuts himself into a narrow world. He thinks and wills, schemes and acts for himself chiefly, considering how he can attain his private ends, how he may gain subtle sway over people, using them for his own interests. When pain and suffering and the consequences of his self-love come upon him man enters more deeply into self, asks to be freed from the results as mere results without inquiry into causes. A creature of outward things and interests for the time being, he expects to be set free by external forces. He professes to care nothing about what is spiritual. He simply wishes to go on with the game.
To be gifted with the Christ-spirit even in small degree is to see what is the trouble with man. To be touched more deeply by that spirit is to be moved with compassion. For man has separated himself in heart from his Maker. He is acting as if apart, detached from spiritual relationship with his brothers. The pains he suffers are meant to lead him to consciousness of his real situation. They are not hostile, not alien forces warring upon him, but blessings in disguise. But he is in a negative attitude, opposing the Love that would bless him, struggling not to see the lessons of experience. There will be no freedom for him while he rebels. But the Christ-love comes to him to lift him out of his rebellion that he may see what he is doing, may will to be free. It comes to give him back to himself. Therefore the discernment it brings makes the eye single to the ideal, inspires a vision of the self as made in the image and likeness of God, created to be in health and freedom.
The affirmative attitude on the part of the human spirit puts the soul of one who would serve as healer in touch with this outpouring or giving of Life. In the affirmative attitude we believe to the utmost and look for the highest. In that attitude we see the best in another and hold firmly to it. The efficiency is always from the one Giver of life, but this life becomes most active through us when we open the spirit to receive and give it as if it were our own. The affirmative is at the same time the giving attitude. In this attitude there is no condemnation, no judgment, no effort to influence another to go one’s own way. There is full giving of oneself in service, that whatever is best for another may be spoken and may be done. To give is never merely to use, to control or manage. To give is to be ready to be used, to let the divine wisdom have full expression, to withhold nothing of the divine love.
Yet this unstinted giving of oneself that the Spirit may be an unimpeded instrument of expression for the healing Christ, is not at random or merely in general. It is the essence of the Christ to incarnate itself, to unite the Word with the flesh in definite and concrete form. This is why in the example given us in the Gospels the Christ is always seen in relation to the most intimate needs of the individual, carrying purity into the thought, love into the heart, and a corresponding purification into the bodily life. Every individual is sacred to the Christ. There is comfort for every sorrowing heart. No man or woman, however separate in consciousness from recognition of this great wisdom, is too insignificant or even too sinful to warrant refusal to give. The one condition is willingness, faith, openness of heart such that the healing love may enter in.
Thus too every thought of ours, every mental ability to make our realization concrete, every prompting of the heart however slight may be dedicated to this divine service. There is every reason for asking for what we will “in the name of Christ,” every reason for the prayer of the heart which believes that it will receive. “All things are yours” in that spirit. Now “we have the mind of Christ.” We are renewed by that mind to utter the quickening word. and naturally in our prayers we will ask for more, since we now begin to realize at last something like the fulness of the promise, that other signs shall follow, that “greater works” will be done.
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Spiritual Health and Healing
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