Health Care Reform

When I was first asked to contribute to ESI over two years ago, a request was made for me to address areas of health and science which intersect a biblical worldview. It was hoped that I could help shine the light of the gospel on areas frequently left out of conversations in the American Christian church. I believe one of those areas is the debate currently waged in the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of mandated health care.

Health care reform is a scary topic to address. There are a multitude of obvious socio-political and ethical issues at play. Like many similar issues, the battle lines have been drawn along a political divide. Unfortunately, we seem to commonly politicize subjects and therein remove reasonable debate from the table, concerned we will alienate those who disagree.

On one hand there is the assumption that a federally funded insurance plan will include some level of coverage for abortion. On the other hand, there is a moral and biblical assumption that Christians should support programs that help those in need. It is also true that 50% of the nation’s health care expenditures are spent on the sickest 5% of patients during the last 6 months of their lives. Wrapped in and around controversial components of the debate like those mentioned previously is the biblical call for Christians to intercede in prayer and petition for peace on behalf of all those in authority of the state (I Timothy 2:1-2)

Needless to say, it would be careless and imprudent to suggest a correct or incorrect response to such a complex issue. My goal is to imply it is healthy to approach the debate without bias while considering your own tendency towards selfishness, pride, fear, greed, anger, etc. In my experience, it always seems the more polarizing a topic, the less we rely upon the gospel in forming a position.

The other obvious reality we must digest is the inevitable compromise in politics. It is essentially impossible to really win in the truest since of the word when it comes to politics. It is my opinion that many Christians avoid the political arena for this reason. Moral absolutes are not easy to concede in compromise. I’ve heard many times it is impossible to legislate morality, but I think it may just as impossible to legislate equality. Government may be able to secure equal opportunity, but should we expect it to distribute equality?

When it comes to health care spending, our country outspends other developed countries by a 2 to 1 ratio and yet our morbidity and mortality rates are higher than the average of developed countries. The US also happens to have the highest rate of obesity and AIDS of developed countries. Conditions like these lead to skyrocketing health expenditures from associated disease processes. By 2017 Medicare will no longer be self funding. By 2020 health care spending is expected to comprise approximately 20 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product. Obviously something in our health care model is not working and needs to be fixed.

How should a christian respond to the obvious disparities in health care delivery? I think we need to assess our response on three different levels. Along the way, we should be guided by the truth of scripture and Jesus’ command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.

First, we must recognize the high price paid on the cross for our sin. Christ died so that we might receive the free gift of grace, but the price He paid for our freedom was more than we will ever know this side of heaven. A true understanding of the seriousness of our sin will put in proper context the amazing grace exhibited by Christ on the cross. When we can appreciate the unmerited love our heavenly father gave us, it will be increasingly harder to view others through eyes of judgment, condemnation, and indignation. This is the second level. After we can see our own sin more clearly, it is easier to give grace to others in their own struggle. We should also find ourselves to be more patience with those whom we disagree.

The personal application to caring for others and their health is obvious. I think the responsibility falls on everyone to share in the burden of those less fortunate. While the debate rages in the capital over mandates and freedom, we as Christians cannot forget we have a biblical mandate to give of ourselves in caring for the sick and poor (Ephesians 5:2, Luke 14:12-14). The more difficult application regards the appropriate influence of the people of God on legislative policy.

That brings us to the last level of a gospel interpretation to health care reform; we must evaluate the collective action of our communities of faith. I once heard a very good friend of mine (who happens to be a very good democrat) say he was afraid there would be no democratic party if the Christian republicans actually started doing what the bible told them to do. In other words, the government is not supposed to take care of the sick and poor…we are! It may be possible that the only real solution to the problem of health care reform and other social responsibilities does not come from the top down, but the bottom up. The collective work of communities of faith made up of humble servants who understand who they are in Christ will likely be the best example for a nation seeking hard solutions to tough problems.

John Piper repeatedly included the following in his personal prayer during the 2008 election. I think it is a balanced approach to how we should align our own spirit when faced with balancing our response to the shift and sway of all things political.

“Lord, we pray that we would know and live the meaning of being in the world, not of it, doing politics as though not doing them, being on earth, yet having our lives hidden with Christ in God, rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”.

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