HEALING SPIRIT Galatians 5:22-23

A meditation at the Order of St. Luke healing service, March 21, 2001, in St. George's Anglican Cathedral, Kingston, Ontario,
by Robert Brow    (www.brow.on.ca)

It is good to remember that all three Persons of the Trinity are involved in our healing, but in quite different ways. Disease (dis-ease) is caused by feeling unloved and unappreciated. A feeling of being rejected by our family, partner, friends, work colleagues, is also very damaging. And doctors all agree that a guilty feeling of being unforgiven is a source of serious illnesses. When we know that God the Father loves us totally, accepts us as we are, and forgives the worst of sins, a huge amount of healing is already taking place.

God the Son was called Jehovah Rapha (Yahweh heals) in the Old Testament. Sometimes he heals our environment. "The Lord will turn away from you every illness; all the dread diseases of Egypt that you experienced" (Deuteronomy 7:15). But his direct healing power became visible in the Gospels. He also heals us through his body the Christian community in which every member loves, and cares, and prays for us (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

God the Holy Spirit does his healing work from deep within us. In the parable of the Vine the Father is the vine tender. The Son is the vine on which we depend for life. And the Holy Spirit corresponds to the sap bringing the nutrients and healing that we need (John 15:1-15). The Healing Spirit works in us in nine different ways. Paul says "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (generosity), faithfulness,, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). Notice how every one of these nine fruit is a healing fruit. So let's take them one by one.

We have seen how the Father's love surrounds us. The problem is that when we try to love others by our own efforts it seems self-serving and insincere. The Holy Spirit can produce a genuine love from the heart, and when we experience that it has a powerful healing effect on every cell in our body.

Joy is a healing agent. "A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). If we feel miserable and depressed, it is certainly not doing us any good. But you cannot produce joy by trying or pretending to be cheerful. It is a fruit of the Healing Spirit of God.

Anxiety is something we can feel gripping us in our guts. It is certainly a disease. So when the Spirit quietens us and gives us peace, there is immediate relief and healing takes place.

Most of us are impatient. I certainly am. I want things to happen yesterday. But when we are under medical treatment we need a lot of patience. Patience is a sweet healing gift of the Spirit.

Have you noticed how when you do something kind for another, it makes you feel good? Obviously the unkind, uncaring person is unhealthy. But there again you can't work up kindness. It springs from the compassion (feeling with) that the Spirit pours into our heart.

The NRSV translates the word as generosity, but that is only part of the meaning of agathosuny which means goodness. It is the opposite of those who are destructive, spewing out bitterness, those who deface buildings with graffiti, break bottles on a beach, and destroy the reputation of others.

The Spirit will prompt us to do those unexpected things that make a world a better, happier place. In the New Testament we are not saved by good works, but they are certainly a sign of health (1 Timothy 5:10, 25, 6:18, Titus 2:7, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Peter 2:12).

Faithfulness makes us effective and dependable. It is the opposite of being erratic, slipshod, unreliable, keeping others waiting, failing to keep promises. In teaching the Bible Paul wants Timothy to be "a workman who has no need to be ashamed" (2 Timothy 2:15). But the same applies in anything we do. A lack of self-respect is a condition that the Holy Spirit longs to heal.

The employer who is harsh, abusive, rides rough shod over others, and humiliates them, is heading for a heart attack. The Holy Spirit will heal us by an inner gentleness.

Alcoholics, and those addicted to drugs, gambling, and overeating, all need healing. But only a very small proportion of people can exercise the self-control that is needed (and such people can be abominably self-righteous). The success of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and similar organizations is not by nagging, guilt, and self-effort. People are encouraged to look to the "Higher Power" which is of course another name for the Holy Spirit.

It is therefore obvious, that every one of the fruit of the Spirit is for our healing. But how do we look to the Spirit for this kind of miraculous intervention? Paul tells us very clearly. "Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:4-5).

When we have a serious health problem we go to a doctor, and leave the medical profession to do what is needed by way of tests, procedures, medication, radiation, operations, etc. But having put ourselves in the hands of modern medicine, we then leave the medical profession to do their work. We could pray for them to be guided to do the needful. But meanwhile we stop fussing about the pain or condition that is bothering us (what Paul calls the flesh). That only makes the condition worse. Instead we set our mind on (focus on) the Spirit to do his inner work. We relax and let the Spirit work in us with each of the nine fruit of the Spirit. That will not only speed the healing process which doctors are trying to encourage, but in many cases will actually effect a cure.

The Father will still be healing us by loving, and accepting, and forgiving us. We will also be looking in faith to the Son of God the healer. But the sap, the lifeblood of the Vine, will be coursing through us to produce the ninefold fruit of the healing Spirit.

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