Ted Grimsrud—Purpose vol. 44, no. 4 (April 2011), p. 28.
If you had to pick just one image to convey the basic message of the Bible, what would it be?
God? Salvation? Peace? Justice? The Kingdom of God? Heaven?
These all seem valid. There are surely others. And, of course, part of the richness and power of the Bible is that it cannot actually be reduced to a single image. Yet, it is instructive to think—what would we boil it all down to?
Let me suggest another term for consideration: healing. In fact, I have written a book making the case for “healing” as the main theme of the Bible (God’s Healing Strategy). Here’s why.
The basic story the Bible tells is of creation out of love, a creation, when the seventh day comes, that God’s proclaims as “good”— as whole, as healthy. Then brokenness shatters the wholeness. Damage shatters the health. The first act of disharmony is an extraordinary act of violence; Cain murders his brother Abel. For the rest of the Bible, the main plot of the story concerns how God responds to the un-health that disrupts God’s intentions for creation.
Ultimately, God purposes to bring health to all the families of the earth by calling into being a people, Abraham and Sarah’s children, to know God’s peace and share that peace with the world.
Because of God’s healing strategy, the health of this elect community—chosen to channel salvation to everyone—has great significance. The commandments, given by God to guide God’s people in the ways of social health, zero in on the key criterion for measuring the health of God’s people and their readiness to be worthy instruments of God’s work in the world: how are the most vulnerable people in the community faring?
We see this in the Book of Leviticus. In chapter 19, the book’s core concern for Israel’s holiness finds expression. What is the holiness God looks for? Holiness that pays special attention to the needs of the widows, the orphans, the immigrants.
And when Israel falls short, what’s the main problem? Look at the Book of Amos: “Because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them” (5:11).
The sign of the health of a community is the health (or lack thereof) of the most vulnerable. How do we stack up?