For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord. -Jeremiah 30:17
First Corinthians 12:12 tells us that we, the Church, are the body of Christ. That understanding from scripture provides a powerful way to understand ourselves. As we think of ourselves in this manner we often do so in somewhat simplistic terms of hands and feet, head and heart. In actuality, I find it helpful to think in even more specific ways.
We have learned much about the human body in recent years. I see news headlines that amaze me regarding the rapid advances in medicine. The area of immunotherapy is one I am continually amazed by each time I see a news story about it. Immunotherapy is the practice of harnessing our bodies own immune system to bring remarkable healing. A few weeks ago, I was speaking with another member of presbytery who is suffering from bladder cancer. His doctors give his bladder infusions of live tuberculosis bacteria. His immune system reacts, attacking the TB and while its doing its work it sees the cancer and attacks that too.
God gave us a remarkable tool for healing in our immune system. It is a function of the body. Unfortunately, there are a couple different ways our immune systems can fail us. At times, it doesn’t react in the ways it should with simply ignoring the bad bugs within our body. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) isn’t what kills people. They die of secondary conditions like rare forms of cancer or pneumonia because the immune system couldn’t react effectively. Ironically, what we have discovered is that the human body is a practical world of different organisms living together. The National Institute of Health claims we have a 10 to 1 ratio, 10 bacteria cells to every one human cell. That is the ratio within a healthy human body. However, when the immune system ceases to function appropriately these otherwise beneficial bacteria can get out of control.
The other way our immune system can fail us is when it overreacts. Auto immune diseases such as allergies and asthma are among the most common forms of this, however there are many others. My own father-in-law has sarcoidosis which essentially is his immune system attacking his nerves. His immune system has attacked the nerves going to his heart and now, as a result, he needs a pacemaker to tell his heart when to beat. He takes immune suppressants as an attempt to slow the progression. The levels he takes is the same as someone with a heart transplant.
In many ways, the immune system of the Church is the leadership. The leadership must react in appropriate, measured ways to nurture and cultivate the health of the body. Under-reaction, leads to an unhealthy balance in behavior. Over-reaction can just as easily cause harm. When our Presbyterian Polity is at its best, the Elders function as a healthy immune system avoiding under-reaction or over-reaction. Our current session is functioning in ways I have not seen in any other congregation. May we all have trust and confidence that they will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, continue leading our congregation into the new creation Christ has envisioned for us.
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