Chapter & verse: Mark 5: 25-34
In the summer, my husband and I had the eye-opening experience of hosting a genuine, card-carrying US Republican – the new husband of a childhood friend of mine. He was very restrained, overall, but one night we asked him about the growing gap between the rich and the poor everywhere in the world, and he took his cue. People should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, he said, just as he’d had to do.
I am glad that my friend married this man so that her vote can cancel his at future elections. Because I’m sure he’s wrong. The playing field isn’t level – some people simply can’t reach their bootstraps. It isn’t their fault; they need help. Republicans are very enthusiastic about people helping each other in their local neighbourhoods, but this “helping” assumes that some people are strong and some people are weak. It sets up a relationship of condescension and charity. Too often, it leaves structural injustices unchallenged. In our outreach work as Christians, we are forever falling into that hole.
The story of the woman with the haemorrhage shows us what may be the most breathtaking side of the healing ministry of Jesus. I imagine her as socially self-excluding, so defeated by the relentless betrayal of her body and so completely identified with her culture’s label of unclean that she hid away by choice before anyone else had time to reject her. Her reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe was an act of supreme courage. And Jesus felt it – he knew. “Who touched me?” he asked, and his disciples were right that it was a ridiculous question. But something had happened. The woman, who had hidden herself away for 12 years, is suddenly, excruciatingly, exposed to the spotlight. She tells her story, no doubt full of grovelling apology. But Jesus not only confirms her physical healing, he gives her back her soul. “Your faith has healed you,” he says: “your faith”. In other words, you are brave and strong and you deserve to be whole. In that moment her entire existence is transformed. …
The Revd Roberta Rominger is general secretary of the United Reformed Church
This is an extract from the October 2013 issue of Reform.