The Primary Human Problem-Part 4
Rick Sholette, M.Div., Th.M.
In the final part of this four part series on “the primary human problem”, Rick Sholette addresses the issue of infirmity.
Every day we face iniquity, immaturity, and ignorance in our selves and others. And if that were not enough, we must often cope with infirmity as well—in all the wickedly creative forms it takes, from the common cold to schizophrenia to Parkinson’s disease to blindness to diabetes to disfigurement to migraine headaches to physical addictions to attention deficit disorder to phobias to Alzheimer’s to depression to dyslexia to AIDS to demonization to various kinds of environmental disempowerments. The evidence list of human weaknesses or frailties could go on indefinitely and provides solid confirmation that there is something wrong with humanity that extends beyond sin (Yarhouse, Butman, & McRay, 2005, p. 20; Johnson, 422; Entwistle, pp. 89-90, 94). Who would deny the serious disruption, disablement, and discouragement that many such failures of mental, spiritual, and physical health could instigate that may have little immediate connection to any personal sin for which the infirm individual is responsible? As Jesus explained to the disciples who wondered why a certain man was born blind, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” Neither personal nor family-of-origin iniquity caused this man’s infirmity, but similar to quantum mechanics, where the past of an observed particle is understood and interpreted according to the current detection event, so the intent of Jesus to heal him gave the man’s infirmity new meaning: “it happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (Jn. 9:3). When Jesus healed the crippled woman according to Luke 13:10-16, he explained her infirmity as Satan’s bondage, not her sin. She was bent over and could not straighten up—for eighteen years. It is easy to imagine some fairly serious social, emotional, and mental difficulties resulting from this condition. But for us, as for her, there is good news. Isaiah 53:3-5 informs us that the “man of sorrows,” who most Christians believe to be Jesus Christ, died for both our infirmities as well as our iniquities. In this passage, these two universal human problems are juxtaposed; they are separate but related concerns for which our Savior died.
There was a true story in recent years of a mother who threw her three young children off a pier into the San Francisco Bay, drowning them. Apparently this woman was receiving medication for a mental illness, and a relative of the mother stated that this woman would never hurt her kids. But she killed them. In doing so, was she knowingly sinning, or was she manifesting an infirmity that impaired her ability to judge her own actions? The sensible Christian should be slow to accuse her of sin in this instance, though lifelong patterns of personal sin may have contributed to this tragic event. Only God knows, but it would seem that her situation, once again, suggests that we should view “the primary human problem” as a four-headed beast that includes iniquity, immaturity, ignorance, and infirmity, realizing that individual and corporate accountability rests in the complicated interplay of these quadruple factors.
As Jesus taught in Luke 12:47-48, “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” All people deserve punishment, and Jesus took that punishment for us, so that we who believe and trust in his work on the cross can find forgiveness with God through Christ. However, the playing field on earth is not fair. Destructive human conditions can result from evil spiritual forces (Eph. 6:12); social and familial oppression; the inequitable distribution of health, wealth, education, opportunity, good example, and adequate support; as well as from the universal propensity to sin. Whatever the human “problem,” whether personal or interpersonal, physical, psychological, spiritual, social, or practical, the “solution(s)” will require contextual considerations. The wise people-helper must (sometimes quickly) identify what is the most obvious, critical, disruptive, immediate, intractable need for intervention and act accordingly (Parent & Clinton, 2002, pp. 337-338).
The State Trooper in my above story said to me, “You’re gonna get creamed. Looks like you’re stuck. Let me help you dig out and get you moving.” I felt glad he said that (except for the creamed part). While the other three statements may have been true, and would have addressed my iniquity, ignorance, and immaturity, I needed him to focus on my infirmity (disempowerment) at the moment because that was my immediate primary problem. How we intervene in a situation says something about our perception of the primary problem—at least at that point in time.
We who seek to help people in Jesus’ name must remember that along with iniquity are the equally serious human problems of immaturity, ignorance, and infirmity. Knowing this should motivate us to preach repentance, nurture maturity, promote education, and encourage holistic deliverance and health—primary human solutions.
Entwistle, D. N. (2004). Integrative approaches to psychology and Christianity. Eugene,
Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Johnson, E. L. (2007). Foundations for soul care: A Christian psychology proposal. Downers
Grove: IVP Academic.
Yarhouse, M. A., Butman, R. E., & McRay, B. W. (2005). Modern psychopathologies: A
comprehensive Christian appraisal. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Rick Sholette, M.Div., Th.M.