Wednesday, June 20, 2012

6. The Basics of How To Pray

     While the work of neurologists, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, and counselors is often important in healing and restoration, effective healing prayer is often absent from the recovery process. This prayer, which acts on its own or as a powerful catalyst to other approaches, invites the supernatural intervention of God into an individual’s life and circumstances through the Holy Spirit.[1] In the same way, doctors, psychologists, therapists, and other professionals can join those actively involved in the ministry of healing prayer to promote healing. All of these can be the means of God’s grace, often powerfully so when all work together as a team.
     Although religion and medicine have divided over the last several centuries, both have something of value to offer those needing healing, and they even seem to be beginning to draw together again.[2] Studies of the relation between the two have been underway since as early as 1902, and as of the year 2000, they numbered some 1500 with the vast majority having been completed within the previous two decades.[3]
     Training is as important for those who pray for healing as it is for professionals who heal. Prayer can have little or no effect if those who pray lack understanding and training. Such an assertion is often met with a skeptical response like, “You mean that God will ignore us if we do not get the prayer just right?” The answer to that question is that God listens to all prayers. But He also desires to work with and through His people in healing, and they can pray and behave in ways that render the prayer ineffective and thus block healing. The understanding and training are, in large measure, to help those who pray learn how to get out of the way and allow God to work without restriction. This is quite different than the directive petitions, the perfunctory prayers, or the well-crafted but powerless words that so often characterize the prayers of the church.
     Healing prayer is particularly suited for the sinned against. Whatever the cause, and whether they are in deep pain or simply uncomfortable, their wounding is real and must be treated as such. Regardless of for whom healing prayer is offered, the basics of healing prayer are the same: praise, petition, invitation, listening and prophecy.
     Praise is a spoken or heartfelt acknowledgment of the character and power of God, and it is how believers come into God’s presence. Psalm 22:3 teaches that God dwells in the praises of His people, and Romans 5:6 translates as ungodly a word that means a refusal to worship or praise. Praise is not the appeasement of an angry or insecure and needy God. It is the recognition of His greatness, beauty, and love. In the process of praise, those who pray begin to see and understand who God is, and this helps them pray in His will. Praise invites His presence and illuminates all prayer.
     Petition is sharing one’s heart and needs with God. Often, this is the only thing people pray. In healing prayer, sometimes the real needs of those being prayed for are disguised or even unknown to them. It is not uncommon to hear a request for prayer for stress, for example, when the real need is for forgiveness, or release from addiction, or healing from abuse. So while the petitioners do pray for the need that has been expressed, they also invite in the Holy Spirit.
     Invitation is asking the Holy Spirit to visit right now and do whatever needs to be done. He can reveal what needs to be known, bring forth confession where it is needed, and heal what is truly wounded. The invitation to Him is without restriction: He is invited to go wherever He needs to and to uncover whatever needs to be brought to the light and healed or excised. Listening for God’s leading during the prayer will often reveal things not mentioned in the petition.
     Listening is paying attention to what God says to us, what He shows us, or where He leads us in further petition for the person being prayed for. In 1 Samuel 3:10, Samuel says to God, “Speak, for Your servant is listening” (NASB). This is the opposite of most prayers, which are more like, “Listen, Lord, for Your servant is speaking.” When those who pray invite God to lead them, to speak to them, or reveal truth to them, He will do His part and honor their request. The part of the petitioners is to listen for God’s instruction.
     Prophecy is receiving God’s leading and acting upon it. Sometimes this is in the form of a “word of knowledge” or a “word of wisdom.” Other times it is simply a deeper and more profound love for the person being prayed for. Prophecy in this context can be either a revelation of the person’s life, healing, and needs, or a forth-telling—speaking Scripture or God’s love into a person’s circumstances. This is sharply distinguished from letting fly “Scripture arrows,” or simply quoting Scripture based on one’s own motivation, agenda, or theological training, or offering counseling disguised as prayer. True leading is not from the knowledge and skill of the person praying (no matter how well-intended), but from God’s Spirit-revealed will.[4]
     These five elements of prayer are descriptive, not prescriptive. They are not requirements that God lays down, in the absence of which prayer will not be heard. They describe prayer that is humble in its access, desirous of God’s leading, and focused on invitation and willingness to receive Him. In a moment of crisis, the single word “Jesus!” can fulfill every need in prayer. Thus, the purpose of these guidelines is not to create a prayer legalism, but rather to help those who pray attune themselves to the work and ways of the One who heals.

The Holy Spirit and the Church

     Why is the Holy Spirit invited in healing prayer? Why not the Father or the Son? In fact, in Matthew 6:9 did not Jesus teach us to pray, “Our Father.… ”? Evidence of the confusion surrounding this issue can be found by listening to people pray. Their petitions often sound something like this: “Lord, we pray for healing, Father, for our friend Martha. Lord, you know how she needs You. Lord Jesus, we ask for Your touch, Father, that she might find wholeness, yes Lord Jesus, and restoration.” The purpose here is not to impugn the motives of those who pray in this random way, but to point out that their prayers seem to indicate a lack of understanding of to Whom it is we pray and Who acts in response.
     The first issue here is the Hearer of our prayer. When Christians pray, they pray to God. They do not have to decide which god is appropriate for their needs, because while they believe there are three Persons in the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—there is only one God. Each of these Persons is unique, and they are in eternal, self-giving, mutually glorifying relationship to one another: Three in One. The church asserts this in the Athanasian Creed:
We worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity; Neither confounding the persons; nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one: the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is immeasurable, the Son is immeasurable, the Holy Spirit is immeasurable. The Father is eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated, nor three immeasurable, but one uncreated, and one immeasurable. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty. And yet there are not three almighties, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.[5]
     Thus, Christian prayer cannot be wrongly directed to one Person or another of the Trinity because they are one almighty Lord and God. The awkward prayer above is not lost for its awkwardness, nor more effective because it manages to include two-thirds of the Trinity. Any Person of the Trinity is almighty Lord and God.
     Why then does healing prayer focus on the Holy Spirit? Simply because Scripture teaches that He is the one given to believers for their sanctification, intercession, and filling and because He is the one who probes the deep things of God for them:
As it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:9–13)
The work of the Holy Spirit is confirmed:
  • In the words of Peter in 1 Peter 1:1–2: “To the pilgrims…elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.…”
  • In the words of Jesus in John 14:26: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name...will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
  • In the words of Paul in Romans 8:26–27: “The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

     There are times when the Holy Spirit comes in power and great healing occurs very quickly. Yet there are other times when nothing seems to happen at all. At such times the Lord’s presence must be sought fervently, and there must be a willingness to persist in prayer over extended periods. Those who pray must simply persist in loving those for whom they pray, knowing that the Lord determines what is required, and when, and that it may remain a mystery to us.
     Those who pray must also be profoundly aware of God’s love of justice. They must be humble in their requests. And they must be aware of the nagging and persistent presence of the enemy, who has held the Han captive for so long and desires to keep them bound. Satan can accomplish this by encouraging the church to be self-righteous and cold to those who are wounded, as well as by redefining refuge as freedom. The church must avoid both.
     In healing prayer, experience and solid training are essential. Surely God can do anything He pleases in His healing will, but it is also incumbent upon the church to be as well equipped as possible to minister through healing prayer, especially in regard to understanding the dynamics and needs of the deeply sinned against. The church must not lump all healing into an appeal for confession, nor pressure the Han to forgive their perpetrators too quickly, though we do well to help them understand the nature of bondage that is present in unforgivingness. Charles Finney put it this way:
By natural resentment I mean, that, from the laws of our being, we must resent or feel opposed to injustice or ill treatment. Not that a disposition to retaliate or revenge ourselves is consistent with the law of God. But perfect obedience to the law of God does not imply that we should have no sense of injury and injustice, when we are abused. God has this, and ought to have it, and so has every moral being. To love your neighbor as yourself, does not imply, that if he injure you, you should feel no sense of the injury or injustice, but that you should love him and do him good, nevertheless his injurious treatment.[6]
     That is—just as the training teaches—resentment for injury or injustice is natural when we are abused. It is moral. God feels it as well, and it should not be brushed aside as somehow “un-Christian.” But healing will at some point include forgiveness and the desire to love and do good to the perpetrator.
     God comforts those who have been cast down (2 Corinthians 7:6), and He does this through those who love Him as they learn to love the downcast as they love themselves. As the body of Christ, the church must learn to love the victims of abuse and oppression (Luke 10:37). After all, in the truest sense, Jesus is the ultimate Han: Utterly innocent of any wrongdoing, He was the victim of the sin of the whole world. He fully understands all who are Han. And since we are His body in the world, we are called to love them with His love.
     Loving them means offering them refuge, protecting them from further harm, standing with them against injustice, and respecting them as people made by God for love and relationship, however incompletely they now fulfill God’s intentions for them. The church’s refuge, however, must not be one with a hidden stinger, a trap of further sin (or lack of complete healing) disguised as “do this because you are really one of us.” Refuge in the church must be a way station for healing and restoration, a first stop along the way toward Christlikeness, not just a comforting environment that is a new deception or a trap of stagnation.
     To accomplish this, the church needs to widen its vision of the gospel. It is not just forgiveness for sinners—which all people need. It is also healing for the sinned against, the Han, and the church should be as vocal and fervent in sharing this part of the Good News. It is only with both of these that the gospel is complete.

[1]Larry Dossey, Prayer Is Good Medicine (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 49.
[2]Harold G. Koenig et al., Handbook of Religion and Health (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2001), 591.
[3]Ibid., 513–89.
[4]This is not intended to discount human experience and insight, which can clearly be gifts from God and aid in the healing process. Yet the training is such that these personal insights and experiences are explicitly surrendered and consecrated so that, if used, they might be Spirit led. It might also be noted that there may be things that God knows but, for His own purposes, chooses not to reveal, and also things that He reveals for the understanding of the one praying that are not intended to be shared. He also may reveal, by His choice, aspects of His foreknowledge to those who pray. For a good introduction to this, see Augustine, City of God (Garden City, N.J.: Image Books, 1958), 110–11. Calvin and Scotus based much of their thinking about predestination on Augustine, but they also went beyond what Augustine discussed.
[5]Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1910, reprinted 1995), 3:689–93.
[6]Charles G. Finney, Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851, ed. J. H. Fairchild [].

5. Making Church Safe

     Understanding the relationship between faith and healing is essential when ministering to the sufferers and victims of sin. All human beings are Han. All need healing from the effects of sin committed against them. This wounding ranges from minor to profound, but those who are wounded deeply are often the most difficult people for the church to minister to. They are often fearful, angry, poor in relationships, self-hurting, self-medicating (generally with disastrous results), and easily triggered.[1] Distrusting of God and anyone who has anything to do with Him, they are quick to run away, and their behavior can frustrate and wear out people who attempt to care for them. At times it even seems they want to prove the depths of their woundedness by demonstrating how intractable it is. Ministry to plain old sinners seems easier.
     A church that ministers to the sinned against must recognize the fundamentals that are central to its success, especially for the deeply wounded. There are other principles, but these are the most important things a church desiring to minister to the sinned against must understand and incorporate in its ministry:
  • It must be safe. The complete requirements of a safe environment are beyond the scope of this paper, but they include having windows in doors, leaving doors open, including others in counseling or prayer, asking permission to touch or hug, using appropriate language, and being authentic and ready to confess or respond to offense.[2]
  • It must understand the gospel for the Han and how they hear it.
  • It must understand and teach the gospel for sinners. The sinned against also have things in their lives they need to confess so God can forgive them.
  • It must not pressure the sinned against to forgive without understanding what forgiveness is and is not.
  • It must seek to have patience born not of human strength, but of God. Han (especially the deeply hurt) are seldom healed quickly, often revert to self-destructive behavior, and often quit or relapse just as everything looks greatly hopeful. This should not come as a surprise.
  • It must be alert to conscious and unconscious manipulation by the Han. For them it is a method of survival, though they often apply it inappropriately.
  • It must understand that God is the author and finisher of healing, not the ones who pray and certainly not their mere kindness toward the Han. 

     Local churches, like believers, have different gifts, and some are clearly more desirous (and perhaps better equipped) to minister to the Han.[3] At other churches this is clearly not a strength, and the need is not even really perceived. They understand the gospel as it applies to sinners but would find the idea of the gospel being given for the Han a novel and perhaps even theologically suspect concept. If such churches cannot be brought into actual healing ministry—especially to the badly wounded—perhaps they can at least learn to recognize the needs of the Han and refer them to others who are better equipped to minister to them.

Healing and Refuge

     When parents, clergy, teachers, and others do not provide protection and healing for victims of sin, those in trouble look elsewhere for refuge and help. Often they band together for mutual support with others in similar circumstances. Many people in these groups have been abused or abandoned, often as children, and the harm done them has had a profound effect on their lives as adults. Some of the abused disassociate into “parts” or personalities; some flee into the numbing refuge of alcohol, drugs, or food. As part of the person’s search for refuge from threat and pain, these choices can hardly be condemned, although they are often foolish and harmful. Those who make them are also often unaware of the gospel or misinterpret it badly.
     Many subcultures are gifted at welcoming abused individuals and making them feel relatively safe and at home. These range from vital support groups to street gangs and can include everything from social clubs and local bars to paramilitary armies and cults. Obviously, not all such groups are harmful. As a rule they accept the wounded far better than the church often does, and they offer victims comfort, acceptance, and a worldview that rightfully condemns aspects of the culture they are fleeing. 
     While victims of racism, disability, political oppression, poverty, and a host of other kinds of suffering face similar issues, the prevalence and immediacy of the homosexual community in modern culture serves well to illustrate the underlying challenges to the church in healing all victims of sin. As a whole, in its organizations and in churches, the homosexual community is skilled at providing refuge and understanding for those who have been sexually abused. When others “do not want to hear about it” or do not know what to do, this community says, “Come here. You’ll be safe. We understand.”
     They do understand. Many there have suffered in a similar way, and this gives them both understanding and compassion. They empathize and readily accept not only the sexually abused, but also misunderstood and undervalued people such as males who are artistic and not enthralled by sports, females who are tomboys or technically gifted, or anyone whose body or affect does not conform to the cultural norm of maleness or femaleness. When leaders in the church simply rail against this community without understanding why it is seen and sought as refuge by Han, they are blind to the victims and condemn them all as sinners.
     Nevertheless, taking refuge in a homosexual community can be harmful. Like other places of refuge, it can contain a “stinger.” A stinger is something that is required for full acceptance in the community—whether it is a homosexual community that requires the promotion of same-gender sexual intimacy, a gang that requires “making your bones” (killing someone) for full membership, a local bar whose patrons must embrace alcoholism to be “one of the guys,” or a cult that requires rejection of one’s biological family to gain entrance.
     The tragedy is that although forgiveness and healing are the great legacy of the church, it often seems inept and unable to deploy them. The church should be speaking against the culture in the areas where it hurts or abandons people; instead, it is often complicit in the victims’ injuries or isolation. The great loss in this is that the wounded look outside the church and settle for refuge instead of freedom, for empathetic acceptance of woundedness instead of healing, for (justified) anger instead of forgiveness, and for a false identity instead of their true identity in Christ.
     To be fair, what the victims of abuse settle for is sometimes better than what they had. This is not to say that their refuge of choice is ordained by God or without sin, but that it sees what the church often does not: The sins of the fathers are visited on to the third and fourth generation. Victims always pay for the crimes of their victimizers; the victimizers pay only if caught.
     As victims, the Han are fundamentally innocent, but are wounded by (rather than complicit in) evil. It is not only wrong but also harmful to equate their sins with the sins of those who harmed them. The sins of the latter are crimes of violence; the former, at worst, attempts to find shelter, love, and safety. Often this “misses the mark,” but it is not like the sin of the abusers. It is counterproductive and even destructive to force victims into the same category as their victimizers.[4]
     For the church to be able to minister to the Han, whatever the origin of their wounding, it must acknowledge their wounds and treat them, rather than complain that their cries of anguish disturb prayer time or try to force them to see themselves simply as sinners. The church must see behind their wounding to people who are made by God, living in fear, seeking refuge, and often unable to fulfill God’s desire for their lives. Refuge, though not God’s best for us, is often better than what was, and the church needs to see that. Jesus would see it, and He would understand. But He would not leave victims of sin unhealed, still hiding in refuge.
     Here is an analogy that might be helpful in understanding the Han in relation to refuge and healing. During World War II, many people not involved in battle were hurt simply because the violence was so widespread. They often wandered the streets injured, dirty, hungry, confused, and alone. Others, including the Jews, were the intentional victims of Nazi violence. All these people were true Han.
     If they were fortunate in the midst of this horror, they stumbled into a partially destroyed building, where they discovered other Han hiding in a room in the basement, living as best they could with the food and supplies they found there. Sometimes Jews were hidden by non-Jewish families, who took them in, often at great personal risk. Recognizing the victims’ hurt and loss, they accepted them, loved them, fed them, and shared what little they had with them.
     This was genuine and wonderful refuge, in which the battle wounded and weary helped one another survive. They all knew that the Nazis were the enemy and that they were innocent victims. They knew that what the Nazis did was evil, and they hid from them. This refuge was much better than wandering the streets alone in danger and in fear—but it was still only refuge.
     When the Allies liberated Europe and their troops entered the bombed-out towns, they found many people in hiding. Most of them willingly came out, rejoicing at their newfound freedom and ready to begin the hard task of rebuilding and even re-visioning their lives. But some, fearful of being tricked, would not come out. They believed that what they had together in refuge was better than what they would have alone outside. They could not believe that something better would follow if they left their refuge and came out into the light.
     Many who have been wounded in life are like that. They are Han who have found refuge in various communities (some healthy, some neutral, and some fraught with danger and further sin), and they do not want to come out. But no matter how much better their refuge is than what they suffered before they found it, Jesus would not have them remain there. The great hope of the gospel of Jesus is for the Han to have all that God desires for them. He wants to heal their wounds, not just cover them over, and He wants them to find wholeness, not just have their brokenness accepted or falsely labeled “good.” Ultimately, He wants the Han to leave their refuge behind and step into the light.
     Jesus desires to redeem their lives and begin the process of rebuilding them into the persons God intended and desired them to be—free from wounding and free from refuge. The “stinger” in the gay community, as in gangs, cults, and other groups, is that those who receive comfort there can be trapped in refuge and taught that their new identity is the end, the fulfillment of their journey to healing. This is the deception that keeps them still partially bound, and the church must vigorously resist this deception as it seeks true healing for the sinned against.
     The Han need a Liberator-Healer. To ably minister the gospel to them, the church must do more than use Scripture to show them they are sinners in need of a Savior or counsel them (directly or disguised as prayer) to stop sinning. As important as it is for the church to help all people understand their sinfulness, it must also minister healing to the sinned against. That requires the humility to recognize that everyone is wounded and needs healing, even though some wounding is not as profound. Those who care for the Han are also Han, in need of God’s grace and healing. They are not the “holy ones” helping the unwashed.
     Jesus did not rebuke and accuse the poor and suffering; He fed and healed them, and they ran to Him in response. He rebuked and accused those who considered themselves holier than the poor and suffering; those who abused, oppressed, and took advantage of others; those who looked “religious” but lived selfish lives; those who expertly quoted the Law but did not live by its spirit. The way Jesus responded is how the church, as His body, is also to respond. This can liberate the Han by bringing them out of isolation or refuge into healing and fullness of life. How do we go about this?

[1]Trigger is a word psychologists commonly use to denote a stimulus that produces a response, often of an intensity or direction other than would be expected normatively. For example, someone previously mauled by a dog might react in terror in the presence of any dog. Victims of abuse often have a variety of triggers that stem from the specifics of their abuse. For example, the use of the word Father for God, even in a hymn, can produce profound distress during worship for someone who has been abused by a father.
[3]Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark, No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 72–74. 
[4]Those who believe in total depravity are often blind to the uncorrupted good that is in the victims of sin and to God’s highest intention for each human being while here on earth. C. S. Lewis wrote, “I disbelieve that doctrine, partly on the logical ground that if we were totally depraved we should not know ourselves to be depraved, and partly because experience shows us much goodness in human nature.” (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain [San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996], 61.) More strongly stated, the notion of total depravity is blasphemy because it asserts that God’s creation is evil instead of good, as He pronounced it to be. Instead, His creation is seduced and infected by evil. The Han, as victims, are fundamentally innocent—wounded by, rather than complicit in, evil.

4. Healing Prayer

     Many theologians have attempted to understand sin in the context of God’s foreknowledge and predestination. The works of Augustine, Scotus, and Calvin are examples of this line of thought. More recently, some theologians have advocated a view of sinfulness in which God (perhaps by choice) is without foreknowledge of our actions and thus moves and suffers with us as we sin or evolve. Clark Pinnock, William Hasker, and David Basinger are among those who argue for the “openness of God.”[1]
Just as Calvin and others would argue from Scripture for the omniscience of God across eternity,[2] so the advocates of “openness” argue from Scripture that a God who can change His mind or regret an action cannot know the future.[3] Both of these positions (and variations within them) can lead to paralysis in healing prayer, the first because of the fear that everything is already determined anyway, and the second because God may not be perceived as able or willing to help. This paper acknowledges but will not attempt to critique or weigh the relative merit of these contrasting views. Not only are the details and areas of disagreement and debate substantial, but they are also outside the scope of this project.
     The approach in Resurrection’s training is substantially and intentionally much simpler: Sin hurts people, and this has lasting consequences. “Sin is not only an act of wrongdoing but a state of alienation from God.… It signifies the rupture of a personal relationship with God, a betrayal of the trust He places in us.”[4] According to this definition, wrongdoing and the consequent alienation from God are the essence of sin. The way it’s “supposed to be” is life as God designed it: a holy, unfractured wholeness, with people in intimate communion with Him. People are sinners because they commit wrongful acts, and these acts alienate them from God.
     While there may be sins that involve no physical action (e.g., Matthew 5:28: “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart”), the sins in view in this study are primarily those that involve the harm and exploitation of others and the consequences that flow from what Cornelius Plantinga calls “evil acts” that “violate shalom.”[5] These consequences can be addressed through human acts (aid, counsel, and medicine, for example) and by seeking—through prayer—direct intervention from God. This understanding is accepted and testified to by those who minister healing prayer, and it is taught during trainings.

Sin and Victims

     There are two sides to sin: the sinners and the sinned against. All people are both, sometimes even as the consequence of the same sin. Nevertheless, the church must recognize that there are some, like murderers and rapists, who are egregious sinners, and others, like victims of rape or violence or those oppressed by evil regimes, who are profoundly sinned against. For such individuals the issues of confession, forgiveness, salvation, and sanctification take on extra dimensions and demand serious reexamination. The ministry of Jesus eloquently testifies to this. The powerful, the self-righteous, and those who cheated others were the targets of His anger, while the poor, weak, and powerless—the suffering and oppressed—were the principal audience for His proclamation of the Good News and were the primary objects of His healing.[6]
     Theologian Andrew Park has given the West a name for the oppressed and their condition: han.[7] It is a Korean word that as a common noun refers to a state of oppression and victimization that is a consequence of sin against a person, whether the cause is an individual or an institution. It also refers to those who suffer even in the absence of someone who has sinned against them, such as victims of polio, accidents, or natural disaster. As a proper noun, Han refers to the victims of sin and other innocent sufferers.[8] It also is used to refer to victims who are the cause of, or are complicit in, their own suffering.
     Though an extrabiblical term (not unlike Trinity), han is a useful, single, short word for a broad category. Park explains it this way:
     There is hope at the very foundation of our existence.… Hope is the window of the soul. That is, when we look out and look forward, we can exist. When it is frustrated, hope turns into han, a psychosomatic pain. Han produces sadness, resentment, aggression, and helplessness.… It is the hardened heart that is grieved by oppression and injustice.… When people are betrayed by those they have trusted, they become hopeless and experience despair. Children who have been abused often mistrust their parents and fall into hopelessness and despair. This hopelessness is not sin but han.[9]
     The book of Exodus provides an early and essential insight into the nature of the Han. After the Israelites moved into Egypt, the Egyptians, who had been saved from famine by Joseph’s prophecy and wisdom, accepted them as neighbors, and the Israelites apparently enjoyed comfortable lives. But later a king arose in Egypt who did not remember Joseph, and he enslaved the Israelites and made their lives bitter and hard. God was not punishing them, and they had done nothing to harm the Egyptians. Nevertheless, they were stripped of rights, oppressed, and abused. They became hopeless; they entered han; they became Han.
     Their attitudes were emblematic of Han: They did not believe that God would rescue them, and when Moses interceded for them with Pharaoh, they accused him of making their lives worse. They preferred to remain in han rather than endure the travail needed to free them, even though God promised to prevail on their behalf. Even Moses, the one God called and equipped to lead them to freedom and abundance, was afraid of the victimizers and considered himself incompetent to lead the Israelites.
     If sin is the state of the sinner, han is the state of the sinned against and the suffering. There are sinners, and there are Han. Both need forgiveness, salvation, and loving, healing ministry, but the nature of the ministry to each is quite different. Acknowledging this can deepen insights gained from Scripture and may even open up some Scriptures that, like Numbers 14, have previously seemed opaque, confusing, or troubling, particularly as Scripture seldom testifies to a causal connection between sin and the suffering of disease.[10]
     The observation that all people are both sinners and Han should not become an easy excuse for perpetrators of evil acts. It will not do to say, “I could not help myself. I am a victim, and I was acting out of my pain.” When victimhood is real and deep, it needs to be acknowledged, but it should not serve as an excuse for people who do not want to face up to their own sinfulness. When people sin, they are culpable, and they need to be forthright in confessing it regardless of their circumstances.
     On the other hand, the victims of sin should not be led to confess guilt or complicity if it is not there. Nor should they be summarily dismissed because some people are unwilling to believe, for example, that an upstanding, educated adult would sexually abuse a child, even though that is often the case.[11] This is self-evidently true in the lives of those who were abused as children, but it is often true in other circumstances as well. It can be damaging to the individual who was harmed, and to his or her understanding of God’s justice, to imply or insist that he or she must have been a willing participant in a sin in which he or she was simply a victim.
     Thus, the sinned against must neither be pushed to confess nor be condemned for something they did not cause. Equally, the victimizers should not be carelessly excused because they claim victim status themselves. Both issues must be dealt with in each person. Every individual is sinner and sinned against, victimizer and victim, the cause of suffering and a sufferer. Jesus demonstrated this caution in His encounter with a man blind from birth:
     Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:1–3)
     Here Jesus says that this man’s han, his suffering, is not the result of anyone’s sin. His blindness is his condition, and Jesus heals it, revealing the works of God. This should be a chastening reminder to those who believe in karma and imagine that disease is always the outcome of or punishment for sin.[12]

     All people who have understood their own sinfulness and accepted the forgiveness offered freely through the sacrifice of Jesus naturally want others to experience the freedom and release this brings.[13] This is the reason Christians devote their lives to ministering in prisons, working with addicts, supporting missions, and holding Bible studies in their homes. It is the reason they gather with others to praise and worship God. They have understood and accepted the Good News, and they want to share it. This is the very foundation of our civilization, at least in principle.[14]
     The Han—and this includes the average person as well as those greatly sinned against—also need this Good News. Like all people, they are sinners in need of redemption, prisoners of their own sinfulness in need of freedom and release. But they are also prisoners of the sin of others, bound spiritually, emotionally, and often physically by the actions of others. This means they also need healing and release from the sin done to them. Unfortunately, they are often invisible in our congregations, their complaints seemingly unwelcome and their needs largely ignored.[15]
     Healing does not come automatically when the sinned against confess their own sins; it is not a product of their being forgiven, although being forgiven can be the beginning of the journey to healing.[16] One illustration of the distinction between being forgiven and being healed is found in all three synoptic gospels. Here it is as it appears in the book of Mark:
Again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (2:1–12)
     This encounter is rich with implications, both for forgiveness and healing. Jesus was preaching to a crowd that filled a house and spilled into the street. After four of His listeners heard the Word, they attempted to bring their paralytic friend closer to Jesus. When they could not get themselves and the bed through the crowd, they cleverly pulled open the roof and lowered their friend next to Jesus. They had heard the Word and responded to it by faith, thinking that Jesus would heal their friend. Instead, Jesus pronounced forgiveness: “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you’” (v. 5).
     In doing this, Jesus challenged their understanding of who He is. The Good News of God’s willingness to forgive was proclaimed, sinners in faith accepted it, and forgiveness was granted. It is a familiar pattern to modern believers as this is exactly what sinners throughout the world have experienced, generation after generation. It is what we believe and teach about God’s provision for sinners. But it was a new teaching then, and some of the scribes present considered it blasphemy: “Some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this?’” (v. 6).
     Why blasphemy? Because according to the Law, only the sinned against or God can forgive sins, and since this man had not sinned against Jesus, His forgiveness of the man’s sins was an assertion that He was God. And this, the scribes reasoned, was blasphemy.
The paralytic was still on his bed, not healed, and Jesus knew what the scribes were thinking, so He challenged them even further: “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?” (v. 8–9).
     Well, which is easier to say? It does not take any power simply to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” but it clearly takes divine power to heal a paralytic and send him walking home carrying his own litter. And so Jesus healed the man and proved His point: “‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house’” (vv. 10–11, emphasis added).
     Jesus made explicit what the scribes had reasoned in their hearts. He claimed the power to forgive sins, and He demonstrated it by showing that He had the power to do what they reasoned would be more difficult. He miraculously healed the paralytic, something they knew had to come supernaturally from God. Those present realized the implications: “All were amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (v.12).
     Consider what had happened: The Word was proclaimed; it was accepted in faith; sins were forgiven; and then the paralytic was healed. Scripture does not reveal the reason for the man’s paralysis. It may have been the result of a birth defect, a disease, an accident, or an injury caused by another. We do not know. But we do know that his suffering, his han, did not end with his coming to faith. His healing was a separate and miraculous event that occurred in the presence of the power of God. It was a divine act.[17]
     Scripture is replete with examples of healing at the hands of Jesus and His followers. A review would easily demonstrate that healing is not an instant consequence of faith in Jesus, though faith and healing regularly lead to each other. In the case of the blind man in John 9, his acknowledgment of Jesus as Son of God happened quite some time after his healing; in other cases, healing comes after faith; in still others, healing comes because of faith. Faith and healing are related, but not in a mechanistic or necessarily sequential way.
     The abused must also discover the freedom that comes from forgiving their abusers. Why is this important? Because the wounded, and the many areas where healing is needed, are almost always tightly bound to the perpetrator, and victims of abuse do not receive full healing until they choose to forgive their abusers. They have legitimate claims against those who harmed them, and in addition to the crippling effects of the han they experience, they are tied to their victimizers by these claims. It is an issue that requires considerable sensitivity, particularly if action is required to prevent further abuse of others.
     However, forgiveness is not always forthcoming. It has long been understood by the church and taught in Scripture that victims often desire revenge. This desire is a powerful one, and so Paul teaches:
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17–21)
     John Chrysostom (a.d. 347–407), in commenting on Moses’ plea for Miriam’s healing in Numbers 12:9–16, says:
Miriam and her company spoke evil of Moses, and he immediately begged them off from their punishment. No, he would not so much as let it be known that his cause was avenged. But not so we. On the contrary, this is what we most desire; to have everyone know that they have not passed unpunished.[18]
     That is, Moses would not even let their sin be known, but today we want the sin not only exposed, but also avenged. But desiring revenge is not the way God directs victims to act, and it is often harmful to their own healing.
     Sometimes forgiveness is not forthcoming due to a misunderstanding of what forgiveness is, the error commonly being the notion that it is approval of the sinful act, which it is not.[19] The word used in the New Testament for forgiveness (a;fesij, aphesis) implies a giving up of a just claim, of leaving behind the sin or injury. Forgiveness is not approving of or ignoring a wrong. It is intentionally releasing a just claim against a sinner by the sinned against. Rightly understood, forgiveness is necessary if the sinned against are to be truly free. John Bevere calls the refusal to forgive “the bait of Satan” because it leaves its victims trapped.[20]
     Further, forgiving others is central not just to the healing of the abused, but also to the forgiveness of their own sins, whether related to the abuse or not. Jesus taught this in the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. (see Matthew 6:5–13)
     Here, Jesus teaches us to honor the Father and move in His will, and He tells us that we must forgive those who have sinned against us and toward whom we have rightful claims if we are to be forgiven by God, who likewise has rightful claims against us. This is a constant theme in many of Jesus’ parables and teachings (e.g., Matthew 5:23–24 and 18:21–35), and the early church regularly reminded believers that they were not to take communion until they had first forgiven all who had sinned against them.

[1]Clark Pinnock et al., The Openness of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994. “Open theology” was anticipated by advocates of “process theology” and the “social gospel,” including Herbert Spencer, Walter Rauschenbusch, Alfred North Whitehead, and the Divinity School at the University of Chicago (and even on through Pierre Theilhard de Chardin). In fact, this approach harks back to the Greek Heraclitus in the sixth century B.C. See especially Alfred N. Whitehead, Process and Reality (New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, 1929).
[2]“In conformity, therefore, to the clear doctrine of the Scripture, we assert, that by an eternal and immutable counsel, God has once for all determined, both whom he would admit to salvation, and whom he would condemn to destruction.” John Calvin, Institutes of Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (London, England: Arnold Hatfield, for Bonham Norton, 1599), book 3, chapter 21, section 7 [ /indxbk3.html].
[3]“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). “The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:6).
[4]Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1984), 1012.
[5]Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 10.
[6]James Moore Hickson, The Healing of Christ in His Church (New York, N.Y.: Edwin S. Gorham, 1920), 17.
[7]Andrew Sung Park, “The Bible and Han,” chapter 2 of The Other Side of Sin (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2001), 45.
[8]Innocent here does not mean without sin; it means without culpability in this particular suffering.
[9]Andrew Sung Park, The Wounded Heart of God: The Asian Concept of Han and the Christian Doctrine of Sin (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1993), 15–16. Park has helped the church realize that in focusing primarily on the sinner and salvation, for the most part it does not even see the sinned against.
[10]L Gregory Jones, Embodying Forgiveness, A Theological Analysis (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 197–204.
[11]Jennifer J. Freyd, Betrayal Trauma (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996), 36.
[12]Larry Dossey, Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine (New York, N.Y.: Harper Paperbacks, 1993), 19.
[13]Harold G. Koenig, The Healing Power of Faith: Science Explores Medicine’s Last Great Frontier (New York, N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1999), 77–79.
[14]Michael E. McCullough et al., To Forgive Is Human: How to Put Your Past in the Past (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 16.
[15]Ruth C. Duck, “Hospitality to Victims: A Challenge for Christian Worship,” chapter 9 of The Other Side of Sin (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2001), 167.
[16]Robert D. Enright, Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2001), 4.
[17]Jeff Levin, God, Faith and Health: Exploring the Spirituality-Healing Connection (New York, N.Y.: John Wiley and Sons, 2001), 183.
[18]John Chrysostom, Homilies on Acts 4, ed. Joseph T. Lienhard, reprinted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament, ed. Thomas C. Owen  (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 3:222.
[19]Robert D. Enright defines the meaning, scope, and purpose of forgiveness in great detail and with great clarity in Forgiveness Is a Choice (Washington, D.C.: APA LifeTools, 2001). See especially chapter 2, “What Forgiveness Is…and What It Is Not.”
[20]John Bevere, The Bait of Satan: Your Response Determines Your Future (Lake Mary, Fla.: Creation House, 1994).