October 28, 2021

Good Medicine

“God was reconciling the world to himself”

II Corinthians 5:19a

Human bodies have been much in the news this week. At a Senate hearing, a former Facebook product manager, Frances Haugen, testified about the negative impact social media can have on the body image of teenagers. Instead of helping young people accept themselves as unique and beautiful, it can cause them to compare themselves to impossible standards and open them to cruel and unrelenting criticism.

In a more positive vein, two California scientists, one from UCSF, won the Nobel Prize in medicine for finding sites in our cells that signal temperature, pain and pressure. Their work in identifying the ways cells organize internally to send messages about almost imperceptible changes in external realities will lead to the design of better medicines. It is also a reminder of the truth of the ancient Hebrew psalm, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Oh, how I wish our teens would listen to this truth rather than the misinformation spread on social media.

We need to continue to learn about the ways our bodies work and find reason to praise our Creator.

Sadly, we will continue to find ways to disparage our bodies causing great harm and unnecessary pain.

We have yet to be fully reconciled to ourselves, our bodies, our neighbors, our God.

Reconciling, that’s the verb the apostle Paul uses to describe what God is doing in the world. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he makes the astounding claim that, through Jesus the Christ, God is reconciling the entire cosmos to himself.

Paul uses many words – salvation, justification, redemption and reconciliation among them – to describe what God is doing in the world. I like reconciliation because it is a relationship word, a connecting word. It speaks to the importance of, as well as our longing for, healthy relationships with our bodies, our neighbors, our world, our Creator.

I do not know how much Paul knew of the medicine of his day. I believe that he would agree that reconciliation, and the healthy relationships it imagines, is good medicine for humans, human bodies, human communities, human souls.

Reconciliation, the establishment and re-establishment of healthy relationships is not only good medicine, it is remarkable medicine for it is both preventative and curative. In that healthy relationships keep us from hurting ourselves and others, they are preventative. In that they help us heal at the places we are broken, they are curative.

You have heard me speak often about Ceasefire, the violence reduction strategy that, when practiced, can greatly reduce incidents of gun violence and the number of homicides in our city. You have heard me say that hosting the Ceasefire call-ins, at which the young men most likely to shoot, or be shot, are invited to come back into the community, in Barnett Hall is among the most important things we have done in the one hundred and sixty-one year history of our congregation.

Reconciliation, the restoration of healthy relationships is at the heart of this strategy. Listen to what Dr. George Cummings the CEO of Faith In Action East Bay writes about Ceasefire.

What is Ceasefire, and why was it successful, and what are our challenges now? Ceasefire is a data-driven violence reduction strategy designed to reduce homicides by gun violence by a laser-like focus on those who are the primary perpetrators of gun violence in the community. According to the data in 2012, the two key factors in urban gun violence were gangs and open drug markets. By working with data collected by law enforcement, it was possible to identify the key players driving homicides and by mean of direct communication with them engage them about putting down their guns. By means of monthly call-ins and custom notifications, there was ongoing communication that emphasized that shooting had a major impact on the whole community, and that the community was concerned about them being ALIVE and FREE, and wanted to invite them to participate in creating solutions to the problem. Those who were most at risk of being either victims (who were killed) or perpetrators (who ended up incarcerated) were the primary targets of the Ceasefire message and those who chose to change their lives were offered resources by service providers to assist them to go on that journey.

Notice how the medicine of healthy relationships are key to this effort. There is direct and honest communication. That requires relationship. There is the invitation to participate in creating solutions. That requires relationship. There is the offering of resources and connection with service providers. That requires relationship.

Let’s go back to where we started. Human bodies, the well-being of human bodies, is much in the news this week. Congress is learning of the ways in which that well-being is at risk. Science is learning how that well-being works and how it can be assisted. Our faith has long understood that the well-being of human bodies is greatly impacted by the quality of our relationships. By using the word reconciliation to describe what God is doing in the world, we are saying that the building and rebuilding of healthy relationships is what we need to join with God in doing. Sounds like good medicine to me.

Jim Hopkins
Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church