By Brian Lowther
Our key aim at the Roberta Winter Institute is inspiring faith based initiatives to address the roots of disease.
A roadblock to this aim is that the Body of Christ as a whole has never considered a coordinated disease eradication effort within the range of its responsibility.
One explanation for this may be that our theological way of understanding how to deal with disease begins to stumble at the question of eradication. We feel responsible to prevent disease because we see a model in the dietary and hygienic laws of the Old Testament that protected Israel from communicable diseases. We feel responsible to heal disease because we see Christ healing the sick throughout his earthly ministry. But the Bible doesn’t say anything explicitly about eradication. After all, Jesus didn’t eradicate disease, nor did he give us a clear verbal mandate to do so, as he did with the Great Commission (Mt 28:19).
A good parallel to the cause of disease eradication is the movement to abolish slavery in the 19th Century. Englishman William Wilberforce challenged the injustice of slavery based upon deeply held moral convictions and a biblical understanding of innate human value and freedom. These same convictions propel those today who fight human trafficking. But note that these convictions are NOT based on a few isolated verses or passages. In fact, not one verse in the Bible explicitly prohibits slavery.
In other words, Jesus didn’t abolish slavery, but he modeled an understanding of human value. In this same way, Jesus didn’t eradicate disease, but he modeled a sensitivity to suffering and compassion for those who were sick. We can do likewise on a global level and for all future generations through eradication. After all, eradication can simply be thought of as preventing a given disease from infecting any human being on earth for the rest of history.