By Steven Norris
It is one of the most profound questions that Jesus asks in any of the gospel accounts. In John 5, Jesus enters the holy city of Jerusalem. Near the gate of the city was the Pool of Bethesda, a place known for its healing properties. There, Jesus meets a lame man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. He stops, looks at the man, and asks, “Do you want to get well?”
On the surface, it seems like such a foolish question. Who wouldn’t want to be well? So often, however, we have become so accustomed to our illness that we don’t know who we are without it. To be well would require giving up a piece of our identity. It would require a rebirth of sorts.
I can’t help but wonder if we are not in a similar place as a society. Events of the last weeks and months have highlighted a deepening sickness at work in the heart of our nation. We are a fractured people. A suspicious people. An angry people. A frustrated people. A divided people.
But…and here’s the big question…do we want to get well? Do we want to be healed? Do we want to come together and find common ground? Or have we become so defined by division and hatred of “those people” (whoever those people are) that we cannot imagine a future that includes “them” as a part “our” community?
I can only speak for myself. I want healing. Along with the Twelve Step tradition, I believe that “God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” I believe that God can “break down the dividing walls that separate us and make one people out of the two” (see Ephesians 2). I firmly believe that we could begin to move toward that future with a few simple steps.
(1) We cannot ignore the points of divergence and division among us. We have to admit that there is a problem needing to be addressed.
(2) We must be willing to engage those with whom we disagree. We need to ask questions and take time to really listen to the responses. We must seek to see things from the perspective of those radically different from us. We may not agree, but we must seek to understand.
(3) We must be willing to confess and forgive. Like antiseptic in a wound, confession and true forgiveness have the power to stop the spread of infection. It takes a courageous individual to admit that they have been part of the problem. Let’s be honest, though—we all have.
(4) I believe that we must be willing to serve one another as fellow members of God’s family. Service has the power to turn strangers and enemies into neighbors, recognizing that our future is tied up with one another. Even in simple ways, we can all begin to work for the good of others.
These four steps aren’t a panacea for all wounds, but they begin to move us in the right direction. The prerequisite, though, is for us to collectively answer the question: Do we want to get well?