Spiritual Sickness and Its Spiritual Remedy

Spiritual Sickness and Its Spiritual Remedy

A Story by Bishop R. Joseph Owles

Traditionally, in Western Christianity, sin is seen as a transgression of a list of rules or commandments. It is often viewed as an active and willful rebellion against God and God's will, making the person "immoral" or "bad" and worthy of hell. In Eastern Christianity, however, sin is viewed more as an illness, rather than as disobedience. Instead of seeing sin as "breaking the Law" and becoming a spiritual criminal to be punished, the various "sins" we do are manifestations or symptoms of an illness -- they are not something to be punished, but a condition to be treated.

If I have depression, a doctor could give me good advice -- good commandments -- avoid alcohol, avoid simple carbohydrates and refined sugars, exercise, eat three or four balanced meals a day, take fish oil supplements, and so on. If the depression is severe, the doctor may tell me to take some type of medication in addition to these other commandments. The problem is that I do not feel like eating when I am depressed; I do not feel like exercising; I do not feel like getting out of bed; and if I do decide to eat something, I want “comfort food” that is often high in refined sugars. BUT HERE’S THE POINT: nobody, not even the doctor who told me what to do, says to me when I do not follow the doctor’s orders that I am a bad person for not obeying. Nobody says that I am evil. Even if I am rebelling against my doctor for not taking the advice and following the course of action, nobody thinks of me as a bad person. They all think of me as sick, and the frustration is that my behavior, or my inability or refusal to follow the doctor’s commandments is keeping me sick and making me sicker.

So what if God’s commandments are not a list of “Dos” and “Don’ts” but a prescription designed to treat our spiritual illness? What if “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is the spiritual equivalent of “Thou shalt not eat refined sugars”? What if the whole Torah (the Law) is just one big prescription for the spiritual illness of sin? And what if the commandments of Jesus is a more simplified prescription because we have a hard time following the other one? What if Jesus Himself is like the spiritual Prozac for our illness?

This would mean that when I break on of the commandments, I am not a bad person rebelling against God, but a sick person not taking my medicine or following my prescription. So my spiritual journey is not one of a bad person trying to be good; it is one of a sick person trying to get well. Sin is a spiritual illness. The commandments are the treatment to that spiritual illness. When we do not keep the commandments, we are not bad people behaving badly, we are sick people behaving in a way that keeps us sick, or makes us sicker.

Sin is a progressive disorder. If untreated it gets worse over time. The commandments are God’s prescription for dealing with the disorder. We are not good if we keep them and bad if we do not; we are more spiritually healthy if we keep them, and more spiritually sick if we do not. Those who keep the commandments cannot look down on those who do not any more than someone who is responding well to treatment for cancer can look down at someone who is not. We are all, to some degree, spiritually sick, and we do not think of someone as immoral because they have a disease.

So, be patient with yourself -- you are sick and your illness will flair up from time to time. But more importantly, be patient with others -- they are sick and their illness will flair up from time to time if they are treating it, and it will be nearly constant if they are not. When someone does something to you that is hurtful or wrongs you in some way -- sins against you -- remind yourself that the person is spiritually sick and this is a manifestation of the illness. When a loved one has a major illness and is in pain, and because she is in pain, she is cranky and unpleasant and says something nasty or hurtful, we find a way to be tolerant, telling ourselves “She didn’t mean it. She’s just not feeling well today. She’s in a lot of pain,” and we forgive her and move on. When someone does something to you to hurt your feelings or wrong you, just tell yourself, “He didn’t mean it. He’s spiritually sick. He’s not feeling very well today and is in a lot of pain,” and forgive that person. Treat everyone with the same compassion and tenderness you would a sick friend or relative. Pray for them to get the help they need to alleviate their symptoms and illness. If nothing else, if we do this, we will be following Jesus’ command to pray for our enemies.

Instead of judging the person as immoral, or bad, or an "unrepentant sinner," let us instead view the person as sick -- caught up in an illness that affects how that person sees, understands, and views the world and the things and people in it. The person is acting out of an illness, not being bad. In this light, sin as a symptom actually is a cry for help rather than an expression of immorality or rebellion or evil. The person is most likely in pain. The more the person hurts others, the more pain that person is in. So we do not have to consign that person to hell; that person is already there. Our job is not to try to scare them out of hell, but love them into heaven.

© 2013 Bishop R. Joseph Owles


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I like your definition of sin.Just like Jesus summarized the laws i think you have summarized sins.Sin looks something easy to avoid this way.It also looks easy to forgive a person who wrongs you if you keep in my mind that he/she is spiritually sick.

I dont know how to call this, nice creativity or maybe men of God are being guided by the Holy spirit to write. Either way, Nice article.

Posted 6 Years Ago



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Added on June 6, 2013
Last Updated on June 7, 2013
Tags: law, commandments, Bible, Jesus Christ, Church, God, heaven, earth, Holy Spirit, Christian, Christianity, teaching, apostles, forgive, belief, sin, sick, spiritual

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Bishop R. Joseph Owles
Bishop R. Joseph Owles

Alloway, NJ



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