Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas echoes Martin Luther’s call to be with those who suffer, insisting that when the church lives out – or literally, embodies – its call to be the body of Christ in the world, it is present with those who suffer, cutting through the suffering and isolation that remain. But Hauerwas, in “Salvation and Health: Why Medicine Needs the Church” (From Christ to the World: Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics) observes with frankness how the temptation to flee remains ever-present:
“[I]t is no easy matter to be with the ill especially when we cannot do much for them other than simply be present…only when we remember that our presence is our doing…can we be saved from our fevered and hopeless attempt to control others and our own existence. Our willingness to be ill and ask for help as well as our willingness to be present with the ill is no special or extraordinary activity, but a form of the Christian obligation to be present to one another in and out of pain.”
This message is excerpted from “Living with dying” by Deanna A. Thompson in the March 2015 Gather magazine.
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