Friday, April 19, 2013

Mental Illness and the Church

Jeremy Pierre:
Various folks have been pointing out the need for the church to pull its head out of the sand on the issue of mental health care. By this, we can be saying something very good or something not-so-good.

Let’s start with the not-so-good. We should not mean that the church should just accept that extreme emotional, mental, or behavioral troubles are merely physical problems with physical solutions. Of all people, Christians must insist that we were created spiritual beings with the dignity of moral agency. Our thoughts and actions are not merely the product of our biology. We have freedom to act out of our nature as the image of God. And so, wisdom for living from the Word of God is always necessary in the ongoing care of a person, which includes addressing mental, emotional, and behavioral troubles.

Now let’s get to the good. What we should mean by the church pulling its head out of the sand is that Christians should acknowledge that the corruption of the fall warps not just our souls, but our bodies as well. The influence of bodily corruption on the soul is powerful, and the church needs to recognize those suffering under it in a way that points them to help—both body and soul.

Extreme mental, emotional, or behavioral problems are not either spiritual or physical. They are both, though we recognize a sliding scale of influence. Some troubles may be more neurologically engrained, thus requiring closer medical attention. Others may be less so. But, whether it’s more or less, a spiritual heart is always actively in need of the grace of the Lord Jesus.
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