No poachers allowed – why Christians emphasize health

A frustrated leader in Africa once complained about missionaries who “come like elephant poachers, to win the soul as if it were an ivory tusk, while caring little for our suffering bodies.” Not only have most missionaries learned to care for physical needs as part of genuine care for the whole person, most hospitals in the world were started out of Christian impulses to serve. Why is that? Why do churches care about physical health so much? And why does the Kentucky Council of Churches prioritize work to promote health ministries and health advocacy?

Christianity is inescapably devoted to physical as well as spiritual health. To act as if bodies don’t matter would be to deny that:

-          God created the world and said it was good.

-          Miracles of physical healing are important signs of God’s presence in history and Jesus said his disciples would continue enacting such signs.

-          The birth of Jesus Christ showed God’s willingness to touch and redeem the physical world.

-          His death on a cross was a great sacrifice.

-          His resurrection was a promise of a new creation that includes the physical world.

Those are some very fundamental points of Christian belief, and they all point to health as a major emphasis for the churches. A health emphasis could include asking who in your community lacks fair access to health care and becoming their advocates. It could look like sponsoring free screenings. It could involve starting a parish nurse program. Whatever creative approach makes sense in each context, one thing is certain -- no “poachers” allowed!