By Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Most Christians are familiar with the passage in Isaiah 53:5, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” As a young Christian I heard this passage used almost as a charm to claim physical healing from God. It is striking to me that a passage that so clearly describes self-giving love could be turned into a tool for self gain.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be healed of our infirmaries, and God cares deeply about our suffering, but the lesson in this passage is that love takes the loss so that others can be lifted up. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). God’s life is characterized by self-giving love. He takes the “stripes” so that we might be healed.
We, as beloved children, are to imitate our Father and likewise take the “stripes” so that others may be healed (Eph. 5:1-2). We’re to forgive, serve, and love without recognition so that others can find wholeness. Those stripes can come as demands on our time, money and resources. They might take the form of bearing insults with grace or being rebuffed when trying to love and serve someone. Whatever the case, when we lose our life for others we are following in the footsteps of God.
God takes the first step of love so that we might be made whole. Our mission is to learn to be like our Father and be willing to suffer so that others won’t. Freely we have received, so freely we give. And then we’ll be called children of God.