1John 3:8 as the Biblical basis for disease eradication
I Jn 3:8 states, “For the Son of God appeared for this purpose, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” As scripture portrays it, the foundational reason that Christ appeared and the purpose behind all of his activity—his teaching, his exorcisms, his healing and the cross—was to conquer the devil and his death-dealing works (Heb 2:14).
Given the prevalence in the New Testament of the assumption that sickness and disease are a work of the devil (Mt 9:32, 12:22, 17:14-18, Lk 13:10-16, Act 10:38), plus the absolute finality implied in the word eradication, the cause of disease eradication seems to resonate quite profoundly with Christ’s purpose of destroying the works of the devil.
However, Ralph Winter once noted,
There is absolutely no evidence I know of in all the world of any theologically driven interest in combating disease at its origins. I have not found any work of theology, any chapter, any paragraph, nor to my knowledge any sermon urging us—whether in the pew or in professional missions—to go to battle against the many disease pathogens we now know to be eradicable.1
Can it be true that there are no believers attempting to eradicate disease?
Truth be told, there are scores of individual believers who are at work in the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other public health entities. Their contributions are to be applauded and emulated. But the question is, can the world count on any coordinated, theologically motivated endeavor to eradicate the roots of disease?
A pattern to follow
A little known fact is that Rotarians have been at the forefront of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative since it began in 1988. Rotary clubs have contributed huge amounts of money and volunteer hours to immunize children around the world against polio and to raise public awareness about the disease. In that time the number of polio cases worldwide has decreased by more than 99%.2 In spite of this remarkable progress, tackling the last 1% of polio cases has proven to be difficult and very expensive. The greatest threat to this program’s success: a $665 million funding gap.
To help address this gap, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated half of the amount needed.3 Rotary International responded by challenging its clubs to raise $200 million in three years. Amazingly, after only two years, Rotarians have raised 88% of that amount.4
The Rotary Foundation raised this impressive sum by challenging each of their 34,000 clubs to raise $2,000 per year, for three years. For comparison sake, there are about the same number of Methodist churches in the United States and three times as many Baptist churches.5 The Hartford Institute for Religious Research estimates that there are roughly 322,000 religious congregations (Protestant/Catholic/Orthodox) in the United States.6 If each of these congregations followed the Rotarian pattern and raised $2,000 per year, for three years, $1.9 Billion would be generated.
What do you think? Do you think followers of Christ should make disease eradication a priority? Share your ideas for how we can make this a reality in the comments section below.
1 Winter, Ralph D. 2008 Frontiers in Mission: Discovering and Surmounting Barriers to the Missio Dei. Pasadena: WCIU Press, 7.
2 On-line. Available from http://www.polioeradication.org/Aboutus/Progress.aspx, accessed 18 August 2011.
3 On-line. Available from http://www.rotary.org/en/MediaAndNews/News/Pages/110614_news_gates.aspx, accessed 18 August 2011.
5 On-line. Available from http://allchurches.com/, accessed 18 August 2011.
6 On-line. Available from http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/fastfacts/fast_facts.html#largest, accessed 18 August 2011.