On May 4, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act. President Trump said he felt “so confident” it would pass the Senate and be signed into law.
But the bill faces “profound uncertainty” in the Senate, where it’s likely to face major changes and a significant delay. After all, re-election for a third of the Senate is just 18 months away and, with 10 seats at risk for Republicans, many senators don’t want to touch health care. It’s a political minefield.
Debate surrounding the House bill centers on how it handles pre-existing conditions, whether it will leave 24 million Americans without insurance, and what it will do to Medicaid. The American Medical Association says it has critical flaws, while other health company executives are calling it a “debacle.”
At The Gospel Coalition’s National Conference last month, Bob Cutillo, medical doctor and author of Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age [foreword by Andy Crouch | review | interview | excerpt], discussed health care and our modern view of the body—its beauty, strength, imperfections, and vulnerabilities. Although he didn’t specifically discuss the House bill, he offered three “signposts” composing a helpful framework by which we can approach our pursuit of health and wellbeing.
1. Embrace Creaturely Vulnerability
“Your human vulnerability is an intended part of who you are,” Cutillo says. It is how God made you. The Psalms teach us not only that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14), but also that our lives are brief (Ps. 90:3) and that it is wise to number our days (Ps. 90:12). As creatures, we hold these things in tension—our glory and our vulnerability.
“What we’re trying to cover with our health care is, at one level, our vulnerability to sickness and death,” Cutillo observes. Although we ought to do everything possible to ensure access to quality health care for those who need it, we cannot expect it to cover all the contingencies of life that might affect our health. Invulnerability, Cutillo says, is an illusion. We must embrace vulnerability as part of being human.
2. See Jesus in the Weak and Poor
At the same time, we must listen to our neighbors when they tell us they’re scared and vulnerable. As new creations in Christ, we have the capacity to see others with new eyes. Having worked in free health clinics for decades, Cutillo continues:
If we’re going to be faithful to the biblical witness, then we must look carefully at the weak and the poor. In the world’s eyes, they are nothing. But to us, it is Jesus Christ who is in need of that cup of water or some clothes or some health care that society says they can’t have because they don’t have health insurance to pay for it.
When we learn to see the weak and disadvantaged, we learn to see as Jesus does.
3. Await the Redemption of Our Bodies
“How well we live in the body depends on our relationship with death,” Cutillo observes. In Philippians, for example, Paul is in prison and unsure if he will live or die, declaring: “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Yet Philippians is one of the apostle’s most joyful letters. How can that be—to live with joy when facing death? Cutillo explains, “Paul doesn’t expect to be delivered from death, but his joy evidences that he has been delivered from the fear of death.”
As Christians, we don’t dismiss the sadness or the loss of death. We mourn with those who mourn and lament our losses. Yet we do not mourn as those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13). For we have reason both to lament and to rejoice. A life well lived, then, embraces the limitations and vulnerabilities of the body because, in the end, they point us to the One “who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:21).
These three signposts may not answer our many questions about the health care bill, but they guide our thinking about how we approach health and wellness—not only for ourselves, but for others, too.