This is part 2 of my discussion of the Woman with the Issue of Blood.
The Issue of Us
This great woman spent her money, her time, and her emotional efforts in pursuit of obedience to the Law, even though the reasons for the Law may not have made sense to her. She exercised her faith in the message of a Messiah come with healing in his wings.
Contrast that with much of the approach taken lately. The pain some in the church face is being blamed, in a very public way, on the law or on doctrine. The current flavor finds fault in a doctrine or practice, criticizes the aspects with which disagreement could be found in our postmodern and secular morality, and then declares it cannot be of God and is therefore not binding.
The truths of the nature of God as part of an eternal family stand accused of being the cause of the unhappiness that some may feel as they struggle to understand and live with same-sex attraction, after which some claim that such a doctrine is ill-founded or false. The backlash against upholding the family patterned after that of our Heavenly Parents is surprisingly and alarmingly biting. All this because the up and coming social morality dictates that anything less than a full embrace of desire or temporal comforts is a form of injustice; all this because God’s instructions for our greatest and abiding happiness direct us away from relationships that can’t exist where God wants us to be; all this because the idea that we are learning to think and feel like God by keeping our appetites and passions within the bounds the Lord has set is in direct opposition to the cultural pseudo-morality of the hour. When those moral systems collide, one found in the middle might find it easier to blame their unhappiness in trial on God or his church, to sever God’s leadership from the Church in their minds, and to cut ties to the Priesthood keys that unlock the Atonement. It may have been an appealing option for the woman with the issue of blood to direct her ire at the Sanhedrin, or perhaps even to abandon her identity in Israel. Had she done so, she never would have experienced the profound depths of the Messiah’s care.
In another context, the fact that the Lord has asked that men take up the responsibility of Priesthood offices throughout history is derided as a practice based in sexism and the subjugation of women—the very cause of mistreatment and pain of women in the church—rather than a pattern set up by the Lord for a wise purpose in him. The poor choices and objectionable actions of mortals in leadership positions has pained many a member—there’s no disputing that. But to insist that intermediate counsel and discussion as ward members is not as meaningful as being the one to announce a decision—or to say that the final decisions are always made by men in the church and are therefore subject to some degree of unfairness or unrighteousness cuts out the Lord’s role in directing the affairs of his own kingdom. To equate passing the Sacrament with corporate power diminishes the power that Priesthood keys give anyone in their calling and the power we receive in the temple. It very well could have been an option for the woman with the issue of blood to blame the patriarchy for her social stigma and removed herself from the place in which the Law of Moses was effectual. If she had done so, she would have missed the subtle stirrings of the Spirit that directed her to reach out toward the Savior. She would have been far away from him physically and spiritually.
That’s not how we approach the Savior. Such an approach will never yield the healing and peace we desire. Quite in the same way that righteousness counts for nothing if broadcast to everyone (e.g. Pharisees), broadcasting our pains and possible grievances with commandments will get us nowhere.
We’ll notice of the woman in the scriptural record—her petitions to the Savior were silent, personal, and sincere. There was no outcry for justice, no loud declaration that she had somehow been wronged or deserved something better. There was endurance, patience, faith, and sacrifice. The woman approached Jesus in faith that he could heal her.
The Issue of Commandments
There is a limit to how far we can apply “Big Tent Mormonism” before we start to dig in our heels against commandments. After all, at some point, the wicked DO take the truth to be hard. There is only so much that we as members of the Church can do to help someone feel welcome socially if they are unwilling to accept the terms of approach set by the Savior himself. Being a member of the church doesn’t do a whole lot of good if Priesthood ordinances and covenants are abandoned. The church would become a social club.
Is keeping the commandments hard sometimes? Of course it is, and it is supposed to be! But you can be assured that if Jesus is asking you to endure it that it is important for your spiritual education. After all, he suffered for the pain of those who struggle to keep commandments even when the commandments feel unfair. He felt every inch of loneliness and asks us to taste a VERY small portion of that in order to be acquainted with him. We have no room to pretend that we are encountering something new or unfair—he knows the depth of unfairness and the fathoms of despair and asks that we stand with him. Yet he never points at us and says “it’s unfair…”. He put his life on the line to give us the opportunity to face and overcome these trials by proving, once and for all, that he cares about us and our eternal progression enough to die for us and even feel the pains that we might think are being imposed by the commandments he gives. Perhaps that’s what Isaiah meant when he said, “The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes, we are healed.”
Jesus’ response that her faith had made her whole also relieved the spiritual and social constraints that accompanied her ailment. It was a declaration that she was whole physically, spiritually, and socially. It was a resurgence of the blessings that come from faithful loyalty to the Savior and his counsel.
The same healing and blessings come to those who set aside what they feel they deserve from this life. Complete restoration comes to those who sacrifice for him, not those who want and press for him to expect something else from them. If we spend our time trying to develop arguments for why a particular doctrine or commandment doesn’t apply to us, we are losing precious moments at the altar and at the Supper table in communion with our Redeemer.
He offers healing in his own way. Our only duty is to approach him in the way he describes—the way the woman has. Once we do, he offers wholeness and unity with the Saints once again. I am grateful for her courage and example and hope that as we are willing to place our stubbornness on the altar we will be met with a loving Savior that will say, at some point, “Be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.”