Christianity on Health and Illness

The history of Christianity has witnessed an active debate about proper attitudes towards suffering, pain, and death, and how best to confront human illness and frailty. The theological notion of Jesus' suffering and death on the cross is viewed by some as a redemptive valuation of suffering. In this view, some Christians argue that pain and hardship has a broader value and can have a potentially transformative affect on the religious adherent. Others emphasize Jesus’ healing ministry and his compassion for the blind, the sick, and the lame. In a much-cited panorama of the Last Judgment, Jesus called on his followers to show the same empathy to others (Matthew 25:31-46). Efforts to link these two strands in Christian reflection and experience—Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die and his compassion and healing—have traditionally been acknowledged as the inevitability of suffering combined with a determination to alleviate it, whenever possible, through the medical arts. The experience of suffering can have a redemptive dimension; it can bring individuals closer to a God who suffered with and for them on the cross. At the same time, Christians are called to embrace science and its biomedical applications in order to prevent and alleviate unnecessary suffering, whenever possible, while also respecting the sanctity of human life.