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1.1 The Christian imperative
Jesus opened his ministry with what has been called the 'Nazareth Manifesto'
'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour' Luke 4:18-19
He has given us a threefold call to preach the gospel, heal the sick and seek justice – especially for the poor – all of which have huge implications for healthcare mission. Jesus makes the preaching of the gospel his first priority and it should be ours. It is not an either/or (medicine or evangelism) but a both/and situation for 'what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world [including his health] and loses his soul?' Arguably, Jesus didn't come to empty the hospitals but to empty the graveyards.
Healthcare mission involves more than just preaching the gospel and healing the sick – it involves bringing justice and speaking out against the evils which threaten the lives of vulnerable people. It involves being their advocates and empowering them to make the changes in their communities that will improve their own health and that of their children. It means being salt as well as light.
'Is this not the kind of fasting that I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? …. If you do away with the yoke of oppression … and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday'
>> 1.2 The global context