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Do we suffer for our sins? Is there a link between sin and disease, disability or injury?

Several times in the Bible and particularly in the New Testament we are told that disease or disability are a consequence of sin. For instance, in John 5:1-15 we hear of our Lord in Jerusalem meeting a paralyzed man that he had healed the previous day. He said something very significant to him. “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” These words do not sound like the slip of the tongue - especially when in Mark 2:1-12 Jesus heals and forgives the sins of another paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof of a building that he was teaching in. Jesus cures him by saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  

The Pharisees' objection to Jesus’s healing of the man through the forgiveness of his
sins was because this was something only God could do - and so a blasphemous act
punishable by death. Mark 2:1-12 records that the Pharisees thought, “Why does this
fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their
hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to
say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat
and walk’?” This is story is also recorded in (Luke 5:21 and Matthew 9:1-8)
The belief in the link between sin and its potentially physical consequences is one
common to most major religious traditions. The rejection of this belief in most current
Christian theology does not appear to have any specific biblical basis. In fact, our
non-acceptance of this principle creates all sorts of theological problems – especially
in relation to equity, justice and injustice. For instance, if there is a just God, why
should some people enjoy perfect health while others suffer ill health? Where is the
justice in this? Perhaps it is time we thought again? Perhaps there really are physical
consequences for our actions - after all Our Lord also said “Those who live by the
sword will die by the sword’. (Matthew 26:52.) St Paul followed this by declaring that
‘…whatever a man sows, this he will also reap’. (Galatians 6:7). Perhaps the jury
should be out!

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