Before Jesus, there was a certain way things were done. After Jesus, new paths were chosen, silences were broken, and stigmas were ended. And regardless of where you are in your journey in faith, that is a lesson worth learning.
We see this from Jesus on several occasions. First, there is Jesus’ visit to Samaria. While there, He talks to a women and asks her for a drink. This wasn’t done. Samaritan and Jews didn’t interact with one another, they didn’t casually offer a drink of water and they didn’t offer the gift of Living Water that Jesus would ultimately offer the woman. Jesus wasn’t concerned with the stigma of a jew talking to a Samaritan, He was concerned with what was right and wrong. He was concerned with spreading the good word. He didn’t have time for stigma to get in the way.
Similarly, anyone who was familiar with the stigma between Jews and Samaritan would think Jesus was joking when He told the parable of the good Samaritan. Yet that was again Jesus breaking down the stigmas that separated the people and caused such pain in those times.
In our current day and age, we seem to have fallen from His teachings, entrenching ourselves with stigma once again. One such stigma is the one surrounding mental illness. Indeed, too often it seems like mental illness is used as the punchline of a joke, particularly in the political realm. And while I can’t speak for Jesus, if I were a betting man, I would bet that He wouldn’t be laughing at such a joke.
Because Jesus broke down barriers that enabled isolation and pain, He didn’t use them as punchlines. More than discussing the finer points of theological theory about whether Jesus was the son of God, or just a prophet, or whatever, I so wish people could focus on the actual teachings that existed, the way He taught us that we ought to live.
My faith, my time in church, these are important parts of my recovery for several reasons. One of the big ones is the acceptance and support I feel from my church. Yet more than that, I continue to find hope and healing in the lessons of someone who lived over 2000 years ago. Maybe if more people truly walked that path, stigma wouldn’t be the demon it is today.