Why Human Dignity Is a Gospel Issue

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Jesus’ message was coupled with the restoration of God-given human dignity — their Imago-Dei.

I am always amazed when I read the story of Jesus healing a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhagic condition for 12 years.

You probably remember the story because, well, Jesus healed her by accident: believing that if she touched him she would be healed, the woman crept behind Jesus in the middle of a crowd and reached for his cloak. She was right: in that very instant her bleeding stopped. And she would have gotten away with it, except Jesus knew what had just happened:

‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’

But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace,’ (Luke 8:45-48).

At first glance this may seem like one of many stories of Jesus’ miracles, but there’s something else going on here. To understand it, we have to dive into the story’s historical context.

According to Levitical law, any woman who had a blood flow — whether due to her menstrual cycle or illness — was ceremonially unclean. In fact, anything the woman touched, from her clothes to the bed she slept on, and anyone who came in contact with her also became unclean. To be declared clean, a person who had come in contact with the woman would have to wash his or her clothes, bathe and wait until evening, when the impurity status was lifted. For the women — and her husband if they had intimate relations …

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