Could It Be Chi? by Bruce Epperly

In a well-known gospel story, a woman with a flow of blood comes to Jesus, speaking an affirmation “if I but touch him, I will be healed.” (Mark 5:21-34) For at least twelve years, she had suffered from what was likely a gynecological ailment that not only made her life miserable, but led to her being judged as a social outcast, religiously unclean, and likely responsible for her health situation. Yet, despite her situation and the social and religious stigma that went with it, she reaches out to Jesus and a power (dunamis, in Greek) flows from Jesus that transforms her cells as well as her spirit.

Her faith—her trust in the healer’s compassion and power—is essential to her cure. Yet, it is not the only factor. Her faith elicits the healing energy (dunamis, or lively and miraculous power) resident in Jesus. Like a transformer, Jesus is filled with the energy of love and her touch taps into this divine energy. Synergetic in nature—and naturalistic in its revelation of the deeper powers of God residing in all things—her call leads to God’s response and she is cured physical and healed relationally and spiritually.

Could that energy—the power that flowed from Jesus—have been the same power that Traditional Chinese Medicine describes as Chi, or vital energy? Chi is the energy of the universe. Without this energy, or Chi, nothing would exist. Connected to this vital energy, we flourish. Disconnected, we falter. Jesus speaks of this same energy in terms of vines and branches. (John 15:1-10) Joined to the vine, we will bear fruit. Cut off from the vine, we will wither. Jesus’ image of the vine and branches pertains to our whole person, body, mind, and spirit. Although the image of vine and branches is typically interpreted as primarily relating to our spiritual lives, Jesus, following the spirit of the Jesus tradition, would never have described spirit apart from embodiment. The body is inspired and the spirit is embodied. When we are connected to the vine, we can do greater things than we ever imagined. (John 14:12) These greater things involve spiritual growth, openness to divine providence, and physical, emotional, and relational wholeness. 

Jesus, as the revealer of God’s love for humankind, embodied God’s energy of love, the creative energy that brings all things into being, enlightens all humankind, and transforms cells and spirits alike. In today’s pluralistic age, we can imagine Jesus as embodying the same energy that Chinese spiritual guides and healers describe as Chi. In the spirit of the universalism of John’s Gospel, we can affirm that wherever truth and healing are present, God is its source, even if it falls outside of the Christian tradition.

Today, the interest in interspirituality, the participation in spiritual practices from more than one religious tradition, is paralleled by the interest in global, holistic, and complementary medicine. In my Becoming Fire: Spiritual Practices for Global Christians, I assert that followers of Jesus can grow spiritually by encountering the beliefs and practices of other faith traditions. I also claim that we can experience greater well-being—and healing—though the wise use of Western medicine, Eastern medicine, and the power of prayer and Christian liturgical healing services. Wisdom and healing are everywhere. They are God’s gift and the healer Jesus is at work in every healing modality. 

Bruce Epperly is the author of many books on spirituality, including the recently released Becoming Fire: Spiritual Practices for Global Christians, available now.