It is not the healthy who need a doctor…

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mk 2:17)

It has been commonplace in our culture now for years to insist that we human beings are okay, just as we are. As is often the case, the Church yields and buckles to the pressures of society, and in time the commonplaces of culture become the Church’s commonplaces, and important things are lost and forgotten.

It is not the healthy who need a doctor…

Slowly but surely it has risen to the level of dogma that to criticize who or how someone is as wrong is to strike a devastating blow to their being. We are not to judge, we are told, for each of us is loved and accepted just as we are. Indeed. But that is only half the truth, and it is well that we continue to read the prickly words of this biblical text, when and where we still do, because they strike a counter blow to every flaccid half-truth we so easily imbibe.

It is of course true that we are accepted and loved just as we are. Thus the occasion of Christ’s words–he had been dining with the “tax collectors and sinners” and was therefore roundly denounced by the Pharisees for so doing. The generous heart of Christ comes through in brilliant color: he will be Immanuel with and for those excluded by the system. But note–all the same he does not hesitate to call them “the sick.” He is capable AT ONCE of receiving them to the fullest AND ALSO naming their condition–and in this act of receiving and naming, he tells the fullest possible truth about their being and the Being of the God he makes known: we, the “weak and wounded, sick and sore,” are received in our sickness in order to be healed. And it is all of us who need to be healed, for something has gone wrong with the “who” and the “how” we are and needs to be remedied–whether we are tax collector or Pharisee. No one is excluded…

It is not the healthy who need a doctor…

The longer I dwell with and in the gospel (and in and with the God whose heart and work this “good news” describes), the more fully I appreciate its explanatory power. It minces no words in sizing us up. “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account…” And then it where it wounds it also heals. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The fig leaves taken away… we are unmade before our Maker… and then healed and covered by the Same, the “Great Physician”–Doctor for our souls and bodies. As Karl Barth so famously said, “In his ‘no’ God utters his ‘yes.’ ” He’ll name the sickness, a sickness that penetrates straight to the depths of our being, and then heal it all… His “no” and his “yes”, a single act of healing and forgiving love.

It is not the healthy who need a doctor…

I think intuitively we know that all is not well with “who” and “how” we are. The weight of our brokenness, incapacity, and countless contradictions is a heavy load to bear, and to have to lie about it (or be lied to about it) with trite platitudes insisting that we’re all okay is even heavier. The load lightens when finally admit that all is not well, and rush in our sickness to the One who receives us in the depths of our conflicted, contradictory beings in order to lift us up to into the bright light of his boundless, integrating love.

Amen.

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