Okay, so here’s something interesting I’ve been learning in the hospitals I’ve worked in. Medicine and Ministry are a lot alike.
We’re taught, in the medical field, how absolutely important cleanliness and sterility are. We’re taught how the body works and how to teach others to keep theirs working in the best health they can. We strive to help others live longer -and if not longer- then at least to live richer lives.
I have seen all sorts of patients -just as I have all sorts of people in the church. There are the ones who really want to do the very best for themselves. Then there are the ones who we teach how to eat right and live right for maximum health and benefit, but they ignore it.
It’s not our job to force anyone to do what’s recommended, but to encourage them to do so -and to give them as much knowledge as possible about what happens when they take heed, and what happens when they don’t. Then it’s up to them.
Where this rang the truest for me was after seeing a few diabetics in the hospital with black gangrenous feet, and then when I sat in on a surgery, less than an arm lengths away, as a person lost their last four toes to Diabetes. They’d already had the others amputated and I watched as their last four were taken off. What was so difficult for me wasn’t the surgery -which was going to save their life for the time-being, but that this patient had been fully aware of the diet and care that was required of them, but knowingly disregarded it because as they didn’t want to limit what they ate. They wanted to be free to eat whatever they wanted. They lost their toes because they couldn’t -because they refused- to give up the things that are slowly killing them.
At what a price did they buy that chocolate cake.?Is that true freedom? If they’d chosen the diet, they’d probably still be walking and running -instead of learning to walk with the aid of special shoes, a walker, and sometimes using the wheel chair. How odd that they’re willing to sacrifice that freedom for food.
It’s like in the church. We can teach people the right way to go and what will happen in their lives if they don’t. If they follow this path of darkness, it leads to death. If we eat bad things for us, it can lead to sickness and death. But the choice is still theirs.
They’re left to choose for themselves, but when they step back into the hospital or church it’s once again our opportunity, our responsibility to give them all the information we can on leading a healthy life -to help save their lives.
It’s difficult, in both settings, to stand back and leave it in their hands, but in the end they’re the ones responsible for their lives and what they did with it.
In our own lives we need to be that way too. Let’s not, as Christians, be the doctor scolding his patient for smoking -and knowing it causes death- and doing it ourselves. Lead by example. Lead even when some choose not to follow. How much worse is it for that doctor or pastor to do what they know leads to death and sickness than for those who have less knowledge? We can’t choose for others how they’ll live, but we can choose for ourselves. Choose wisely.