“Kidney stones,” my doctor told me and sent me straight to the emergency room. Notice that: “emergency” room. Doesn’t that mean everyone should be hustling around to make this pain go away? But no, I had to answer a couple dozen questions, then list medications, then get the vitals, all while leaning over trying not to groan too loudly, before I even got my own little room in the back.
And what happened there? More waiting while people strolled around, talking to one another about their Saturday night fun, ostensibly giving orders on my behalf but no one treating it like orders. And while I lay curled in a fetal position in that sterile little room on that narrow gurney, surrounded by stainless steel trays on which stood clear glass jars of cotton balls and swabs, pink plastic tubs, bedpans, blue open-backed hospital gowns, and plastic squeeze bottles of clear, blue, and orange liquids, up on the wall for my amusement hung a television. SpongeBob SquarePants cavorted soundlessly with his fellow weirdos. Really? SpongeBob? This is how you treat an emergency? I lay there strongly tempted to start my Lamaze breathing—if I could only remember how to do it. Maybe if I actually gave birth, someone would notice.
Of course that was not a life-threatening emergency, even if it did feel like one. I am sure if my heart had stopped, someone would have come running. At least I hope so. But isn’t that exactly the way we treat soul-threatening emergencies all the time? No big deal. We’ve got time to talk to him. We’ve got time to teach them the gospel. We’ve got time to bring that lost sheep back to the fold before a wolf gets him for good. Do we?
I understand “speaking truth in love” and I do my best to do that all the time. But some people define that so narrowly that sin-sick people do not get the treatment they need for their desperately—terminally—ill souls. Our culture has raised a generation that cannot take correction of any kind unless it is so camouflaged it completely slips past them as correction. “Woe is me. Someone dared to tell me I was wrong about something. Someone actually hurt my feelings by rebuking me. Poor little me.” And in society in general, that means the corrector is rebuked, usually unjustly, and the one in the wrong gets off scot free—in fact, he usually becomes a hero. “Look at the poor mistreated miscreant who stands against injustice!” And let’s riot a little if such doesn’t occur. Don’t think for a minute it doesn’t happen in the church.
And so instead of treating him like someone in need of emergency care, we give him a comfortable little room with SpongeBob prancing on the TV, followed by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as I recall—I was in there for both of those two shows and the beginnings of another before my problem was even diagnosed (even though we already knew what it was) and dealt with. Good thing it was kidney stones. I wasn’t likely to die of that. But there are souls out there who need a good dose of medicine to even have a chance of saving them, and we’re just patting their hands and watching TV with them while they fade off into an eternity in Hell.
And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Jude 1:22-23