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12th June: Who needs a Physician?

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Matthew 9:12

It would hardly seem necessary to remind doctors of this one of our Lord's sayings. Two sides of it are familiar in medical experience. First, there are those who take up the physician's time unnecessarily -- the hypochondriacs and the over-anxious, who have no need of a physician or would seem to have no such need. But that last qualification is important. The absence of apparent physical or mental illness does not necessarily mean absence of need. The wise physician will be looking for the hidden need to see if it can be met in some way.

So the other side of the picture is of those who do need a physician but either do not know it or will not admit it. The serious condition that is diagnosed too late is all too tragically familiar. Ignorance, fear, denial or something of that sort has inhibited action.

Jesus was, of course, talking about spiritual sickness. The Pharisees were raising their self-righteous eyebrows at the fact that he was eating with tax collectors and sinners. It was they whom he had come to help, for they (or many of them) were aware of their need. The 'righteous' Pharisees were unaware of their need. There was real irony in the Lord's comment. And it is still relevant today.

C S Lewis, who accepted many invitations to present the Christian faith to service men and women during World War II, has recorded some of the difficulties in these assignments. One great difficulty was linguistic, because of the different educational backgrounds of speaker and audience. The speaker had to learn and use the language the audience understood. Apart from this, he writes, 'the greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin... The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers... a sense of guilt... Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelion, the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy'.

Help us, Lord, in communicating with people, whether
patients or others. make us aware that in both medical
and spiritual matters there are barriers of both
language and understanding. Grant us both wisdom and
patience in seeking to overcome those barriers.

Further reading: Mt 9:9-13.


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