A Doctor’s Vacation III
September 15, 2021
“…‘Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are…’” (Mark 12:14, NIV).
My wife dropped me off at Panera so I could catch up on my medical email while on vacation. She decided to fill our car with gas while waiting for me to finish. Noting a beggar on the roadside and committed to giving as Jesus had commanded, she handed him $20 through the window. He struck up a conversation and learned that we lived in Tennessee. He mentioned how much he wanted to visit Nashville if his circumstances changed. After receiving the money and talking of Tennessee, the beggar asked my wife if he could pray for her, and he did so.
Sometimes we think too little of the dignity of man.
Men and women whom we see every day are truly created in the image of God and carry His amazing dignity, regardless of their appearance or success.
We fool ourselves when we focus on the exterior, whether it be our patients, our church members, our friends or those in public life. We assume that certain achievements, certain appearances or accumulated accolades make some people more valuable than others.
The problem comes when we begin to treat people based on the exterior attributes we admire.
Not so with Jesus. It was obvious to those who knew Jesus that He valued people for who they were rather than how they appeared or what they could offer, as we see in Mark 12:14 above.
William Sloan Coffin shared this illustration in a commencement address at Willamette University:
“In 16th Century Paris, a beggar, desperately ill, was brought to the operating table of a group of doctors who said in Latin they were sure he would not understand, ‘Faciamus experimentum in anima vile.’ (‘Let us experiment on this vile fellow.’) The beggar was in fact an impoverished student, later to become a world-renowned scholar, Marc Antoine Muret. From the slab on which they had laid him out, he replied, ‘Animam vile pro qua Christas non cledignatus moriest?’ (‘Will you call vile one for whom Christ did not disdain to die?’)”
I need to learn from Dr. Coffin, and from Jesus, and from the beggar who prayed for my wife that the exterior is the least important attribute of persons. I suspect my wife’s poor beggar has likely impressed our God as much as any neurosurgeon, astronaut, actor or politician ever created—just as each of these heavily attributed souls, along with the beggar and me, impressed the King of Glory enough to die for all of us.
Let me know persons by their hearts, as You know them, and let me serve all hearts as You did.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan: a 2nd Look
I recently meditated on the parable of the Good Samaritan and came away with these new inisghts:
I always had thought of the victim by the roadside as indeed, some homeless beggar who had been met with the often common urban misfortune of being beaten and robbed. I also had thought of the hero, the good Samaritan, in the context of what I, a physician of means, should aspire to: to help, rather than despise or ignore the downtrodden individuals of the socioeconomically challenged.
But upon my 2nd look: I realized that the roles in this parable were reversed: it is the good Samaritan who is the half-breed, the one often despised and discriminated against. And it is likely that the victim is “the rich man”: who else would robbers attack: the rich individual over the poor. And it got me thinking in my new role as medical director of the largest homeless services in my state. The homeless, drug addicted individualswhom I serve, though they have often made terrible choices in their lives and continue to do so, are by and large aware that they are “addicted to bad stuff”. It is I who often am not aware of my own “addictions” of self-reliance, impatience, need to “be right”, etc. And that unawareness puts me in a worse situation spiritually than these individuals. So, now, rather than serving my patients as one who “has plenty” and should thus give back to those less fortunate, I view these patients as “the blessed poor”, “the rich man”, that I, a lowly Samaritan, can serve “from below”, rather than “from above”.