30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:30-31
Work in the field of medicine is challenging. Long hours, high stress, and a constant stream of people with ailments. I have often found myself frustrated at the number of people I see in the emergency department with illnesses resulting from their own behavior. Drugs, high risk sexual behavior, intoxication, the list goes on and on. All arrive in the ED seeking care for outcomes that seem predictable. Among them are those who constantly return to their harmful behaviors with full knowledge of the consequences. It is very frustrating to see them return time and time again with repeat injuries or worsening illnesses. I become calloused, my words becomes more direct and cutting, and my compassion is lost.
This passage in Luke demonstrates how Jesus handles similar situations. After He calls Levi to leave his tax collecting and follow, there is a large feast with many tax collectors and others. Jesus draws the criticism of Pharisees for associating with these kinds of people, sinners. His answer has application far beyond the feast. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” It is perfectly demonstrative of how the Lord approaches the work of healing. We are sinful. We return to our sinful ways regularly. Yet we ask for forgiveness and pray for strength to overcome. Despite our knowledge of sin, we stray and move farther away from our Lord regularly. Each time, He searches, comforts, and accepts us as we look to Him for forgiveness. Are we approaching our work in medicine similarly?
In our own overwhelmed and overburdened health systems, the “frequent flyers” become the subject of our jokes, the source of our frustrations, and sometimes receive the brunt of our anger. But this is not Jesus’ way. He takes special care to highlight that those who are sick are in need of a physician. He also demonstrates that role perfectly. When our patients return to us still ailing, and still hurting themselves with their own behavior, our role as Christians is to have compassion. It is not easy, but it is the Lord’s way. May we have the strength, through his grace, to do so.