Considering the title, you probably think this is going to be a post about Jesus. Well, it's not.
Last time James was in the hospital the Lord taught me a great lesson about ministry. Let me explain. Most of James' medical work has been done at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH. As many know, Dartmouth has a medical college attached to it. As a result, there are just as many Resident Doctors--those in the final steps of their education--as there are full blown doctors. Being a Resident Doctor is equivalent to being a Student Teacher. After completing their residency they then become full fledged doctors.
Kristal and I were impressed with almost every single Resident Doctor we had (and we have had a bunch of them). I learned a lot about being a young minister from these Resident Doctors because we are both in much the same position--doctors diagnose and help people with physical problems while pastors diagnose and help people with spiritual problems. One of the not so good Resident Doctors reminded me of a great number of seminary students I know (and I hope I am not one of them).
This certain Resident Doctor (about 29 years old or so), unlike any of the other Residents or full blown doctors, came into James' hospital room, asked us how we were doing, and then immediately began telling us that our fears were invalid and silly. He spent no time talking to us about James' symptoms or history--he merely spouted off some medical terms and said, "I see this all the time." and then he left. When he left I said, "Beware Jimmy, I think I might have just saw myself."
There is always great danger in learning when it is not connected with real life. What I saw in this Resident was a wealth of unusable knowledge. This Resident failed to understand that medical issues do not happen in a vacuum. Without a knowledge of a persons circumstances and history it is almost impossible to diagnose the issue. The best doctors let the patient (or in our case, the patient's parents) do more talking than himself/herself. Because the best doctors understand that medical issues do not happen in a vacuum.
This same sort of thing happens with young ministers. In the ministry, a lack of maturity often times rears its head in the same way. Spiritual problems do not happen in a vacuum--there are always causes. Young students learn new things and have the tendency to uncompassionately attack people with what they know as if mere knowledge is sufficient. Mere knowledge is not sufficient. If biblical knowledge is to be useful it must be connected with great compassion and a great understanding of the specific situation being dealt with.
This does not mean that book learning is bad. Doctors need the knowledge or they would have no basis for giving an accurate diagnosis. Knowledge is essential, but it must be coupled with compassion, understanding, and knowledge of the situation.
The Lord is still teaching me these invaluable lessons. I still have a tendency to immediately brand someone a false convert as soon as I hear of gross rebellion.
Listen to the seasoned doctor C.S. Lewis talk about true spirituality,
"Some of us who seem quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little use of a good heredity and a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as fiends. Can we be quite certain how we should have behaved if we had been saddled with the same psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and then with the power, say, of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man's choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it" (Mere Christianity, pg 86-87).How quickly do we brand people and jump to conclusions without knowing the person, his disposition, his upbringing, or circumstances. The way many of us young students gauge spirituality is so very immature.