If I’m in the Emergency Room . . .
They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” John 18:30
When I worked in the ER, I would often see people for routine things that simply weren’t emergencies. This was just part of the job and usually, I didn’t say anything. Occasionally though, if my patience was wearing thin, I would attempt to educate. “A runny nose and sore throat are perhaps things that could be seen in clinic and aren’t emergencies that require immediate attention at 3:00 AM.” This was usually futile as the patient always felt it was an emergency and often responded with this argument, “I wouldn’t be in the ER if I didn’t have an emergency.”
The argument goes, that if an individual is in the ER, then that individual, by definition, must have an emergency. This is, of course, faulty reasoning. I can put my hand in the oven, but that doesn’t make it a loaf of bread.
This is somewhat similar to the flawed reasoning of the Jewish religious leaders in today’s passage. When they dragged Jesus before their Roman governor, Pilate, it was because they required his authority to execute someone. Pilate wanted to know what Jesus had done to deserve death. They answered with the same faulty, circular logic, “We wouldn’t have brought him to you if he wasn’t really bad. He’s here, so we must be right (my paraphrase).”
I’ve used this kind of faulty reasoning to sooth my conscience. I’ve gone to church simply to make myself feel better. I must be a pretty good person if I go to church. Never mind that I wasn’t following Christ at all. If I was in church, I must be a good Christian. I’ve gone to AA meetings while using. Never mind that I’m still in active addiction, at least I’m going to meetings.
I’m not saying we should avoid church or AA if we’re struggling. Those are exactly the places we should go when we’re struggling. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t sooth our conscience with the faulty logic that says, Just because I’m here, I must be alright. Going to church doesn’t make me a disciple, just as going to AA doesn’t mean I’m in recovery. Abandoning myself to follow Christ makes me a disciple. Getting sober and changing my life makes me recover. Church and AA can help me get there but simply sitting in church and AA isn’t a substitute for actual transformation.