A Patch for Humanity

A patient will come to you at his moment of greatest dread, hand you a knife and say, “Doctor, cut me open.” Why? Because he trusts you. He trusts you the way a child trusts. He trusts you to do no harm.

The sad fact is: human beings are not worthy of trust. It is human nature to lie, take shortcuts, to lose your nerve, get tired, make mistakes. No rational patient would put his trust in a human being… and were not gonna let him!

It is our mission here to rigorously and ruthlessly train the humanity out of you, and make you into something better.

We’re gonna make doctors out of you.

-Dean Walcott, from the film Patch Adams

Last Sunday I spoke about our attitude toward the church. So often, when we first gain fellowship with this motley group of believers, we are desperately seeking someone to trust. We have found the central dysfunction of humanity around us, and inside us, and now we need the solution. We know our need to trust, and have tried it a few times with disastrous results: an abusive parent, an unfaithful mate, a disloyal friend, etc.

How many have made their entry into the church, imagining they have finally found an object worthy of their trust? They have discovered the sad fact that human beings are not worthy of trust, and so they have sought out a place that will train the humanity out of them… out of everyone.

“We’re gonna make Christians out of you!”

How much harder to fall, then, when the realization comes that no one in the church has had the humanity trained out of them at all. Even if the teachers and leaders and mentors of the church were doing their jobs well (and usually they are not,) it just never happens. So maybe it’s not supposed to happen.

Certainly, as we grow in Christ, we should expect to grow in love, in forgiveness, in discipline, etc. And we imagine that this is a departure from the faultiness of humanity. But perhaps it is just the opposite. Perhaps a successful journey into the heart of God is the process of having humanity trained into us… becoming more and more like the most human human who ever lived. How else can you explain the word humanitarian, or humane? To be fully human is to have compassion and grace.

Some of us seek to put our trust in those we deem “less human”–those who operate with a cold precision and computer-like consistency–hoping that they are the only ones who can heal our disease.

But there are also those who seek out real humans, complete with compassion and grace, capable of relationship and humor and pathos, and discover in the end that this is the remedy for the disease that kills not only the body, but the soul.

Perhaps this is the “Church” that Jesus had in mind.


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