But when he heard it, he said, “They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what this meaneth, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13).
One of the rather universal and unpleasant aspects of life is illness. We generally do not have time to get sick, and the pain and difficulties that go along with illness make life uncomfortable. Very severe illnesses can lead to loss of function and even death.
Even though illness causes difficulty, we all understand the need to recognize illness and find a way to treat it. The body sends plenty of signals that all is not well, and foolish is the one who does not heed them. It will not– and cannot– do to act as if the illness is not there and to attempt to go on with life. We could spend hours going through terribly tragic stories of people who have died because of various treatable illnesses. Many times these deaths take place because people did not seek after medical treatment for difficulties they were experiencing. When and if they sought treatment, it was too late.
We recognize that such is true about physical illness. And, as Jesus indicates, there is also a spiritual form of illness that is insidious and ultimately fatal!
Those who have sin have this spiritual illness. We generally do not have time for sin, and the pain and difficulty that goes along with sin are quite uncomfortable. Many sins do lead directly to physical death; all unrepentant sin leads to spiritual death (cf. 1 John 5:16-17).
All conscious human beings are afflicted with sin (Romans 3:23), and even if many seek to deny it, we do have this internal sense of discomfort with ourselves as we presently are (cf. Romans 8:23). We feel that something is missing– we are not whole! While many try to fill this void with earthly and fleshly things, only when we seek after God and His will can we find true wholeness and wellness (Ephesians 4:20-24).
Many people deny that they have the spiritual illness of sin, or would much rather continue within it than to seek after its remedy. Such “healthy” people are not really healthy, but their self-deception is so strong that God’s Word cannot take root (cf. Matthew 13:1-8). Ultimately their sin will lead to their destruction (Revelation 20:11-15)– we can only pray that they discover their illness before it is too late!
We honor and respect doctors and nurses and researchers who work tirelessly to develop treatments and provide greater quality of life to mankind. If a researcher discovered the cure for cancer, would we expect him or her to cover up the discovery and do nothing with it? If such a person were to do such a thing, how would we view them? How many lives ended because they did not proclaim their discovery?
Yet how many of us recognize the cure for the spiritual illness besetting so many around us and then do not proclaim it? How many souls are perishing who have not heard the message of redemption in Jesus? If we know the cure for spiritual illness and do not make it known, how will God view us (cf. Romans 10:14-17, Romans 1:16)?
The spiritual illness of sin is quite pervasive and destructive, and we would do well to look toward Jesus, the Great Physician of our souls, and do His will so that we may be whole. Let us also proclaim the cure for sin in Jesus Christ, and always remember that we, too, are God’s “patients” in constant need of “medicine” for our sin!
Ethan R. Longhenry