You may remember, as I do, the childhood equivalent of a death-row pardon – the sugar cube vaccination. For the younger ones among us, it was a means of giving a vaccine orally by simply putting into a cube of sugar. It meant that, at least for that particular vaccination, there would be no shot – no needle or poke or pain or weeping or (in the case of my sister) slobber-knocking brawl. (Sorry, sis, but it was what it was – maybe someday you’ll grow out of it!)
Once having that experience as a lad, there was always a hope that I might have that option for all of the subsequent experiences of medication. I don’t suppose they do that any more, but there was a simple principle upon which the whole practice was based: A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR HELPS THE MEDICINE GO DOWN.
Okay, I know you’re thinking/humming/whistling it anyway, so take a moment and click the link and watch it – you know you want to.
This principle – applied by Mary Poppins to the chore of cleaning up the nursery – is true in most cases of things that are difficult, unpleasant, or painful. But, in each case, one must find the particular form of theoretical sugar.
As a kid I remember getting a certificate from the dentist for a free ice cream cone at the local drive-in for good behavior in the dentist’s chair. (Of course, now that I think about it on the parental side of things, I realize that whole setup must have been a racket.) There were lollipops for enduring the unpleasantness of doctor visits. There were promises of freedom to play upon completion of the chores. There was the dangling carrot of limitless ice cream when having the tonsils out – but nobody bothered to point out that we wouldn’t want to swallow that or anything else for the first day or two.
It’s not a new idea. It’s the age-old combination of anesthetic and antiseptic. The anesthetic took enough of the sting off of the wound for the antiseptic to do it’s healing work. The anesthetic doesn’t remove the pain of the healing, but it makes it bearable.
I realized recently that I have been guilty for much of my life of overlooking this truth. I have often tried to use the scalpel of the Word of God to try to perform spiritual surgery upon others – but without the anesthetic of a deep and genuine love. I am afraid that this is an epidemic reality among those of us on the more conservative side of the theological spectrum. We so easily wield the Sword of the Spirit by our own understandings and upon our own intellectual conclusions. We leave behind a spiritual carnage one might expect to see in a horror movie.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. (Galatians 6:1a)
May love and gentleness, these fruits of the Spirit, temper and motivate our application of Truth.
What about you? Have you, like me, been guilty of applying the antiseptic of truth without the anesthetic of love?