By Jim Tune
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is of the paralyzed man and his four friends. We aren’t told much about him, but we know he had four deeply compassionate friends who were determined to place him at the feet of Jesus (Mark 2:1-11). This man could do very little to help himself. He was completely dependent on others to feed him, bathe him, clothe him, and care for his other needs.
Fortunately, the paralyzed man had friends who cared for him. Better yet, his friends also had initiative and ingenuity. They took him to the home where Jesus was teaching but found it filled with a throng of people. Mark tells us, “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on” (Mark 2:4).
The care the men showed for their friend in presenting him to Jesus offers a picture of true, intimate community. Because of his friends and their ingenuity, this man enjoyed the compassion of Jesus.
I’m convinced, especially in these rapidly changing times, that it will take more than compassion and determination to bring our friends to Jesus. It will require ingenuity.
In Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, surgeon Atul Gawande addresses the challenges doctors face in becoming better at curing people and saving lives. He asserts that doctors must somehow advance and improve regardless of obstacles of seemingly unending variety. He describes three core requirements for success in medicine and other professions that involve risk and responsibility.
The first is diligence. While diligence may seem an “easy and minor virtue,” Gawande shows how diligence, while critical to performance, is also “fiendishly hard.”
The second challenge, says Gawande, is to do right. This might appear obvious, but Christian leaders need to understand that ministry, like medicine, is a fundamentally human profession. Both practices are troubled by human failings like pride, impatience, insecurity, arrogance, and fatigue. To do right consistently is a formidable challenge. It requires relentless discipline and effort.
The third core requirement for improvement is ingenuity. Gawande defines ingenuity as “thinking anew.” He states that while ingenuity is often misunderstood, it calls forth “a willingness to recognize failure, to not paper over the cracks, and to change.” It requires a deep determination to acknowledge what is no longer working, courage to identify obstacles, and an obsessive search for new and creative solutions. Of course, ingenuity must be driven by core ethical values that are nonnegotiable.
I love the paralyzed man’s reaction after his healing. Before he had time to think about what was happening to him, he was up on his feet, leaping and singing and praising God! Is ingenuity a Christian virtue? You decide. The man with caring friends who was healed by Jesus thought so.