John Pearrell

Suppose you had a kind-hearted, friendly doctor. This doctor was so tender-hearted he never gave any of his patients bad news; he just could not bring himself to do it. While you might love that doctor for his kindness, I doubt very much that you would stay with that doctor. Particularly if you discovered perhaps through another doctor that your kind primary doctor was keeping from you important information that could save your life.

A number of years ago, I went to a doctor who told me I had cancer. I didn’t like that. I was shocked. Then he told me that he needed to perform surgery. I didn’t like that. Dumbfounded I asked him “When?” I expected to hear a date in the far future so I could prepare for the procedure. He said, “First thing tomorrow.”

I did not like that diagnosis at all. I especially didn’t like the time-frame he had sprung upon me. However, after the procedure was over, and the cancer removed, did the doctor explain the urgency of the procedure. He explained that the cancer I had “was the fastest growing cancer known to man.” He further explained that since we had acted in a timely manner he was able to excise all of the cancer. Now, I didn’t like the news he gave me, I didn’t like what if was going to take to resolve the problem, but I am writing today, 32 years after receiving that horrible news because of a doctor who was willing to be open and honest with me. I still see that doctor every six months for a wellness check. He has caught during that time two more well-hidden cancerous growths in such early stages that they have both been confined to a single layer of cells. I never like when he starts, “It’s probably nothing, but just to be safe we’re going to biopsy that.” While I don’t like it, I’m alive because of it.

As important as this is physically, if what the Bible has to say about eternity is true, I for one want a minister who will tell me the hard truth and not sugar-coat it because he or she is too “kind-hearted” to risk offending me. I am alive today, 32 years after the discovery of my first cancer because of a doctor willing to give me unpleasant, unvarnished news. If what Jesus taught us about life after death is true, if you are under a minister who only gives you “the good news,” you are risking an eternity of suffering for a temporary blissfulness. You may need to give that some serious consideration.

While it is a crime to cry “fire” in a public place if there is no fire, it is the epitome of neglect to stay silent in the event of a fire. In fact, if it is in your power to act in an emergency, if you fail to act you could be charged with criminal negligence if your failure to act in a reasonable manner results in the physical harm or death of another. Truth be told, in this litigious society you will at least be facing a civil if not criminal suit. Rightly so.

The same Bible that describes God as love also describes Him as just. These two attributes of God are not in conflict. God is going to do the right thing. If God is only love, everyone gets a free pass to heaven. Adolf Hitler, who killed 13 million in his concentration camps, is in heaven. Joseph Stalin, who murdered an estimated 30-60 million of his own people, is in heaven. Mao Tse-Tung, who is credited with killing 30 million of his own people, is in heaven. And if there is no heaven — we live, we die, we are worm food — where is the justice in that? You can live any way you choose, and you get a free pass.

On the other hand, if God were only just, no one would go to heaven. Christians believe that God’s love and justice were displayed at the cross of Christ. Unfortunately, my space is gone, so we’ll have to pick this thought up next week. But as I close, I have to tell you, a kind, tenderhearted minister who refuses to tell you the truth is neither kind nor tenderhearted.

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit www.gatewaycommunity.org or email john.pearrell@gatewaycommunity.org.

Editor

I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.