Emergency Medicine, the Gospel, and You

TJ Swanson cowrote the article below.

Do you know what happens in a heart attack? Of course, you know the term. We all do. It’s too common, too serious, for us not to know. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control report that every 40 seconds someone suffers from a heart attack — 805,000 Americans per year. 

That’s the medical world, and then there’s pop culture. A quick Google search reveals 39 lyrics, 75 artists, and 50 albums containing the phrase heart attack. The international boyband One Direction, former Disney star Demi Lovato, Spanish singer-songwriter Enrique Iglesias — artists love to liken the breakup’s pang to the heart attack. 

We have all heard (and maybe even sung) about heart attacks. Maybe one caused a family member to pass. A few years ago a heart attack almost took “Mema,” my grandmother, away. And yet, for how close they tail our lives and lyrics, heart attacks evade our understanding. What even happens when the heart attacks?

In life-threatening situations, we all trust that certain people, like physicians, nurses, and emergency responders, will operate not as societal parrots — but with calm hands directed by replete knowledge. To them belongs understanding, and within understanding exists life or death.  

We may well say that with great responsibility comes great imperative to know truth. The healthcare worker can only promote life over death insofar as he or she knows the definition of, as well as the appropriate treatment for, the heart attack. Similarly, the believer can only promote eternal happiness over eternal misery insofar as he or she grasps the basic definitions, as well as the practical implications, of Christianity. 

God entrusts all Christians with a vocabulary wholly lost on a lost world: imago Dei, sin, justified, glory. As we strive to communicate their meaning, we must remember our own misbelief could become another’s unbelief. The degree to which a Christian understands what he or she reads, journals, prays, and sings is the degree to which he or she conveys the gospel to hearers. Whether or not others grasp the gospel is not a “life or death situation.” It is an eternity spent with God or without God. It is far better and far worse. 

In the making of spiritual heartbeats, only God would be so kind as to grant us a part. As R.C. Sproul says, “God could have preached his Word from the clouds without any human participation.” Instead, God invites the church “to go to every corner of the world and make that message plain to all people.” We can only “make plain” to others what we understand for ourselves.

If medical professionals should spend months, years, and at times over a decade preparing to promote life over death, health over sickness, how much more should the Christian, who bears news of an unmatched fullness of life now and forevermore, prepare to communicate eternal life over eternal death. 

Too much is at stake to make knowing God and his works a hobby. There simply is no more important knowledge than this knowledge. There is no more consequential truth than this truth. The thoughts we think about the central tenets of Christianity should be the clearest ones we have. 

Imagine you suddenly must retake that ubiquitous undergraduate speech class. Imagine the professor begins the course by forcing each student to deliver an impromptu speech before the class for two minutes a piece. Your immediate impulse — all our immediate impulses — should be nothing but the person and work of Jesus Christ.

We must prepare ourselves to present the gospel with an understanding that bleeds clarity all the time and urgent brevity when necessary. The Christian does not wait for speech class. Our intended audience sits, stands, and walks beside us every waking moment. 

But without love for God and his Word, we will delay. There is a reason that we do not begin acute study until after the deadline crops up on our calendar. A sense of duty towards the task and fear of its incompletion compel us to feed answers to given questions. Love for God and others creates an unquenchable thirst for greater understanding: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). God knows our minds course the river rock of our hearts. 

May we all increase all the more in knowing to love and loving to know him.


2 thoughts on “Emergency Medicine, the Gospel, and You

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