To hack or to heal: Jesus demonstrated how to choose

Voices of Religion

Posted: Friday, July 16, 2004

One of the first and most common tools developed by humanity was the edge.

In its rudimentary form, the edge is a cleaver, an effective instrument usable by anyone, which swiftly divides and cleanly separates.

In the hands of a skilled teriyaki chef, its usage can be artistic, almost magical; yet in the hands of the malevolent, it has struck millions with fear in horror movies. When its handle is elongated, it is a devastating weapon or a tool for felling trees for home and hearth.

A second form of the edge is the scalpel, which, unlike the cleaver, is utilized by the few, for it requires a delicacy of touch and a knowledge few possess.

Unlike the cleaver it is not a stand-alone tool, because other tools such as retractors, clamps and the like are necessary for its functionality to shine. It too swiftly divides and cleanly separates, but on a much smaller and precise level than the cleaver.

While it may be used as a weapon, it is a poor choice. Against an opponent armed with a cleaver, those with a scalpel would do well to ensure their life insurance is in good standing.

What the scalpel excels at, however, is the healing arts: removing cancerous tumors without damaging organs they are attached to; creating drainageways for infections; opening the body so other tools might exercise their roles in binding, restoring and healing.

Some people prefer the cleaver to the scalpel, for it is the truly democratic tool; it is unlike the scalpel, which can only be effectively used by the elite.

Cleavers impress and arouse fear by their size, whereas the scalpel is puny and impotent in comparison.

To those who value the unilateralism of the cleaver, the multilateral scalpel seems weak and dependant on other tools to be used effectively.

When used, the cleaver creates a sound and attracts attention to the fact that something is being accomplished, unlike the quiet nuance of the scalpel.

The results of the cleaver are immediately seen. The work of the scalpel often takes weeks or months after its repeated operation to ascertain its results.

No wonder then that the cleaver is preferred by some for its power, lack of ambiguity and the clear divisions it renders.

Yet the cleaver is a lie, for in fact it is far from the reality its proponents claim it to be.

A tool of power? Yes, but only the power to wound, not to heal; to divide, but not bind up.

A democratic instrument? Absolutely, but a special form of the cleaver the guillotine served as a symbol of vengeance under the guise of democracy in a democratic revolution.

An unambiguous tool? Agreed! But the cleanness of the division is often offset by its being in the wrong place as is testified to by the fingertips, fingers and hand parts self-amputated throughout history.

A unilateral instrument? Yes, but unfortunately the one using it can accomplish whatever purpose they justify as right in their mind, be it Lizzie Borden or Freddie Kruger.

The irony of perception is that those who choose the cleaver are strong, and those who choose the scalpel are weak.

The nuance, precision and delicacy of the scalpel is chosen from an abundance of power, for those who can use the scalpel can likewise wield the cleaver. It is chosen not from lack of options, but among options, and it exercises itself not in the solitary noisy drama of the chop, but in the precise, careful, patient, often-repeated cutting to produce fullness of health.

As the son of a carpenter, Jesus knew the edge well. He knew the ax and the chisel, the plane and the knife.

His mastery of craftsmanship was in using the right edge in the right way to accomplish the task at hand.

He chose the delicate cutting nuance of the parable; of seeking what was lost over cutting it from the flock.

He taught that weeds should be allowed to grow lest the sickle edge sever what was wheat.

He offered the example of the one who restored rather than cut off the inheritance after suffering patient waiting.

He spoke of separation, done by God alone, in the fullness of God's time, while allowing Judas, the betrayer known to him, and Peter, the denier known to him, to remain in his company.

He demanded the severing sword be resheathed and healed its victim.

Jesus, the great physician, not the great butcher.

As followers shouldn't we use the same instrument?

Father Frank Reitter is pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Soldotna. Masses are at 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 and 11:30 a.m. Sunday. For more information, call 262-4749.

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