The greatest good for the greatest number isn’t always the greatest good
By Ronnie McBrayer
My friend Hal never knew what hit him. He was unconscious before he even hit the ground. At least that’s what the script said happened to him. Hal, along with about 50 more of us, was a participant in a disaster drill back when we were in high school. According to the script, Hal wasn’t immediately killed in the accident, but he was badly injured.
The first responders who initially swarmed the scene took his vitals, gave him a once-over, tagged him, and left him to theoretically die where he lay. With so many of us strewn across the staging area, resources had to be spent on those who could actually be saved, not on those who were already hanging on the hinges of death.
Years later, when I became a chaplain in the healthcare world, I was on the other side of the mock disaster drills. All these hypothetically injured people would swamp the medical facility and the arriving patients would be triaged and tagged with colored tags as they arrived.
The colors symbolized levels of priority, and God help you if you got a black tag (poor Hal). Those with black tags were sent to the morgue—even if they still had a little life left in them. They were deemed unsalvageable. Their condition was so fragile and the other needs so pressing, the law of “securing the greatest good for the greatest number of people” simply prevailed.
Jesus never seemed to make decisions like a triage nurse. In fact, he had a special affinity for the weak, for those who were hanging by less than a thread. In the normal, need-infested, resource-limited, hard-and-fast world, where everything must be prioritized, he recognized that some just didn’t have a chance. They were too feeble to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps or too poor to hire the best attorneys. They were too small to stick it to the system or too unconnected to call in any favors. They didn’t know enough, weren’t strong enough, or couldn’t recover fast enough.
Jesus showed unique compassion just for these “least of these.” The untouchables. The forgotten. The stigmatized. The diseased. The poor and the hungry. The ostracized. Those whose plights of helplessness are not a hypothetical skit.
Christ came to love and redeem those who were black-balled and black-tagged. As bearers of his name and grace, we must do the same.
Ronnie McBrayer is the author of “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus.” He writes and speaks about life, faith, and Christ-centered spirituality. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.