Any mug could have done it
Albert Earnest Coates was a master surgeon, soldier, teacher and humanitarian. Refusing to leave his patients during the Second World War, Coates became a Prisoner of War of the Japanese.
An ex POW, Private Bill Hood, said of Coates “… they, the POW camp doctors, were all good, but Colonel Coates stood out… he not only saved lives… he saved reason… he was a man among men.”
Although Coates carried out hundreds of life saving amputations and operations and gave compassion and hope during his period as a prisoner of war, he refused to accept the credit, merely saying, “Any mug could have done it.”
Coates was amputating legs and arms. Not all that difficult, once you know how to cut flesh and stop severed arteries from bleeding. The main thing in an amputation is to cut off the correct limb. That might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s a big deal. When you go into surgery, they always get out a big black marking pen before you have the anesthetic, and mark the part of your body that is to be cut by the surgeon’s knife. If they take off the wrong leg, or the wrong breast, then the patient has two problems: they lost the wrong body part – the healthy one – and they’ve still got the unhealthy body part which will eventually, by gangrene or cancer, destroy the rest of their body. That’s serious. A lethal mistake.
What Albert Coates was doing – without any black pen, I’m sure – was what “any mug could do.” And he could see as clear as day which body part needed to be amputated. In POW camps you don’t have fancy MRI machines to discern unhealthy limbs; you have your eyes, your hands and your nose. In the tropics, where the POW camps were, rotting and diseased flesh gets pretty high pretty fast.
Pastors are not expected to discern diseased flesh and amputate limbs; but they are expected to discern diseased souls and endorse the severance of marriages where one spouse’s soul is so toxic that the other spouse and the rest of the body of Christ needs to be cut free from the wicked soul. The evil soul needs to be put out of the church and handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (1 Cor 5:5).
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Cor 5:12-13)
And it’s no accident, in my opinion, that in the very next chapter of that epistle, Paul tells the Corinthians “Any mug among you could judge those disputes between brothers.” Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?
Now, the disputes Paul was referring to in chapter 6 are probably civil disputes, not criminal cases. In the Roman empire it was quite common for a man who thought he was a big shot to sue another man, claiming that that man had damaged his reputation. (See Bruce Winter’s work on Corinthians.) The legal arguments and defences in such proceedings were a bit like Hollywood movies: the oratory of the complainant was on show and was being compared with the oratory of the defendant. Oratory in the Roman Empire was a big deal because a man’s status, income and influence were very much bound up with how good an orator he was thought to be. So men of ambition took each other to court on trivial claims of ‘defamation’, in order to promote their own status and belittle their rivals. These things were probably happening among members of the Corinthian church – Christians have always brought over elements of their pre-conversion culture into their Christian walk, which is one reason why Paul exhorts us to ‘renew our minds’. We need to get rid of our worldly thinking and customs if we are to live in and for Christ.
Perhaps some Corinthians were also taking each other to court for simple matters like unpaid bills. But the point I’m getting to is this: although the Corinthians’ court cases that Paul reprimanded them for were not about marital disputes, but about lesser issues, Paul did say Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers? He obviously thought there had to be people in that small congregation (it probably had less than 100 members) who could judge and decide who was right and who was wrong.
So Paul thought that judging was not that hard to do. Any mug could do it, if they used common sense informed by Biblical principles. So why is it so hard for modern church leaders to judge rightly in cases of domestic abuse? Why do they often cut off the wrong limb and cause the healthy soul to leave the church? Why do they let the toxic soul remain in the church to poison the rest of the body?
We have heard from our readers how some of you have been married to pastors who were abusive to you and your kids. So in those cases, the pastor was clearly the toxic man himself. But what about the rest of the pastors who aren’t abusive to their spouses, but are wrongly judging other cases of abuse in their congregations? What part of the voices of weeping victims do they not understand?
I tried to upload some photos of the Albert Coates memorial, Ballarat but my tech skills or computer failed me. But if you click on the link you can see them on my Facebook page.