I was about to share my testimony at an Imperial CMF social when I felt a strange concern about embarrassing myself. I told a couple of seniors and received a tart reply, 'Why, because you're used to being Hugh the saint?' It rang uncomfortably true. Much of the time, I sympathise more with the Pharisee than the tax collector: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector' (Lk 18:11). I think that God is pleased with me going through the motions. I do my quiet times, I take part in Bible studies, and I attend prayer meetings. In comparison, the tax collector 'would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”' (Lk 18:13).
David Randall, in his article on understanding parables (pp39,40), explains how I need to feel the force of Jesus' rebuke: 'I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God (Lk 18:14)'. Furthermore, Bernard Palmer's article (pp25-31) lays out biblically why even good moral people (including medical students!) need Christ. If this is true, then surely there is a real urgency for us to share the gospel!
Andrew Sims' article on Spirituality in Psychiatry (pp16-24) provides more evidence that Christian doctors need an integrated faith. Spiritual issues have a measurable impact on health; patients will bring them up more often than we realise. Are you 'prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have' (1 Pet 3:15 b)? My psychiatry placement happens to be in a few months!
An intellectual knowledge of the gospel is not enough. Prior to being called to explain our faith in the verse above, we receive this instruction: 'But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord' (1 Pet 3:15 a). We need to know God in our heart, and experience the glory of his majesty and grace. The tax collector caught a glimpse of this, and cried out to God from his heart.
How do we heed David's advice to 'Taste and see that the Lord is good' (Ps 34:8 a)? The sincere prayer of the tax collector is a good place to start. He saw his depravity in stark contrast to God's holiness, and our Heavenly Father is faithful in answering prayers! Time and time again I marvel at the way the Holy Spirit enables me, despite my spiritual blindness, to see. He convicts me of sin and points me to Jesus. Before him there is no more hypocrisy, pride, and pretence. We can be real with Jesus, because his grace is sufficient for us.