A major component of my intercalated BSc degree last year was the group project. In the final weeks, we pulled out all the stops to complete it as best we could. My stamina was tested to the limit as we worked late each night. I wonder how I would have responded if a team mate had offered me a Ritalin tablet to boost my concentration (pp6-9)? As a medical student, my first concern would be over its efficacy and side effects. As a Christian, I must examine my motivation, but I am often unwilling to consider whether I am working for the idol of success rather than for God.
It can be easier to discern whether we are on the straight and narrow path with regard to sexual purity. This is especially true when a fellow Christian asks probing questions in an accountable friendship. But even with their trust and permission, it is difficult to challenge another person's actions and thought life. I find it still more uncomfortable to speak to non-Christians about sex. What is the best way of explaining my convictions faithfully and respectfully to somebody who does not share them?
As medical students, we may be asked about our convictions in a discussion about same-sex attraction. Glynn Harrison, professor of psychiatry at Bristol University, has written a timely review of the research into this controversial field (pp21-29). He makes an important point about the limits of science. Science may explain behaviours, but it 'cannot legitimise or provide a moral evaluation of those behaviours… Deciding between different value systems is a moral, ethical and theological matter'.
Martin Hallett, himself a celibate Christian with same-sex attractions, helps us to think through a Christian response to homosexuality (pp14-20). He writes about Paul challenging Christians to holiness in Romans 2: 'In that context, we are all sexually deviant - not just those struggling with homosexuality.' I am on a gradual journey to understanding how I fall far short of God's holiness in all areas of my life. But in admitting that I am a sinner, I can know the surprising freedom of trusting in Jesus for forgiveness.
To be godly, be it in our studies or relationships, we must live in the shadow of the cross. I long to know Paul's experience more fully: 'I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me' (Gal 2:20). Time and again, I need to be reminded that I cannot rely on my own strength. Rachel McCollum, prayer coordinator on the National Students' Committee, calls us to bow our heads in prayer and seek the grace of our Father in Heaven (pp30-33).