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ss nucleus - September 2013,  our values: love and obey

our values: love and obey

'To acknowledge, love and obey God as the creator, sustainer and Lord of all life'

Laurence Crutchlow explores the first of CMF's values.

This first of CMF's values is the foundation; the one that underpins the other nine. To analyse it, we'll look at who God is, and then what our relationship to him is to be, why others might not agree, and finally how this looks in the daily life of a Christian medical student.

who is God?

God is the creator; not just the ruler or owner. The Bible asserts his role as creator (Psalm 8), his detailed knowledge of his creation (Psalm 139), and describes something of how he created (Genesis 1-2). Creation is only the beginning. God is not a remote inventor who built a machine, set it running, then retired to a safe distance! Not only is he the creator, he is also the sustainer. Psalm 147 speaks of some of the ways in which this works; Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus, the exact representation of God's being, sustains all things through his Word. This is quite a dramatic concept. If God no longer sustained, life as we know it would end.

God isn't just the designer and operator - he is king as well. Psalm 24:1-2 is clear that the Lord reigns over the earth. Daniel sets this out in one of his prayers (Daniel 2:20-24), and even one of history's ultimate power freaks, Nebuchadnezzar, acknowledges God's lordship (Daniel 4:17).

how do we relate to him?

We must acknowledge God before we can love or obey him. Creation itself declares his glory (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:19-20). But acknowledging him alone isn't enough - after all even demons believe in both God and Jesus (James 2:19). So we must go beyond acknowledgment.

One of God's best known commands is: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.' (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Jesus affirmed this for Christians when answering a question from the Pharisees (Matthew 22:37-38), describing it as 'the greatest commandment'. This commandment is clear that our love for God should not just be a feeling, but a deliberate act.

It is hard to separate love and obedience in the Bible. 'In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands' (1 John 5:3). 'Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always' (Deuteronomy 11:1). 'Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.' (John 14:23-24). Our love for God is expressed as we obey what he commands.

how is this different from the world around us?

Some deny the existence of any God, though this view is surprisingly rare worldwide, held by about 2% of the population according to the CIA's World Factbook. Atheism at least appears rather more prevalent in the UK - but interestingly the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies lists large numbers of universities with no such society on its website. (1) By contrast, we have active CMF groups in 38 of the 40 UK and Irish medical schools. Perhaps atheism isn't as common as is thought!

More often, people accept that a 'god' of some description exists, but deny that he is creator, sustainer or Lord. Others acknowledge a powerful God intellectually, but decide that because of their perception of his characteristics, they want nothing to do with him. Recent controversies over the Canaanites (see article on page 22) illustrate this.

What about someone who professes to love God, but shows no desire to obey him? Jesus said: 'If you love me, keep my commands' (John 14:15), so we must question the depth of their love for God. This is quite a different situation to a Christian who wants to obey God, but struggles to do so. 'I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do', says Paul in Romans 7:15. The Bible is clear that we cannot in ourselves live up to God's standards (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8). Yet it is as we realise we can't live up to God's standards that we turn back to the Cross; to Jesus' sacrifice in our place for our sins. In our weakest moments we see most clearly our need for the Holy Spirit, who enables us to obey God. And in longing to be able to fully obey God, we long for our heavenly home, free of pain and suffering.

how does this look in the real world?

This first of CMF's values underpins the other nine values, which illustrate how this first value looks in some of the situations faced by doctors. This more general first value reminds us that obedience to God should shape not just our medical life, or our time at a CMF meeting, but all of our lives. If we acknowledge, love and obey God, our lives will look quite different to those around us in the medical student world. Most students of any faith and none will place a high value on patients - the difference is that we recognise it is very hard to do this in our own strength. (2) Differences in our relationships with fellow students, the authorities, hospital staff and administrators are often more noticeable.

The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) will be seen in anyone being regenerated by the Holy Spirit (ie any Christian). The characteristics are radically different to what those around us might expect. Such actions will lead to questions about what we believe, particularly as we get to know people better. Even if pressured, part of our obedience includes answering such questions with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

We must also be clear that our god is not medicine. Of course medicine is a good thing. But it is easy to worship a good thing which is created, rather than its creator. Our use of time usually reflects our real priorities. Though studying medicine needs time, we mustn't spend all our time working! If God is foremost in our lives, we will spend time with him, both individually and together with other believers. Indeed, mentioning church when asked about the weekend is an easy way into further conversation about Christian things for someone who wants to ask.

Later articles covering the other values will deal with more specific issues and ethics. Whatever the issue, living in obedience to God means that we will sometimes come into conflict over our values; sometimes with the authorities, sometimes with those we are working and studying with. As a student tensions are often over 'day-to-day' issues like gossip or sexual boundaries as much as over medical ethics.

in conclusion

Acknowledging, loving and obeying God will flow out of understanding him as creator, sustainer and Lord. We will only do this in the power of his Holy Spirit, who enables us to lead the radically different lives that are noticed by those around us.

Our values

As Christian doctors seeking to live and speak for Jesus Christ we aim:

  • To acknowledge, love and obey God as the creator, sustainer and Lord of all life.
  • To practise whole-person medicine which addresses our patients' physical, emotional and spiritual needs
  • To maintain the deepest respect for human life from its beginning to its end, including the unborn, the handicapped and the elderly
  • To serve our patients according to their healthcare need without partiality or discrimination on any basis.
  • To care sacrificially for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized
  • To uphold marriage between a man and a woman, faithfulness and the family
  • To speak the truth, respect privacy and safeguard our patients' confidences.
  • To put our patients first whilst fully accepting our duty to promote preventive medicine and public health.
  • To deal honestly with our professional and administrative colleagues and to respect the governing authorities
  • To work constructively in scientific research and in training others for the benefit of individual patients and the advance of health care throughout the world.

Doctrinal Basis

1. There is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

2. God is sovereign in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgement.

3. The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour.

4. Since the fall, the whole of humankind is sinful and guilty, so that everyone is subject to God's wrath and condemnation.

5. The Lord Jesus Christ, God's incarnate Son, is fully God; he was born of a virgin; his humanity is real and sinless; he died on the cross, was raised bodily from death and is now reigning over heaven and earth.

6. Sinful human beings are redeemed from the guilt, penalty and power of sin only through the sacrificial death once and for all time of their representative and substitute, Jesus Christ, the only mediator between them and God.

7. Those who believe in Christ are pardoned all their sins and accepted in God's sight only because of the righteousness of Christ credited to them; this justification is God's act of undeserved mercy, received solely by trust in him and not by their own efforts.

8. The Holy Spirit alone makes the work of Christ effective to individual sinners, enabling them to turn to God from their sin and to trust in Jesus Christ.

9. The Holy Spirit lives in all those he has regenerated. He makes them increasingly Christ-like in character and behaviour and gives them power for their witness in the world.

10. The one holy universal church is the Body of Christ, to which all true believers belong.

11. The Lord Jesus Christ will return in person, to judge everyone, to execute God's just condemnation on those who have not repented and to receive the redeemed to eternal glory.

  2. My previous article 'Work as for the Lord' expands this point. Crutchlow L. Work as for the Lord. Nucleus 2013. 43(2):24-26
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