Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
The Christ-centered Doctor
What is in the center of our lives determines our worldview or how we view the world. It influences what we perceive and how we react to this perspective. It determines the ways in which we act and react to the external world. In all of us, as we develop from a newborn baby, we have been slowly developing our own self as the center of our lives. Our id, ego and superego becomes the framework in which we perceive our world and create our own reality. When we become doctors, we are centered in a Cartesian humanistic worldview. As a Christian, we have the additional dimension of being Christ-centered. Being Christ-centered allows us to perceive the world through His eyes. He allows us to perceive reality as it really is. This reality is more than just Cartesian humanistic.
Nathan Greene produced some excellent paintings on Christ and doctors. www.nathangreene.com
Paul, writing to Timothy highlighted that the time have arrived about 2000 years ago when we are enabled by the incarnate Christ. Christ allows us into the true reality by providing us access to God.
Not only have Christ enabled our access to God, He came Himself to dwell within us, hence enabling us to be Christ-centered.
How to be a Christ Centered Doctor
Paul’s emphasis here is on a holy body and a transformed mind. We are called to be living sacrifices who are free of blemishes and defects. We should be holy as He is holy. So we should work hard to study the Word, saturate ourselves with prayer, seek to live in His presence and making Godly choices in our ordinary everyday life. A holy body and transformed mind are the foundation of a Christ-centered doctor.
Our vocation or call to a holy life is the same as the call to be a doctor. Surprisingly, many of us think of this as separate callings. Our struggles to be either a Christian first and doctor second or vice versa does not make sense if we understand it as the same calling. We are called to holy living which in our case involves functioning as a medical doctor. Holy living is a life of worship. The Hebrew word for worship also means work. The biblical understanding of work is that work is worship. Thus serving as a doctor is living a holy life of worship. This is what Paul meant when he asked us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. A holy life of work/worship involves sacrifices. The long and sleepless night calls, difficult and stressful clinic problems, and giving up a normal lifestyle are expected sacrifices due to the nature of our work as doctors. However, these sacrifices are also acceptable to God as offerings. Thus the sacrifices we make to do our work contributes to our living a holy life.
These sacrifices by itself are meaningless unless it is accompanied by ‘be transformed by the renewing of our minds’ as Paul termed it. This renewal of our minds is the development of a new mindset that sees our whole life (which includes our work and sacrifices) as offering to the Lord and being involved with him as agents of his for the expansion of the Kingdom of God which is his perfect will. As doctors we are as much involved in Kingdom work as pastors or missionaries. It is helpful to discern our own life story as doctors as part of the greater meta-narrative of the Christian Story. We are who we are for a reason. And that reason is to live a holy life.
Our primary calling (vocation) is to love God. This is a call to accept Him as our Lord and Master. Our secondary calling is to serve Him with the opportunities given to us. We are privileged to be doctors. Doctors have a special place in society because we have the opportunity to meet both our patients’ physical and spiritual needs. We need to use the teaching environment to learn to be equipped to function as excellent doctors. We also need to be trained to be priests. One of the tenets of the Reformation is the priesthood of all believers. We are ideally situated to fulfill this role.
As doctors, there are good days and bad days. Good days are when everything goes well; patients are recovering, the waiting room is not overcrowded, the medical team worked well together, nobody died, and you have time to enjoy your second cup of coffee. When patients crashed, treatment protocols failed, your clinic outpatients are overflowing into the corridors, a few ire patients’ relatives are waiting to rant on you, and that is before you have your coffee yet; these are bad days. We all have our share of good and bad days. We are called to walk in the ‘way of love’. This is easy on good days but very challenging on bad ones. So what does this way of love entails for us doctors? What it means is that we do the best we can, all we can within our limitations, and leave the rest up to God.
The best we can for our patients is when we are focused on them as persons instead of problems. We see our patients holistically; as persons precious in the eyes of God. We treat the whole person, not just the dysfunctional part. And we do it with love, the same love we show to our families. We act in love. Not all patients respond to our loving acts. Some patients are incorrigible, and unlovable. Yet, we are called to act in the way of love.
We are called to love because of God’s example. Jesus Christ, God incarnate faced similar good and bad days like us. The Great Physician healed ten persons with leprosy but only one came back to thank him (Luke 17:11-19). He was mobbed in the marketplace and a woman trying to steal his healing by touching him- she was healed. (Mark 5:25–34, Matthew 9:20–22, Luke 8:43–48). Jesus’ life is a prime example on offering his life as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. And we are called to do the same.
As Christian doctors, we have excellent opportunities to share about our Lord Jesus Christ. Today’s devotional verses stated ‘in work or deed’. Yes, we are to share about Jesus in words if circumstances allow, being mindful about professionalism. In deed always, as we serve our patients in the way of love. The key to the verses is on the ‘you’ rather than on what you say or do. Our life and character is the best testimony about our Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to be witnesses for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. A witness is one who speaks or reveals what she has seen and experienced. Who we are, not just what we do that reveals Christ. It is important that we are credible and reliable witnesses, bearing the fruit of the Spirit. The testimony of our witness is to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal.5:22-23).
In addition to our characters, our attitude counts. Our attitude should be one of gratitude. Being gratefully and always giving thanks changes us in profound ways. Gratitude is a choice. Like the metaphor of seeing a glass half full or half empty, gratitude is choosing to see the positive in all things, even when everything has fallen apart. Why? This is because our God is a sovereign God. He is in control. As doctors, we have been trained to believe that we are in control of our patient care. In reality as we discovered later, that is a delusion; that we are in control. Our treatment protocols are mere statistical probabilities that the treatment will work. In spite of our large armament of medicines and latest high tech-equipment, our patients often do not respond as we expected. It is important that we realize that healing comes from the Lord. We treat our patients and prays that it works. And we are grateful that most of the time it does.
As doctors, we are missionaries and curiously, the Ministry of Health is our sending agency. In government service, we are often posted to various parts of the country. Wherever we are sent, that is our mission field. Our hospitals and health centers are our mission compounds. As professionals, we may not be allowed to verbally share our faith. We share by our lives, as living testimonies of our Hope. That may be more powerful than many of our words.
my personal motto
As Christ Centered Doctors, we are
"treat, heal, and comfort always"
"spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"
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