What has faith to do with healthcare?

A version of this article by Dr. Sean Clark ’88, professor of kinesiology and director of healthcare professions, originally appeared in the spring 2023 issue of STILLPOINT magazine.

Many of us are familiar with Jesus’s title as the Great Physician—the miraculous healer of both bodies and souls. Dozens of times throughout the Bible we see Jesus referenced as such. We know the story of the woman who bled for 12 years, the Centurion’s ill servant, the paralytics and lepers and blind people, the daughter of Jairus and Jesus’s close friend Lazarus—all who were healed by the Great Physician. 

And while these examples were all undoubtedly miracles from God, the life of Jesus helps frame a biblical understanding that can impact the way we think about, address and deal with healthcare in our modern contexts. 

All throughout Scripture, Jesus walks with the marginalized and exhorts his followers to do the same: give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless, clothing to the naked, and care to the sick. The needs to be met are physical, unique to the flourishing of the human body: one of the centerpieces of all creation, God’s handiwork.

As healthcare practitioners, we acknowledge the body is a temple to be stewarded as a gift from God.  We prescribe and embrace healthy practices like regular exercise, nutritious meals and good sleep habits. For Christians in healthcare, stewardship of bodies is inherently spiritual; we see the human body as the earthen vessel through which the spirit and soul function.

Healthcare is also redemptive. The consequences of poor choices, misfortune, the aging process and disease fills our waiting rooms.  As we implement and utilize our knowledge and understanding of the body and medicine, we begin to see healing, recovery from injury or illness and resumption of a normal way of life. These small redemptive, healing moments are tiny ways of participating in the redemption of the entire created order.

Throughout that redemptive process—no matter how small—we practice hospitality. As patients sit with providers, they invite us into their story: their family health history, their concerns, pains and fears. Many times, this means an invitation into the messiness of life. In the tough moments, being hospitable in hardship may mean walking with someone through terminal illness, conveying hope without skewing them toward false promises. 

But perhaps more often, hospitality comes down to choosing love in the everyday ways, like sitting a minute longer with a patient despite being incredibly stretched for time, so that they feel valued. Choosing love means maintaining a posture of humility despite hard-earned degrees and expertise. Choosing love means practicing grace and trust with coworkers so you can function together to best serve your patient.

Our call as Christians who serve the Great Physician is to care for those whom are in need, those who others may neglect. In healthcare, as in many other fields, that’s not always easy, but it’s the power of Christ that allows us to be able to step into the gap and to care with both competence and compassion.