Will Christian nurses lead the way in providing healthcare for the marginalized?



In the days of the Norwegian awakening in 1850, the revival of faith in Christ among Christians sparked a birth of an order of service to the sick and poor.  The Kaiserswerth deaconesses began serving their communities as trained nurses out of a renewed joy of their salvation in Jesus. Their renewed fervor for Christ effected their involvement in their meeting the needs of those on the margins in their society (Shelley and Miller. 2006).  That’s what happens when your heart is ablaze with hope and love from the Spirit of Christ. It’s always been that way for Christians.

Paul, in the Bible, was urged by the apostles, when he was new to the faith to, “remember the poor,” and be generous in helping meet their needs.

Tertullian spoke of the reputation of early Christians when he said, “It is our care of the helpless, our practice of loving-kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. “Only look,” they say, “how they love one another! Look how they are prepared to die for one another.” (Shelley and Miller, 2006)

Ancient historian Eusebius of Caesarea wrote, “The Christians were the only people who amid such terrible ills, showed their fellow-feelings and humanity by their actions. Day by day some would busy themselves by attending to the dead and burying them; others gathered in one spot all who were afflicted by hunger throughout the whole city and give them bread.” (Shelley and Miller, 2006)

As Shelley and Miller point out in their book, there’s a distinct way nursing, apart from other healthcare professions, displays Christlikeness. That distinct characteristic is hands-on service of others.  Not that doctors, PA’s, therapists and assistants don’t give hands-on service, but nursing, of all those professions is an army of people who provide hands-on, bedside service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to the ill and  injured.

It being national nurse’s week, I thought it a good time to think out loud (post a blog) about what I am asking God might be the role of nurses in the U.S. burdened healthcare system.  And I’m thinking from a Christian perspective.

I know the push nationally and politically is for nurses to become the primary providers of healthcare in the U.S.  It’s less expensive and there are more of us to meet the needs of our aging population.  But as a Christian, I see those the healthcare system, even if driven  by nurses, won’t care for.  Like the deaconesses of the 1850’s I see the marginalized in our society and I wonder, “What’s my role? How can I just ignore this need?”  And it’s an enormous need!

The elderly, disabled, orphaned, medically fragile, mentally ill, homeless, poor and ethnic minority population in our country is no small margin of folks.  The elderly alone make up the greatest and fastest growing portion of our population. The U.S. healthcare system can’t and won’t be able to meet the needs of so many of these people.  People, made in the image of God.

I wonder if God would raise up an American army of nursing deaconesses in his church who would give freely in our communities the provision of hands-on service to those who will never be able to pay for our services. I wonder if we would cleansing wounds, change diapers, give medications, assist in ambulation, relieve pain, provide resources, and speak the gospel into the lives of those our healthcare system will never be able to care for.

Jesus calls those who follow him to serve and love like he does.  In fact, it is he who works in us Christians to will and act the way he does. Christian nurses have a great opportunity ahead of us in the U.S.  If we will follow Jesus, surely we will be driven by our Servant-King’s love to give to those who can’t give back and to lay our lives down for those Jesus would redeem.

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Matthew 20:26-28


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