More than two centuries, Christian doctors and nurses, motivated by the example and teaching of Jesus Christ, have been at the forefront of efforts to alleviate human suffering, cure disease, and advance knowledge and understanding.
Jesus of Nazareth taught: ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
Stories of Christian caring had huge effect, even before Constantine’s decree of toleration. Clement, a Christian leader in Rome at the end of the first century of the Christian era, records how the Christian community was already doing much to relieve the plight of poor widows. In the second century when torment hit the City of Carthage, agnostic family units tossed sufferers onto the roads. The whole Christian community, by and by drove by their cleric, reacted. They were seen in the city, offering solace and taking them into their own homes to be administered to. A couple of decades after Constantine, Julian who came to control in AD 355, was the last Roman Emperor to attempt to re-organization agnosticism. In his Apology, Julian said that if the old religion needed to succeed, it would need to tend to individuals far better than the way Christians caring.
As political opportunity expanded the poor were bolstered and given free entombment. Vagrants and dowagers were secured and accommodated. Elderly men and women, detainees, wiped out slaves and other outcasts, especially the leprous, were cared for. These acts of generosity and compassion impressed many Roman writers and philosophers.
In AD 369, St Basil of Caesarea established a 300 bed new hospital. This was the main extensive scale hospital for the sick and handicapped. It also looked after casualties of the plague.
All things considered, development of health care by the secular authorities continued to be challenged and stimulated by the Church’s example. In the long run there were few noteworthy urban communities or towns were without a doctor’s facility. And there were particular diseases, such as leprosy, where the Church, inspired by the example of Jesus who made a point to touch and heal these outcasts from society, took a lead. The Church built countless leprosy isolation hospitals.
Age of Hospitals
It was not until the eighteenth century that the Christian hospital movement re-emerged. The religious restoration started in England by the proclaiming of John Wesley and George Whitefield was part of an enormous unleashing of Christian energy throughout ‘Enlightenment’ Western Europe.
Another Age of Hospitals started, with new establishments worked by sincere Christian doctors for the ‘debilitated poor’, bolstered basically by deliberate commitments. The impact of this new age was felt abroad and in addition in England. Medicinal services by Christians in mainland Europe got another impulse. The primary clinics in the New World were established by Christian pioneers. Christians were at the front line of the dispensary development giving therapeutic care to the urban poor in the congested zones of vast urban areas.
There was a strong Christian factor in the motivation of the pioneers of medical education for women. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor, was a Quaker, while Elizabeth Garrett came from a very devout family. Ann Clark, another Quaker, was the first woman surgeon and worked at the Women’s Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. Sophia Jex-Blake, another devout Christian, founded the London School of Medicine for Women, while Clara Swain was the first woman doctor to go overseas (to Asia) as a medical missionary Nurse.
In AD 650, a group of devout nuns volunteered to take care of the sick at the Hotel Dieu in Paris, and most other nursing followed this example. In the seventeenth-century, an area minister stunned by the conditions in the poor quarters of Paris, set up a nursing center under the name of Dames de Charite. In the seventeenth-century, a parish priest shocked by the conditions in the poor quarters of Paris, set up a nursing order under the name of Dames de Charite. In the nineteenth-century modern nursing was born, in no small measure due to the work of Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale. Florence Nightingale was deeply influenced by a small Christian hospital in Germany, run by ‘deaconesses a group of Protestant women. Their response to biblical commands to care for the sick,poor and educate neglected children give them templates for modern nursing. Florence Nightingale encouraged better hygiene, enhanced standards and night-nursing, as well as founding the first nursing school. Nurses gained professional status at the end of the century, largely thanks to the work of Ethel Bedford Fenwick, with the majority of nurses being inspired to serve by Christian ethics. In fact many missionary nurses such as Mother Teresa and Emma Cushman have worked tirelessly, bringing hygiene and Western medicine to the four corners of the globe.
Christians have reliably raised the societal position of the helpless, sick and handicapped and wanted to love and care for them to the supreme of their abilities. Christians have been pioneers among hospital building, staffing, in research and ethics, in promoting increased standards of public health and preventative medicine. They have passed Western Medicine across the globe and enhanced the quality of life for millions of people.
Christianity gives men and women a new perspective and allegiance; their lives are spent in joyful grateful service of the God who has redeemed them and given them new life.
‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)