It just so happens that as I write this I am studying the Apostle Peter's first letter to the early church. I am awestruck yet again at how relevant the Bible is for nursing today—and this issue of JCN. The continuing education feature by Paul White introduces the 5 Languages of Appreciation for the Workplace (pp. 144–149), showing how nurses can encourage each other. Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu, Peninnah Kako, and Jennifer Kibicho reveal the humility and the godly character of women in East Africa living with HIV/AIDS (pp. 164–172). Nancy DeMetro describes a “retired” nurse living in Bolivia whom God has used to bring healthcare to villagers (pp. 156–157). All the articles in this JCN challenge nurses to higher standards of practice.
One wonders how nurses (i.e., me and you) are supposed to live according to these standards—appreciating everyone, being humble and accepting, being a courageous hard worker. A tall order if you ask me. Peter's words help me come to grips with the incongruence between living out high standards and doing what I feel like doing.
Peter's letter to “God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered…” (1 Peter 1:1) is about how to live a Christian life in a tough world. Peter didn't just “preach,” he wrote from thorny, personal experience. We learn from the Gospels that Peter was a common fisherman who became the most prominent of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ. Peter was a feisty, hot-tempered extrovert who became a central leader of the early church, martyred by the Roman Emperor Nero in the late 60s A.D. Despite his prominence and personality, Peter was a humble, gracious, servant leader. Theologian Eugene Peterson (2003) says Peter “maintained a scrupulous subordination to Jesus.”
Peter writes to Christians who are suffering “in all kinds of trials.” He acknowledges how hard life is, simultaneously speaking of God's “great mercy,” “new birth,” “living hope,” and being “shielded by God's power.” He tells the Christians to “be holy” and explains what that means: live like Jesus did, be like God. Peter notes characteristics Christians should display—harmony, sympathy, love, compassion, submission to authority, and humility. We do this by looking to Jesus as our supreme example and by being filled with the Holy Spirit of God. It's like Peter is saying, “Yes life is incredibly difficult, but God is so fantastic! Don't take your eyes off of our magnificent all-powerful God!”
I think Peter would agree with the authors in this JCN, telling us, “Yes, nursing is hard, but look at Jesus!” He would say the same words to us that he wrote to the Christians 2000 years ago:
Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”
Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (from 1 Peter 3:8–15, 4:10–12, NIV)
Peterson, E. H. (2003). Introduction to First Peter. The Message
(electronic version). Cedar Rapids, IA: Laridian.