‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’ (James 1:27)
We are immensely privileged to be able to access a service which provides free healthcare at the point of need. It’s a unique facility – there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. In more than 70 tears since its foundation, the NHS still offers universal access to care from cradle to grave.
All of us benefit from this provision in some way or another. It is a testimony to an extraordinary vision and the daily commitment of those working in the NHS, that sees it at its best in this time of extraordinary need.
There are many in our own fellowship who are directly involved; we are thankful for their calling and pray for their safety in this present crisis.
It was on a visit to the GWR Railway Works in Swindon, that Bevan saw how a scheme of health insurance could work. Taken alongside the pioneering work of Beveridge, who sought to challenge the attitude of Government and people alike to the evils of poverty, disease and want, this practical expression of social care formed the foundation for the service we now all benefit from – one which is sorely needed (but heavily tested) as I write.
This expression of care is unique in today’s world but on closer examination it reflects the values which lie at the heart of Christian Discipleship. On Sunday morning I was speaking from Luke 4 and drew the contrast there between a significant event in British history - the signing of the Magna Carta – and Jesus’ “manifesto” as He began his public ministry.
Whilst Magna Carta did set out some universal principles which are still important today, it was very much a product of its time to meet the interests of the Barons who drew it up. Jesus’ commitment to stand with the most vulnerable of his day (of ours too), is non-partisan and agenda free in the sense that no group or party stands to gain from it: all the benefit accrues to those most in need.
Almost 2000 years down the line and this is still a radical manifesto (just as it was in the post WW2 reconstruction era). It moves the focus from the powerful to the powerless when, even in the socially advanced 21st century, we still appear to respect power wherever it can be found.
Jesus’ manifesto is also a transparent statement of offering without thought of the cost, to ensure that we bring benefit to those we help; perhaps the greatest help of all is to realise when we are up against it, the Christian hope says that we are not alone.
There are many people at this moment who are demonstrating this on a practical level. For them, and I pray for you and I also, that James’ words are not a gold standard for helping others but have become an everyday experience.
Hold on to hope. Remember our call to support all who are vulnerable. Pray continually but give thanks to God for the good you see around you – and be that good gift to someone else today.
Yours in Christ