The NHS is the closest thing we have to a national religion but the high priests of the NHS cannot save me.
I love the NHS. Family members, friends and neighbours work in the NHS and do a fantastic job. I have benefitted from having operations and care, my children were born with the help of NHS midwives, and my parents have been cared for by their doctors and nurses.
Like me, I am sure you are thankful to be in the country that led the way in the founding of a national health service and for the continuing sacrificial work of the NHS, especially with the dangers of infection from Covid-19 at this time. The NHS sometime cracks under the strain, but for most part it works extremely well.
I am glad to be able to join others on my street in applauding the NHS on Thursday evenings, albeit it is slightly strange doing so for an unseen recipient. It made me wonder whether we could also clap other organisations sometimes as well. It certainly gets people out talking to their neighbours (at a distance of course).
But at the same time there is something slightly disturbing about the unquestioning reverence in which the NHS is held at times. A Radio 4 announcer recently commented that “The NHS has become the closest thing we have to a national religion.”
And I realised that the problem is not in the hard-working NHS staff whom we salute, but in me – in us.
There is something in all of us that needs to worship, and we want to do so together. Clapping the NHS or roaring in a crowd at a football match feels good. We are made to worship, but we often worship the wrong things. The NHS should be praised but it does not deserve unqualified trust, obedience and service. Only God deserves that.
We need a Saviour. The NHS can patch us up many times, but in the end it cannot rescue us from death. This is a load it cannot bear, an expectation it cannot meet. There is only one person who can rescue us from sin and death: Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate good doctor. He is able to save me, not just from this plague but ultimately from all plagues in the life to come. His sacrificial death, more costly than the longest, most demanding and dangerous shift on a hospital ward, rescued me from the sin of my false worship. He is the Saviour.
He deserves more than a round of applause.
So, we are happy to say that we love the NHS but “to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and for evermore! Amen” (Jude 1:25).