Primum non nocere is the Latin phrase that is translated “First do no harm.” You might recognize the phrase because most people think that it is part of the Hippocratic Oath. However, strictly speaking, the phrase does not appear in the Oath itself. The Oath does contain, “…but I will utterly reject harm and mischief.” In fact, “First do no harm” is believed to have originated with a 19th century surgeon, Thomas Inman.
Did you know that the founder of the Methodist movement seriously considered entering into the medical field? And while he chose to go a different route, the idea of Primum non nocere still impacted his life. In fact, it was so important to him that he put it first in his “rules” of living a Godly life.
Maybe we should take seriously these words as well. After all, Paul sees this idea as a basis for many of the Biblical commands: “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10 NIV). As Jesus-followers, we are faced with choices that affect the lives of those who are around us. When we choose a course of action, we should ask ourselves, “Does this reflect the love that Jesus has for others, or am I only concerned for myself?”
Like the medical discipline, you and I have a great many life-giving tools available to us. We have words of comfort and hope. We have faith in the redeeming power of God. We have the love of God made known in Jesus Christ. We have the promises of the Bible that God will never forsake us. We have countless examples of faith and can surround people with the love of the Christian community.
Perhaps, the writer of Job says it best. Throughout the 31st chapter, he reminds us that we are to live our lives in such a way that we heal instead of hurt, create wholeness instead of division, act in harmony with the ways of Jesus and not the ways of the world.
Simple, but not easy…