First, do no harm.

Doctors tend to take some form of an oath today but once took what was called the Hippocratic Oath, “first, do no harm”. Hippocrates, for which the oath was named, was a physician in Classical Greece. This idea for which he is celebrated, seemingly goes back to earliest man.

God is said to be the great physician thus this oath is his to uphold. The opposite of healing is harming and among the ten commandments is, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13, KJV). The etymology of the word “kill” points to the word “quell”, for which Oxford Dictionary gives these two, among its definitions:

  1. “put an end to (a rebellion or other disorder), typically by the use of force.”
    1.1 “Subdue or silence (someone)”

You’d recall from the stories of Jesus’ miracles, that he always first confirmed that those who he would heal, wanted to be healed. I submit that “healing” had to do with helping persons to understand what they did not understand (but thought they did). This would mean that he did not help people understand what they didn’t want to understand — he allowed them their God-given liberty (to even be as swine, which he had some choice words about).

It follows then that to help who do not want to be helped is not “right” (and to “want” isn’t merely to say we want, but is demonstrated by our choices — note however, that this leaves much unsaid about what “want” is). To force change is to harm (even kill) and we’re to do no such thing. Still, we’re confident that we’re doing good in tweaking our inventions and refining our mental images of what right and wrong is, though the exercise of our liberties (collectively), has created the reality we’re trying to force “fix”. For the well-intentioned who identify with the scriptures as God-sent, said confidence is Mammon — literally. (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)

One of the most enlightening quotes I’ve come across in my walk, is: “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War (Chapter III)

If man can discover this truth and master it, how much more can a God (of evil) in a “Holy War” (as the Bible is styled) master it? Jesus said, “Ye worship ye know not what…” (John 4:22, KJV), pointing to the fact that the battle (though not the war) is already lost. My prescription is to heal yourself of all certainty so that — granted you allow it — God can have the next round.

But this applies equally to those detached from the Bible. “Certainty” about the uselessness, errancy, manipulative intent, etc. of the Bible, religion and any knowledge, is an equally faulty position. This is the sort of confidence that is our undoing today, as we fight over our conceptions of “right” and we look to our inventions like the legal system, to bring about the changes we want. We do so while choosing to ignore the truths before us, like our perfect state of balance (“cause and effect” as we understand it, and the “Tao” as some ancient peoples called it, but theirs was a more refined understanding). Their view was to accord with the Tao (the way the world works), rather than forcing. Rather then force fixing the system or inventing our own systems, they prescribed we change ourselves (our ways) as this is both something we can change and something that would have the least negative impact on the whole.

A helpful tip to this end comes from the Bible for both “believers” and those who don’t believe. It’s found in Matthew 7:5 (KJV), “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Considering all said here, if the world is as it is because we’ve tried to force change, then, the prescription not to kill (force change) is not a call for passivity; rather, it’s realizing that rather than trusting in our own devices, we should have faith (confidence) in the way things are and to be our best, believing this would bring about the best.

This is the kind of faith Jesus spoke positively about (Matthew 17:20, KJV). It’s not faith in that which we hope for (Hebrews 11:1, KJV), for we do not know what is best. It’s faith that being our best will bring about the best, regardless of what little we do perceive about the big picture (for instance when we can see only the negative implications).

… but this is just my opinion. ~ Ervin Welsh