Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In my ten or so years as a Project Manager and Software Developer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, I was frequently involved in discussions with physicians about what limits to incorporate into system designs.
Software development, and any sort of engineering or design for that matter, focuses to a large extent on limits. We often needed to address questions like:
- How large a number does this data field need to be able to store?
- How wide should this column be on this report?
- How flexible does this screen’s functionality need to be?
At Mayo, the underlying attitude was always “Limit our options and flexibility as little as possible.” This was because physicians are dealing with people’s lives. They absolutely do not want anything getting in the way of their ability to provide the best possible care for their patients. Is our “Great Physician,” Jesus, any different?
People constantly come to Doctors with all sorts of symptoms and issues that were well outside of what is expected, and so the tools they use in caring for those patients cannot limit their ability to provide the care that is needed. Since we cannot accurately predict what situations the future will hold, we must provide tools that “flex” well in unexpected situations, and that do not needlessly place restraints on what can be done.
This same logic applies when talking about moral issues in everyday life, things like abortion, or gay marriage, or adoption across cultural or ethnic boundaries. In all of these situations, people are involved. Therefore, each such situation has its own unique circumstances. Each one involves difficult, sometimes painful choices and adjustments. Like a physician’s care of a patient, all of these situations involve decisions that these people will have to live with for the rest of their lives. They are not choices that are made lightly. Further, they are not choices made in isolation: the choice that is made impacts not only the person making it, but others as well, whether that is an unborn infant, or a same-sex partner, or a child who needs a family. Their choices also impact and involve the “community” of which they are a part – family, friends, co-workers, and so on.