Saturday, January 15, 2011

Euthanasia: A Biblical Response

Some Christians don’t see a purpose in keeping someone alive that cannot function in society, is confined to a hospital bed, on a ventilator, and unable to communicate. John Shelby Spong asserted:
“I affirm that the choice of death with dignity, whether by my own hand or with the assistance of my physician, is a moral and more godly choice than passively endorsing a life pointlessly devoid of hope or meaning.”
(Euthanasia, by Opposing Viewpoints series) This Episcopalian declared that it was more ethical to be euthanized than to live a life, as he described, “devoid of hope or meaning”. But, as believers, can we truly say that whether or not a person has the ability to communicate with us that their life is completely devoid of hope or meaning? Absolutely not. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says that we were “bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Believers don’t have authority or control over their own bodies. It is God’s. We have no ability or freedom to choose when we should die. Additionally, as believers we know we will suffer at some time on this earth. 1 Peter 4:12-13 states
“Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
Scripture articulates that we will experience affliction, but it is not the end. Unlike unbelievers, we can trust a loving God and have hope. As Romans 5:3-4 says, we should “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Ultimately, whether our life here is full of suffering or not, we understand that when we are ushered into God’s presence after death, there will not be any pain or sorrow. Finally, in the midst of affliction, believers should be filled with overwhelming hope for their future. We should also be able to give the reason for the hope that we have. (1 Peter 3:15) Our hearts should overflow in gratitude that God would choose to develop character in us, and we should turn to Him for help and comfort during trials. Trials will only be for a short while compared to eternity in heaven.

In addition to a right view of death and the suffering that sometimes accompanies it, we must have an accurate view of life. Man is made in the image of God, and therefore has inherent worth. We are to preserve life whenever we can because it is precious in God’s sight, not seek to destroy it. There are certainly times when a patient on a ventilator or in a coma really dies, evidenced when their heart stops beating; and we must be sensitive to that and not keep a person biologically alive on a machine forever. When a person meets the criteria for brain death and really is dying, their heart will stop beating soon after. Before this happens though we have no right to stop feeding them or take them off machines. We prayerfully need to walk on this tough ground if we are faced with it in the situation of a family member or friend, seeking the wisdom of the Lord and looking for answers that are in sync with what the Bible says about life and death. We know that death comes for all people, and that God has appointed that time. The reason Christians should not support euthanasia is not to avoid death or extend life as long as possible, but to do what God commands in preserving and valuing life in such a way that we protect it.

(image from getty images)


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