Physician-assisted suicide is not an easy topic. However, it is on our ballot this November election, so we need to consider it from the perspective of the Bible
Biblically, the passages are clear against suicide. God reminds us that our times are in his hands (Psalm 31:15). Or, the fifth commandment, “You shall not murder” (this includes taking one’s own life). Besides this command, we have various other passages that command us to take care of the body God has given us. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Even the prayer of Hannah makes it clear that, “The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up” (1 Samuel 2:6). Nowhere in the entire Bible is suicide condoned, much less encouraged.
So what is the problem?
We have hearts. Most of us have family or friends who have had to face cancer. We have compassion, we have empathy, and we have a desire to support them in their fight. However, the terminal aspect of certain cancers is unnerving. Kim Kuo said it well, “Yet certainly people of faith have unique questions to ask about terminal illness. Namely, are we willing to surrender to our Creator the specifics of how and when we die? How much do we actually trust him with our final days?”
Regardless of our trust in the Lord, it is hard to see someone we love suffer. About a week ago I saw the aftermath of a deer/car crash. The deer, however, was not dead. As I drove by, with officers standing guard, the deer was struggling and it certainly appeared that there was severe damage to his hind legs, such that he could not stand. The deer, with his majestic set of antlers, was still truly beautiful. For some reason, that made his inevitable death harder for me. As I drove by, I could only guess the outcome of this accident. The deer was killed. I doubt many of us would argue against the necessity of killing a severely wounded wild animal. I also doubt many of us would take a friend to task when it comes time to “put down” their dear family pet. Should the same principles of compassion and mercy apply to people?
Why is it any different for people?
First, people are not animals. We were not created as just another animal. Genesis sets the tone as God took special care with the creation of men and women. It is only of us, that God declared that he would make us in his image, so image of God he created us. This care goes beyond his image. Each of us is created with soul and the soul was paid for with the blood of God’s own Son. That in itself makes us and the one life we have on this earth valuable.
Second, we are not promised in this life that God will remove all our troubles. In fact, in this sin-filled world, it is just the opposite. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). So what it comes down to is not if we will face troubles, but how we face these inevitable trials.
Can good come from the terrible?
As believers we see this from two angles. Is there spiritual good and is there earthly good? It is easy to spot earthly good from bad situations. A mother starts MADD or money is raised to help awareness. Spiritual good is not as tangible. We can think of the suffering of our Savior. No father would want his son to go through what Jesus did, yet God, who was able to stop it, did not. Why? he allowed him to suffer to attain the greatest good imaginable for us. In the end, it was Jesus’ suffering that pointed to his glory. Still, even on this earth we can see good come from the terrible.
- Lauren Hill, who lived her final days facing terminal cancer and raised awareness and 1.5 million dollars towards finding a cure.
- Our own member Tracy, who faced cancer with dignity, brought her family together and had a chance to express her own faith to her boys.
- My former member in Washington, Lisa, whose 5+ battle with cancer inspired hundreds.
- Maybe you someday.
The truth is we were not made to die. Since Adam and Eve our world is no longer perfect. With sin, came death and it all of its consequences. Death is terrible and certain deaths are worse than others. Terminal illness has to be among the most frustrating for the participant and observer. There is pain, migraines, nausea, chemo, anxiety, drug side effects, changed personality. Yet even in this situation, we are not called to be God. God is and God gives us promises. The Bible tells us that God will be with us, that we can cry out to God, that God hears our prayers. The Bible reminds us our death is just a doorway to a life with God in heaven. Death is just difficult. We can’t understand why, but we can trust in our Savior who suffered more than we will ever have to…for the greatest good…for us.