Friday, March 1, 2019

Assessing Assisted Suicide: Part 4

With this article, my series on assisted suicide comes to a close. We have seen that it is a Christian responsibility to be mindful of suffering, but that God’s truth must ultimately guide our response to it. We have also seen what happens when life comes to be viewed as a commodity rather than an intrinsic good. The argument for assisted suicide wraps itself in the language of compassion, but as it is logically extended, it ends in heartless tyranny.

Christian Realism

The Christian worldview has very different implications. We cannot be blind to pain. We know that death is inevitable, and we should not deny the desire for a “good” one. But we must also not attempt to claim for ourselves the authority to end life. That belongs to God, and we should not try to wrest that from Him (as if that were truly possible in the end; Job 14:5). We need to be reminded of the evils of traveling down that road, and we must remind others.

I know there will be a few who disagree with me, but I think Christians also need to be clear about how to let life go. Again, it is inevitable. But we have gained technological advances that allow life, or the semblance of it, to be extended long past what is natural. There is an argument to be made that this was what would have happened in Alfie Evans’ case if his parents had won their appeals. I do not know. What I do know, is that it was not a decision for the government to make. A person must do that for himself, or it must be left to those who have the most natural authority over those who can no longer decide (i.e., parents or a spouse). And in general, we must be clear on the distinction between ending or refusing care that is no longer life-saving, versus receiving treatment that is life-ending. Letting go is not the same as destroying.

To put it another way, accepting death is not a sin. Suicide, abortion, and euthanasia are. They infringe on the sovereignty of God and are an attack on Him. That is what is to govern our thinking on these issues. The destruction of innocent life for selfish gain, whatever they may want to call the process, is murder. We have a responsibility to call it what it is and to seek justice, not ease.

One Way or the Other

Returning specifically to suicide, though, there is an additional way to paint the issue in black and white for Christians. Ours is an explicitly exclusivist faith. There is only one way to God, which is Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:10–12). That means, despite all the different belief systems in this world, there are really only two types of people. There are those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. And there are those who refuse, choosing instead to spend eternity in hell separated from God and all good things.

That is an uncomfortable truth, but it is the truth nonetheless. The only way to be compassionate about it is to tell it, since people can only escape if they know the danger they are in and how to avoid it. But it also relates to suicide. There are only two types of people, and for Christians, it is not an option. I do not mean to say suicide costs a believer their salvation. The only unforgivable sin is denying the power of the Holy Spirit in raising Christ from the dead (Matt. 12:31). Rather, suicide is something a Christian should not do because they recognize they do not belong to themselves (1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 5:14–15; Gal. 2:20). If we suffer to the point of wanting to end our lives, then we need to recognize the connection between our pain and that suffered by the one who gave His life for us. Seeing the love of Jesus can strengthen us to endure and to realize the testimony our momentary affliction produces in us.

It does not stop with us, though. Christians have a responsibility to the other type of people when it comes to suicide. If they do not know Jesus, then whatever they are experiencing here will seem like sweetness and light in comparison to what they will find on the other side. Their death will not bring peace and relief. It will bring horror and torment unlike anything the mind can imagine. If you can encourage the suicide of a person in such a condition, if you can embrace and argue for their self-destruction, then you hate them with a hatred that will echo for eternity. Even nonbelievers who favor the right to suicide are not that wicked. They do not know better. We do. We had better not blind ourselves to ultimate truths just because of a misplaced sense of compassion that is really about making ourselves feel good, not about actually helping someone else.

Again, a Christian can be forgiven either way. It should just never have to come down to that. It is clear cut, simple. We cannot kill ourselves without rebelling against God, and we cannot help others kill themselves without condemning them to everlasting death. There is no argument around that, only rationalizations that lead nowhere.

That should be obvious for Christians. As I have said before, biblical principles do not mean much to those on the outside. When discussing the issue of assisted suicide with them, we need to show them how easily the wrong view of life’s value can lead to wanton destruction. Then, hopefully, they will be able to see the need for Christ. Whatever we do, we can’t be flippant. There is real suffering in this world. We must do all we can aid the sufferers. They, after all, are also made in the image of God. We show how we value that by showing compassion. Let’s just make sure to show the real thing.

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