In the last issue of the EFL Newsletter, Peter Barnes gave us a strong warning about the dangers of where we are heading as a society as we discuss and enact legalisation to allow the practice of euthanasia – deliberate medical intervention to terminate a human life. In the public debate, seemingly good and plausible arguments are put forward for a ‘compassionate’ intervention to relieve persons of their incurable and unbearable suffering, and those of us who speak against what is happening are accused of being cruel and uncaring towards those who just ‘want to die’ rather than endure ongoing pain. Why aren’t they free to choose?
As opposed to human ‘wisdom’ in working through all these issues, the God who created us in his image has laid down some very clear rules and guidelines in his written Word which ought not be ignored. He has instructed us to care for each other, and he has a special concern for those who are most vulnerable, who are least able to fend for themselves. This concern applies to the whole span of our life as human beings in this world, from its beginning at conception in the womb to the time when God chooses for it to conclude at death.
Moreover, it is quite invalid for us to use ‘relief from pain and suffering’ as an argument for ending life. God knows all about pain and suffering. He himself came among us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, specifically to subject himself to the worst forms of pain, suffering and death in order to give us the gift of eternal life after death! (see John 3:16).
The need for special care of the elderly is a part of our non-negotiable, God-given responsibility, as against the much easier option of easily-accessible and culturally-condoned euthanasia. We may try to convince ourselves that ‘it’s all OK’, but we sense the truth that God has revealed in his Word about the high value of human life, stemming from the fact that we are uniquely made in the ‘image and likeness’ of God himself (Genesis 1:26-28). After defeating death, Jesus said to his disciple Peter on the shores of Lake Galilee: “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go” (John 21:18). Unless our life ends earlier, we are all headed for the need of Aged Care which can be very emotional and challenging, and perhaps personally demeaning.
Nevertheless, Jesus’ word to Peter seems to give his imprimatur to the ministry of Aged Care, with all its problems, rather than the more ‘convenient-all-round’ alternative of euthanasia. Our contemporary ‘wisdom’ wants to ‘justify’ many things that are clearly contrary to God’s revealed truth (same-sex ‘marriage’ and abortion, to name two), and so we come up with all sorts of ‘arguments’ and ‘reasons’ to support ungodly practices, and, in the process, try to demonise those of us who want to stand firm on what God has revealed. This line of reasoning has become so entrenched in our humanistic society that the word ‘conservative’ has taken on a whole new meaning to indicate an outdated, even anti-social, behavioural ‘disease’ that must be eradicated from our midst.
However, throughout history, standing on the promises and dictates of God’s Word has always been costly – and no less is this the case for us today. We will be criticised, misinterpreted, misunderstood and misquoted, just as Jesus was (John 15:18-25). But let us remember that in the same context Jesus also said: “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).
And let us also remember that Jesus’ word to Peter carries with it an implied challenge to us all to get involved as much as we can – at least in prayer – in the active ministry of Aged Care that includes loving palliative care, starting with our own family, loved ones and church members.
Careers in aged-care nursing are not very attractive (nor well paid), so we need to be praying that God will raise up, and equip, people to take on this challenge … and to continue to pray for wisdom and strength, emotional as well as physical, for those who do.
Rev. Bruce Christian