Who should decide?
It is a complicated
theme. An issue once settled has become controversial. The theme?
Life and death.
From the beginning,
people generally viewed life as precious — guarded, enhanced
and celebrated. Death was considered the enemy. However, eventually,
some decided that death could be a friend. From King Saul’s
request around 1000 B.C. that his armor bearer “pierce me
Samuel 31:4, NASB) to the adoption of the Death with Dignity Act
by Oregon voters in November 1994, some have chosen to see death
as a better choice than life. A number of factors have contributed
to that conclusion; I would like to suggest three primary influences.
A loss of the
sense that life is sacred
For most Bible-believing Christians, life is a sacred trust. Though
initiated in a physical sense through man and woman, it is God
who ordains life, giving each individual intrinsic value and purpose.
No one is an accident; each person serves as a reflection of the
One who is sacred above all others.
For many who choose
not to embrace the truth of God’s Word, it would seem that
life is accidental, a remarkable good fortune. A sperm encounters
an egg, a zygote becomes an embryo, a child exits the birthing
canal as another member of the human race. That is, of course,
if the mother chooses not to abort the process and the person.
This sense of existence
as accident tends to follow the thinking that life itself began
as an accident — an unexplainable cosmic explosion, the
result of static electricity from an unknown source. The idea
of a divine originator and planner would be outside the realm
of consideration. Any sense of design or destiny would probably
be labeled as irresponsible rationalization.
If life is without
ordination and orchestration, life is only definable by the person
living it. Therefore, the individual has a right to determine
when life should come to a close. Perhaps the individual is incapable
of choosing. In that case, some believe, those who are primarily
impacted by and most responsible for that person — be that
family members or the state — should have the right to determine
when life should end.
Sanctity of Life, Student
Sanctity of Life, Leader
of Human Life Position Paper
here or call
A belief that
eternity is either nonexistent or irrelevant
If there is no
divine plan and if we as human beings are the designers of our
own destiny, then why would we not have the right to choose when
we have reached the end? What is there to fear? What is there
to consider? How about eternity?
The Bible tells us
that following death, the soul — breathed into man at creation
— leaves the body to live eternally. Eternity offers two
dwelling places: heaven or hell. The determination of that eternal
residence is made by each individual in response to God’s
offer of salvation through Jesus Christ and His death on the cross.
The judgment that follows death is simply an enactment of that
Some modern ideologies
suggest that belief in eternity is archaic and lacks rational
thinking and intellectual consideration. Death is the end. Life
begins at birth and culminates at the grave. There is no heaven;
there is no hell.
Others would propose
that eternity is some nebulous experience, indefinable and unexplainable,
often described as simply “a better place.” Even some
who claim to be Christians suggest that a loving God could not
send anyone to hell, therefore anyone and everyone ends up in
“heaven.” But this is not what the Bible tells us.
The writer of Hebrews states: “It is appointed for men to
die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
That judgment, as already stated, is simply the enactment of the
decision to accept or reject God’s gift of eternal life.
Beyond the grave, eternity waits — a heaven to anticipate
and a hell to avoid.
A failure to
understand the big picture
Since the legalization of Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS), which
actually became law in 1997 after a lengthy court battle, the
state of Oregon has kept records of those involved. Over the first
five years, 129 individuals chose PAS out of the 42,274 individuals
who died during that same period. Three primary factors were listed
as major considerations in their decision:
Each of these factors
is a significant consideration. However, these concerns are primarily
about “me” — my control, my enjoyment, my comfort
level. Is it wrong to be concerned about these things? No! It
is natural and we will probably all contemplate the same, if given
the opportunity. Some have chosen to sign a Directive to Physicians
giving family and attending medical professionals permission to
release them — at the defined moment — to what God
has ostensibly ordained. This is a very different proposition
from a person choosing to die, and determining the time and means
of his or her own departure. That decision is best left to Him
who, in His infinite wisdom and impeccable timing, brought us
into this world.
Our lives are not measured
by the things we have or by our ability to find pleasure. Believers
have been transformed into expressions of God’s treasury
and, thus, desire to bring Him pleasure. Who knows what God may
desire to do, either in us or through us, in the closing hours
of our lives? Who knows when God might choose to heal us and raise
us up as a testimony of His power and grace? We surely wouldn’t
want to close the door on that possibility.
If God chooses not
to raise us up in health, He will raise us up in glory. And in
those closing hours, though I am grateful for the ability of medical
personnel to control pain and ensure that the terminal person
is relatively comfortable, I also know that God’s “grace
is sufficient,” and in our weakest moments we can realize
His greatest strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). We must not be guilty
of judging what He is doing when we only hold a snapshot; it would
be better to trust Him who sees and has designed the big picture.
As Eve in Eden faced
the temptation to “be like God,” so the enemy has
entered the gardens of our lives and seduced us with the same
delusion. The bottom line: Some things are not ours to choose.
Maybe if we would focus more on living we would worry less about
Shelton is pastor of First Assembly of God in Albany, Ore.
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