I’ve been thinking and writing a bit on the topic of doctor assisted suicide or euthanasia in Canada lately. I’ve also been waiting for the inevitable evangelical reaction. Not the crazy reaction. that one came out months ago. Alarmists are almost always the first out of the gate. No, I’ve been waiting for the thoughtful, evangelical response. I think I’ve found it. I’m really disappointed by it.
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) along with other faith groups, both Christian and non, have spearheaded and launched the Declaration Against Euthanasia And Assisted Suicide. The declaration itself is fine, I suppose, if terribly uninspiring. Any allusion to God is watered down so that other faiths and religions can be included as well. At its core, that’s what got me thinking: being against assisted suicide on theological grounds is essentially a no-brainer, but when it comes to people who don’t use theology and scripture to define how they live, why do we try and convince them with the Bible?
Anyone who has an opinion on assisted suicide needs to read this story by John Hofsess from Toronto life. It’s a brutally honest and, truthfully, touching piece of writing and testimony from a man who, together with a group of dedicated volunteers, helped end the lives of eight individuals who wanted to die. I have to admit, if not for the authority of the Bible and its words in my life, I would likely be a full-throated supporter of assisted suicide. as it stands, I’m not. I can’t support it. However, I also don’t oppose it.
I may need to explain that.
Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s not sinful. Many sins are perfectly legal. Pride, covetousness, greed. These are all legal and horrible. Beyond just attitudes, even many acts that Christians see as sin are legal. Adultery is grounds for divorce, but it’s not a crime that you go to jail or pay a fine for. Abortion is also legal in far more cases than an orthodox Christian view would agree with. However, just because something is legal does not mean we, as believers, must participate in it. This is my point, nobody is making Christians seek out doctor assisted suicide, and until this changes, I can’t in good conscience oppose it.
If I’m going to oppose something, anything, it’s not going to be on purely Christian grounds. Not everyone, after all, is a Christian, and since we share this country and this planet with them, it’s ultimately in our best interests to let them live how they wish. Why do I take such a liberal, “laisser-faire” approach? Because modifying your behaviour is not how people get into the Kingdom, the Gospel is. Checking off a list of “do’s and don’ts” isn’t how people get saved, the Gospel is. It’s the Gospel, the good news that Jesus died on a cross and was raised to life as a substitute for the deaths we each deserve and our grateful acceptance of that fact, that saves. It’s not about us, it’s about Jesus.
Is doctor assisted suicide a tragic loss of life? Yes. Is it a sin? In most cases, I would say “Probably”. Is it a barrier to the Gospel? No. Emphatically and forcefully no. I could go into all of the reasons I believe this but that’s probably worth its own post. I believe, and I believe there’s a solid Biblical case to do so, that people who end their own lives are capable of being redeemed and experiencing God’s grace.Let us, like Jesus, oppose suicide so strongly, that it looks like we support it. Click To Tweet
So then, what ought Christians for whom this issue resonates with do? To answer that question, I suggest we look to Jesus Himself. In Luke 15:1-2 (and many other places) we see that Jesus spent so much time with “sinners”, who in this context are the people most despised by the religious elite, that He was accused of being one of them. Let me challenge those who so vehemently oppose assisted suicide to spend time with these people. To volunteer in the clinics, to offer care, and love, and compassion. To pray for and seek out the opportunity to share the Gospel with them in their last moments so that maybe, just MAYBE, some of them might be saved. Let our opposition not be to the political issue of dying with dignity or doctor assisted suicide, but the enemy of death itself; the enemy Jesus has already beaten. Let us, like Jesus, oppose suicide so strongly, let our voices cry out with such love and compassion for the dying, that it looks like we support it.