After last year’s Supreme Court ruling, Canada is set to draft and implement new legislation legalizing euthanasia in Canada. This post isn’t to debate the morality or the merit of death with dignity/Doctor assisted suicide. My goal is, rather, to describe how we as church leaders, and members ought to respond to our new shared reality.
Suicide has been on Canada’s legal radar since 1972 when it was taken out of the Criminal Code and no longer considered a criminal offence. A doctor assisting someone, on the other hand, was an offence until the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the ban prohibiting doctors from assisting: “competent adults who are suffering intolerably as a result of a grievous and irremediable medical condition” who are seeking to end their lives. This is where we are today. The Supreme Court gave the Harper Government 12 months to draft new legislation to address the current law being struck down. After the Liberals won the October election, they asked for and were granted a 4 month extension. The new law must be in place by June. If you’re interested, CTV has a great timeline available on their website with more key-dates on the issue.
Christian reaction has varied from apathy to activist. Some are drawing straight lines from doctor assisted suicide to abortion; saying that they are one and the same issue or at least fruit from the same tree. Others aren’t thinking much about it and are adopting a “Do what you think is right for you.” attitude. As usual, I find myself somewhere in the middle. Certainly I have concerns about how far the legislation will go and who and what conditions will qualify for assisted suicide, but at this point in the national dialogue, I’m more concerned with how the church reacts to this new reality. It is what it is, now what do we do with it?
Recently, a couple members of my family have passed away. One of them, I learned later, had requested and been rejected on her assisted suicide application in Québec. This is an issue that has become personal for me to a degree. This is an issue that is very personal for a variety of different reasons. It’s important that when we talk about this, we exercise grace, gentleness and respect. Even the staunchest supporter of the right to die doesn’t view the decision flippantly but rather recognizes the enormity of it. When we discuss this issue from a Christian perspective, it is critical to remember that while, yes, suicide is a sin, it’s not unforgivable. Suicide is always a tragedy; whether as the result of depression, cancer, or a bus. When someone chooses to take their own life however, there’s no winner, and everyone’s a victim. As believers, our role in this is not to condemn but to counsel.
Christians ought to be on the front lines of care here. Those of us whom God has wired as care-givers ought to be praying for and taking care of people in their final days. Sharing the gospel with those who need it, and offering assurance to those who have it. After all, at the end of the day what matters is not our “light and momentary afflictions” as the apostle Paul describes our life and struggles, but rather the love, care, compassion, and most importantly witness to the Gospel of the believers who surround a dying person. Death is horrible, suicide is horrible; neither should exist. The call of the Christian is compassion though, not condemnation.After all, at the end of the day what matters is love, care, compassion, and most importantly… Click To Tweet
So let’s become the care givers and gospel speakers. Because so long as someone draws breath, there’s a chance they’ll use it to repent and worship Christ.