A Biblical View of Euthanasia

 

Preaching to Euthanasia: ‘It’s ok to suffer but not alone’

This morning I would like to preach to euthanasia. Euthanasia is known by different terms such as mercy killing, assisted suicide or voluntary assisted dying. The word euthanasia comes from 2 Greek words literally meaning “good death”. It is the act of assisting someone in his or her own death who is terminally ill, suffering, and in great pain.  The goal of the assisted dying is to prevent the continuation of pain.

Interesting in an article from ‘Psychology Today’ we read, ‘We are going to suffer.  It’s inevitable. It’s part of the human condition, and it’s just part of being alive. Sometimes bad things happen to us, and we suffer.’ [Robert Puff]

In Wayne Schwass’s speech at Danny Frawley’s funeral who was a well-known football identity who appears to have taken his own life, he said, “fellas, it’s OK to be in pain. It’s OK to hurt. It’s OK to be sad. It’s not OK to suffer in silence.”

We are talking about suffering at the end of life not suffering during life although it might be hard to make a satisfactory distinction.

It appears soon in WA voluntary assisted dying will be available to a person who is: 

1.     18 years of age or older

2.     Terminally ill with a condition that is causing intolerable suffering

3.     Likely to die within six months, or 12 months from neurodegenerative conditions

4.     An Australian citizen or permanent resident

5.     A WA resident for at least 12 months

 

How would it work? An eligible person would have to make three requests to die  two verbal and one written. Those requests would have to be signed off by two doctors who are independent of each other. A Voluntary Assisted Dying Board would ensure the law was being properly followed through each step of the process. And when the time comes to die a patient could administer the lethal drug themselves or choose a doctor or nurse to do it for them. Also new criminal offences would also be introduced to prevent patients from being coerced into making a decision.

 

A Roy Morgan pole has shown 87% of Australians believe people should have the right to choose to take their own lives. 88% of WA’s and 93% of those aged between 50-59. It is an emotional topic. How do we respond?

 

The anti-euthanasia placards read ‘humans are not dogs to be put down’ and ‘pain killers yes, patient killers no’. I don’t know that such campaigning is helpful. The pro-side placards read ‘I will not suffer for your belief’s’, ‘we are the 88%’ and ‘my life, my death’. This last placard gives us a good launching pad to begin our teaching on euthanasia, ‘my life, my death’.

1.      I Don’t Own My Life

My life is not my own. I can make choices about what I do with the body I have but it does not belong to me. Humanity belongs to God. Like renting a house from a landlord. For the renter there are limits to what they can do. As humans there are limits to what we can do.

We are made in the image of God both male and female [Gen 1:26]. The creation story speaks to the beauty of humanity after God breathed life into Adam and then Eve.  Neither were born of women but created by God from whom all humanity was birthed through pregnancy, even Jesus. At the end of the sixth day God saw what he had done and spoke it was very good. [Gen 1-2].

In Job we are told it is the Lord God who gives us life [Job 33:4] and who has numbered our days [Job 14:5]. This means that God is the sovereign Lord who determines the day that we die.  

  • Job 33:4The Spirit of God has made me;the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
  • Job 14:5 A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.

When Job being tormented is under great distress and in great pain, his wife says to him :

  • Job 2:9-10 ‘….“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
  • Basically, Job's wife wanted him to kill himself to avoid the pain of his life, but Job refused to do so and in this, he did not sin.

Again, I say our lives are not our own. The scripture just says it ‘you are not your own’ but bought with a price [1Cor 6:19-20]. The prophet Jeremiah understood this clearly when he prayed prior to the invasion of Babylon over Jerusalem, ‘I know people’s lives are not their own’ [Jer 10:23].

  • 1Cor 6:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.
  • 10:23 Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.

We believe that there is something special about human beings, we share something of the nature of God, we know the difference between good and evil, we have the ability to be creative, we have a capacity to love and seek justice, we have a soul.

  1. Life Is Always Precious

Life is precious to the end [not wanting to minimise the position people find themselves in]. Life is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age. 

’Life is no less beautiful’.  Indeed, at these times, human life gains extra splendour as it requires our special care, concern and reverence. It is in and through the weakest of human vessels that the Lord continues to reveal the power of His love." -- Terence Cardinal Cooke, October 9, 1983

Telemachus:

“Stop! In the name of Christ, stop!” Eighty thousand people watched as a man jumped over the railing, ran onto the field, held up his hands, and shouted, “Stop! In the name of Christ, stop!” He ran in between two combatants, two gladiators who were fighting to the death, and he begged them to stop. Who was this man? His name was Telemachus.

Telemachus was a monk who lived in a cloistered monastery somewhere in Eastern Europe in the late 4th century. He felt God say to him, “Go to Rome. ”And so he put his possessions in a bag and set off for Rome.

When he arrived in the city on January 1, 404, people were thronging in the streets. He asked what all the excitement was about, and was told that this was the day that the gladiators would be fighting to the death in the Roman Coliseum. He thought to himself, “Four centuries after Christ and they are still killing each other, for enjoyment?”

He ran to the Coliseum, and as he arrived, he heard the gladiators say, “Hail to Caesar! We die for Caesar!” He thought, “This isn’t right.” That’s when he jumped over the railing and went out into the middle of the field, got between two gladiators, held up his hands, and shouted, “Stop! In the name of Christ, stop!”

How did the crowd respond? The crowd protested and began to shout, “Run him through! Run him through!” A gladiator came over and hit Telemachus in the stomach with the back of his sword. It sent him sprawling in the sand. Telemachus got up and stood between the gladiators again, and shouted, “Stop! In the name of Christ, stop!”

But the crowd chanted louder and louder, ‘Run him through! Run him through! Run him through!” One gladiator came over and thrust his sword through the little monk’s stomach and he fell into the sand, which began to turn crimson with his blood. One last time he gasped out, “Stop! In the name of Christ, stop!” A hush came over the 80,000 people in the Coliseum.

Then, one man stood up and left. Then another. And another. And within minutes all 80,000 people walked out of the Coliseum. It was the last known gladiatorial contest in the Roman Empire. Three days later, the Roman Emperor Honorius declared Telemachus a martyr, and officially ended all gladiatorial contests.

God’s Word is clear that we have no authority for taking life. In conversation with Noah God tells us that human beings are unique amongst his creatures in being made in his image and it is on this basis that God introduces to all humankind an OT death penalty for murder [Genesis 9:5-6].

  • Gen 9:5-6 …….. I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. 6 “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed;
    for in the image of God has God made mankind.

The law against killing legally innocent people is later formalised in the sixth commandment, ‘You shall not murder’ (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17). 

In scripture there is no teaching on compassionate killing or right to die. Our lives are not our own. Life is precious to the end until God determines our last breath.

  1. Jesus is my Example

It is argued that there are only two options when suffering,  ‘living in hell’ or ‘choosing to die’ both of which are imperfect and unloving solutions says Dr. Peter Saunders CEO Christian Medical Fellowship UK.

But there is a third way - the way of the cross. Which is loving [John 3:16]

The underlying argument for assisted dying is that people do not want to suffer in an undignified way. When we examine Jesus’ death we read that even before any physical pain began he was already suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane in agony sweating droplets of blood. [Luke 22:44].

Jesus did not want to suffer. He asked the Father to take the cup from him [Luke 22:42] but finished by saying ‘not my will but yours be done’ [Luke 22:42].’ HE WAS SRENGHTENED In PRAYER’ [Luke 22:43]. ‘An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.’

After being arrested he was brutally beaten, manhandled and mocked [Luke 22:63-65] and then crucified [Luke 23:26f].

The good news is that in Christ we are never left unendingly in our suffering. Through his suffering and sacrifice we have hope. A new life with Christ Jesus. What can we conclude?

Amanda James concludes I have arrived at my stance on the matter [Euthanasia]. If it was good enough for Jesus it will be good enough for me. God almighty will be the one to determines the number of breaths that fill my lungs and when my last one comes. I have my answer Jesus is my example’ [Communion Talk – Rockingham Baptist Church 22/9/19]

Death is not the end. God’s redemption plan through Christ’s death and resurrection for our sins [Romans 6:23, Acts 2:38] means that through the eyes of faith we can look forward to a new life after death with God where there is ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ [Revelation 21:4].  Heb 9: 27-28 concludes:

Heb 9:27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Conclusion

Let me finish with Psalm 24: 1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,the world, and all who live in it;

God owns everything and all who live in it. On the surface the argument for euthanasia seems compassionate and just and right but as we dig a little deeper and understand who we are in Jesus it is not hard to see with heavens eyes how it distorts the truth of God’s words.

  1. I don’t own my own life: I belong to God.
  2. Life is precious to the end:
  3. Jesus is my example: If it was good enough for Jesus it is good enough for me.

Let’s not get offended by the placard ‘I will not suffer for your beliefs’, which is a human response to a divine revelation. As the euthanasia becomes law let us be all the more encouraged to love others speaking the truth in love. Let us not become conceited and judgemental but walk in amazing grace, grace, grace.

Wayne Schwass said, “fellas it is ok to suffer, but not to suffer in silence [alone]’.

  • 1949 Cicely Saunders originally an agnostic while on holiday in Cornwall with some Christian friends discovered she really believed in God. It was, she said, "as if a switch had flipped."
  • By 1967 Cicely Saunders founded the first modern hospice and, more than anybody else, was responsible for establishing the discipline and the culture of palliative care. She introduced effective pain management and insisted that dying people needed dignity, compassion, and respect. She abolished the prevailing ethic that patients should be cured, that those who could not be cured were a sign of failure.

‘It’s ok to suffer but not alone’ are wise words but wiser still, ‘If it was good enough for Jesus it will be good enough for me. God almighty will be the one to determines the number of breaths that fill my lungs and when my last one comes. I have my answer Jesus is my example’