On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Physician Assisted Death to mentally competent but suffering and "irremediable" patients, giving Parliament one year to enact legislation to conform to its ruling. An event like this necessitates that we reflect on our role as Christians and the Church within culture.
Christians and the Church have a unique responsibility and right to engage with culture in a two-fold way: to critique culture and to offer a different way forward. The first important way that the Church engages culture is by critiquing it. While the temptation in critiquing society, government, or individuals is to focus on the negative we ought to first affirm those things which are positive (and every issue no matter how distressing has something which can be affirmed). There is also the responsibility to speak out against those things which are not so positive within society: speaking out against injustice and standing up for the voiceless. As we speak into culture, engaging society and individuals in a meaningful conversation we must offer a new and different way forward. It is one thing to simply discuss the issues but quite another to offer a different worldview to frame discussion and action.
As we speak into culture, engaging society and individuals in a meaningful conversation we must offer a new and different way forward.
That is where we as Christians and the Church have a different worldview to present: one based on life. We talk a lot about life, primarily eternal life with our God which is our hope, longing, and destiny. Too often this discussion of life is disconnected from our everyday experience of life. In John 10:10 Jesus says that He came “that they may have life and have it abundantly.” We are quick (rightfully so) to apply this to eternal life with Jesus but the promise of life abundant is for the here and now as well. Jesus came not just for a future life but for a rich, full, joyful life presently, one marked with hope for the future. And so it is good and important that we affirm and speak life. That is why we are here!
Interestingly enough, both sides on the issue of Physician-Assisted Death appeal to the notion that life is precious. One side of the argument says, “Life is precious and so it should be valued to its natural end” while the other side argues, “life is too precious to endure pain/suffering.” While the issue clearly is about life, it is also about suffering.
No one likes or wants to suffer. In fact, we often search out quick fixes to end any kind of suffering even if it is just a minor annoyance. As much as we try to avoid or get rid of suffering, it is still present. We are never told that we will have a life free of suffering. It is our cultural opinion that we have the privilege not to suffer. When we look to Scripture, we are reminded of the root of suffering: sin entering into the world as a result of humanity’s disobedience to God. Pain, brokenness, heart-ache, and death enter the world which becomes a place in need of hope.
Many ask the question, ‘how can a good God allow suffering?’ There is no easy answer to that question, and no suitable answer if you or a loved one is suffering from a debilitating disease or is in chronic pain. The only solution that I have to suffering is Jesus. In Jesus, our God entered the world to endure pain and suffering. He died a gruesome and painful death. In His life, Jesus entered into humanity’s suffering and pain and by His death offers hope. Jesus enters into our suffering, giving us strength and encouragement. He calls us closer to our God who knows us, made us, and suffers with us.
And so, what can we as Christians and the Church do as we stand for the sacredness of life, including life in the midst of suffering? We are to offer a different way forward:
1. Pray. Pray for God’s Kingdom to come powerfully bringing healing to sick, wholeness to the broken, and restoration to the outcast. Pray for God’s Kingdom to come and His will be done as earth as in heaven.
2. Advocate for life. Write politicians, your MP and MLA; the Premier and the Prime Minister. Encourage others to do so as well to stand up for the value of life even when there is minimal perceived value.
3. Get involved. It is one thing to speak against Physician-Assisted Death but another to put the words into action. The suffering need love, they need the hope that only Jesus can offer. Speak life into the suffering, hurting, pained, and broken. Support palliative care efforts which give dignity in the midst of suffering and death.
Photo Attribution: Andrea Mantegna [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In just a few short weeks my family will be taking a couple weeks of holidays going to beautiful British Columbia. I am really looking forward to this time of seeing family and friends and just being about to have some time away. It is not that I don't like to work in fact, I love what I do and the people I get to spend time with. It is just that as much as we have been programmed to work, we've also been programmed to rest (see Genesis 1-2). Some times, the resting part comes easy like looking ahead to vacation time or counting down the days until retirement.
But more often than not, working is what comes more readily to us. We like the idea of rest but we feel compelled to work. I don't think it is uncommon for many of us to work 50-60 hours a week without even knowing it (I am guilty of this on occasion). The mentality of society says that we have to keep going, keep keeping up with everyone else around us and the only way to do that is by spending more time working. I would argue that we are being conditioned to work 24/7 especially now that we can carry our work in our pockets wherever we go (who's not guilty of checking a work email just before you crawl into bed?).
Unfortunately, this working mentality has made its way into the church. The most obvious way it presents itself is in the amount of time we have to give to Jesus. Where we once were able to give a couple nights a week to church activities, we are now find it hard to give an hour (and only an hour!) to the Lord on Sunday mornings. The bigger issue might be the mentality of working that has crept into our churches. We have bought into the notion that we always have to be doing something--there's always more work to be done (and in some ways, this is true). But this expresses itself in the push for new programs, new ways of doing the service, always doing something to try to attract more people.
This push to keep doing is leading us all to fatigue. The few that are very active in the church are stretched to capacity while those who are not very active think they can't possible measure up. We have fallen into the trap of a works based religion. We tell ourselves (usually subconsciously) that if we aren't actively sharing/talking about Jesus every minute of every day then we are failing; if we aren't doing all that we can to build/save the church then we are not worthy followers of Jesus
We have fallen into the trap of a works based religion.
But the good news is that is not what the church is supposed to be about! Sure, in Matthew 28 Jesus tells his disciples to Go and make disciples... we always focus on the verbs in that verse which make it sound like the mission is up to us. When we make that our focus we forget that Jesus declared that he has all authority in heaven and on earth and that he will be with us always (in the person of the Holy Spirit pointing us to Christ). It is not up to us to convert the world or to fill the church. It is the Holy Spirit's job to call the world to Christ using His hands and feet- the body of Christ, the church. The assurance is in the power authority of Jesus as expressed in the Spirit who sustains the church and keeps it focused on Jesus Christ.
Instead of striving and working to try to 'save the church' simply listen (which requires we put the work aside for a time). Listen for the voice of God through the Holy Spirit and be ready to move where He leads.
Image: Public Domain: CC0 http://pixabay.com/en/man-person-business-businessman-319286/
As I was doing my devotions out of the book of 1 Kings (yes, people actually read that book) this morning I came upon the passage where Solomon dedicates the temple he built to the Lord. The Lord replies with a promise of blessing and a warning (as good Lutherans know He is want to do). He promises to establish Solomon's line forever if Solomon walks with integrity before the Lord. But then comes the part that I tripped over. I'll quote it here in its entirety:
But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to
serve other gods and worship them, then I will...reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples....though this temple is now imposing, all who pass by will be
appalled and will scoff and say, 'Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple? People will
answer, 'Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, and have embraced other
gods, worshiping and service them--- that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them. 1 Kings 9:6-9 [bold mine].
Wow. Harsh words, especially in a society where we don't like to think about God's judgment. You might be saying, that's all well and good, but what has this to do with me? God laid on my heart that we, as the North American church are part of that imposing temple. We have build for ourselves a comfortable and grand institution. When you stop to think about it you see just how imposing it has been. Simply look at the church's revenue (not pointing the finger at just one church group) or the sway its held within government or the social conscience it has been. These are all well and good but do they miss the point?
As the church continues in what appears to be a never ending free-fall, becoming ridiculed by all peoples, what is the Lord trying to say to us? Is He bringing ruin upon the imposing institution of the church (note the word institution, we have the sure promise of Jesus that the Spirit will keep and sustain the church, overcoming all in Matthew 16:18)? Is He calling us to turn from the things that distract us and return to Him with integrity and uprightness? YES!
God does not delight in judgment but He uses it as a means of last resort to call His people to repentance (read the entire Old Testament and see what I mean!). May we see how our imposing temple distract from the Goodnews of the Kingdom and return to the Lord with our whole heart, delighting in His mercy, receiving His grace, and being strengthened by the Holy Spirit to persevere in truth and holiness as we proclaim the abundant life that is ours in Christ Jesus!
Pastor J-M shares some occasional thoughts and musings on our life together as followers of Christ. The views are his own.