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
I'll share some reflections on the past week which my family and I spent at Camp Simmie. It was a refreshing week for me: the people there are awesome, the kids had a blast, the worship was Spirit-filled, and the speakers were out of this world (I may be a little biased). During the morning study session, I led us in thinking about the hope that we have as God's people. It is a pretty basic concept but it is one that we need to return to constantly.
All we have to do is look around us at the world in which we are living to get discouraged. It could be the pile of bills waiting to be opened and paid, a sickness of a family member that is causing them pain and discomfort, or just the everyday grind of life. We were reminded this week that these things were not in God's original design (they are a result of humanity's continued rejection of God's working in us) and that they will continue until Jesus comes again to make God's dwelling place with humanity. But we were also reminded that there is hope in the midst of disconcerting times. In fact, God alone is the only source of lasting hope that we can have! The next few posts will draw out the idea of our hope being rooted fully in God.
Our hope is in God the Father's Faithfulness. When you are reading Scripture, one of the most prominent themes is that of God's action on behalf of His people. The Bible is a story of God's faithful work in His people.
The Bible is a story of God's faithful work in His people
Go ahead and read it! Time and time again, you'll see stories of God's promise and action on behalf of the people He created and loves. Turn to Genesis 21:1 and you'll see God fulfilling the promise He gave to Abraham and Sarah that they'd have a son in their old age.
Turn to Genesis 45:4-8 and you'll hear of God's plan for feeding His people in the midst of famine, through the 'disposal' of the despised brother Joseph.
The whole book of Exodus is one story after another of God's action in bringing His people out from under the oppression of slavery in Egypt. (Especially Exodus 15 where the story is retold in song).
There are countless other examples that'd I'd encourage you to take note of because we have a God of promises and covenant!
The point of having a collection of such stories is that we need to be reminded of God's faithfulness, His constant action on behalf of His people, His unending love for us in the good times and especially in the bad. We are quick to forget and quick to complain. God's Word constantly calls us back to trust in God's all-sufficient action in our lives.
I'd encourage you to read Psalm 136, which is a retelling of the work of God for His people. After reading it, perhaps you'd find it helpful to write your own Psalm with the refrain, "His love endures forever." Fill in the blanks with your story of remembering God's actions toward you. Here is a template for you to print off, fill out, and keep in a prominent place to remind you of God's faithful work in your life.
Image: Public Domain, http://pixabay.com/en/rainbow-nature-horizon-colors-110953/
A Simple Truth
It is good to be reminded of the simple truths in life. Often these reminders come from unexpected places like around the dinner table this afternoon. Here's a snapshot of our conversation:
A (daughter): Do you love J (son)?
Me: Yes, of course!
A: Why do you love him?
Me: Because we just do.
A: But why?
Me: We just do, he's part of our family.
A: But why? Because God made him?
Me: [taken aback]: Yeah, that's right.
A simple conversation with an important reminder. Just as we love one another in our families because God created us and brought us together as a family, so too the church is to love each other and the world. In fact, that is the ultimate purpose for us as individuals and the church. To love because God first loved us and to see each person as a uniquely created individual made in the image of God.
What would the world look like if instead of labeling people according to race, or gender, or sexuality (which is the latest trendy label for people), we saw everyone as equal—all brothers and sisters in Christ who offers himself to those who trust in Him, all made in the image of God who breathed life into us, all sinners in need of God's redeeming?
How would our communities change if instead of looking down on that guy on the street who reeks of smoke and booze or the single mom who moved into town and is struggling to get by we were to see them as a brother or sister who God desperately wants to be in relationship with and wants to breathe new life into their spirits?
How would our lives change if instead of holding a grudge against that woman who did something to us a long time ago (and we can't even remember what that something was) we would love her as a fellow created human who has the imprint of God on her and freely offer her forgiveness.
Who is that person in your life that you need to love, not because of what they've done to earn your love but because of who they are — a child of God, created by Him, and loved by Him? Maybe it's your spouse, your sister, your child, your friend, or maybe it's you.
The simple reminder today is that God loves you because you are His creation. Show that love to the world around you today!
I've been taken with the idea of generosity recently; it seems to be popping up all around me (there's a lot that could be said but here is a small snapshot of my thoughts). Specifically, what does it mean to be a generous person? There are many possible ways to define generosity. Everyone would agree that helping a friend out in time of need is generous or volunteering at the local animal shelter or even donating money to Tele-Miracle to help sick kids. All of those are important and worthwhile ventures to be involved in. But I've been stuck on the question of why we are motivated to give to these ventures.
At a basic level, I think we act generously to others because that is how we ourselves would hope to be treated when the time comes that we need the assistance of others. There is a certain sense of helping with the thought of what we might get in return; whether we are totally conscious of this or not. Deeply connected to this symbiotic relationship is the feeling we get when we help others— a self-fulfilling satisfaction. We may not always admit it but it feels good to help out someone else. We are proud of what we have done.
All of this raises the question of how we are supposed to act as followers of Christ. Do we give generously of our time, money, and resources when it is convenient for us? When we can get something in return? When it is done out of pity or with self-righteousness? NO! We are called to give generously in a selfless manner for no other reason than the love of Christ which dwells in us. Our generosity is to be modeled after God's generosity who continually offers a fresh start through repentance, who showers undeserved blessings upon us, and who gave of Himself sacrificially on the cross for the sake of the whole world. A dear Scripture verse bears this truth: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16)
God gave sacrificially for everyone knowing that His gift would be rejected and mocked by some but received by others. He gave not with mind to what He will get in return but out of self-giving love for us who He made in His image. It is His love that characterizes this gift. It is my prayer that we may be challenged to a selfless generosity spurred by God's self-giving love as we see those around us as fellow image-bearers of God and show them love as God Himself loves all.
Pastor J-M shares some occasional thoughts and musings on our life together as followers of Christ. The views are his own.