Entries tagged with “Jesus”.


The topic of assisted suicide and euthanasia is currently under fierce discussion in courts and newspapers across the country. The proposition is that the option of suicide in the face of uncontrollable suffering (whether physical, mental, or emotional) should be a fundamental right of all Canadians, and should be included in conscientious palliative care. Related is the idea of euthanasia, which is when the decision to bring about intentional death is made by a third party because the person believed to be suffering is unable to communicate a decision.

On the surface, this all sounds very compassionate. But couched in this compassionate-sounding language is a very harsh belief: that some lives are more worth prolonging than others, and that some people should choose to die.

So writes L. Block in a recent article for The Canadian Lutheran. I have read no more careful and compassionate article on this topic, and recommend it to your reading—especially in light of the fact that Quebec recently legalized euthanasia. Rather than write lots about Block’s article here, I’m just going to quote it at length.

Although presented as a choice, this “right to die” has the potential to become a “duty to die,” which would affect the most vulnerable people in our society. People who don’t want to die may choose suicide rather than become a burden to their families, or may be convinced to choose suicide for someone else’s perceived good, opening the door to widespread elder abuse.

And how would such a change affect our existing palliative care system? It isn’t hard to see that helping people end their lives is much less expensive than offering high quality palliative care for an extended period of time. There is also a very real possibility that the “right to die” could be extended beyond those with terminal illnesses to include people with disabilities, or even mental illness. In Belgium, where the option of assisted suicide exists for those deemed to be suffering psychological anguish, this has already happened. What kind of a message will that send? “Your life is hard, because you can’t see/hear/think/move like other people. You can die if you want to.”

hands-of-mercy-candleHow does that impart hope to those despairing in the grip of depression, or offer encouragement to those striving to succeed despite physical or mental handicap? And how would it affect the kind of resources available? It is clearly much less expensive to usher someone out of life quietly than find a high quality group home for them. Or pay for the wheel-chair-friendly renovations on their house now that they have a spinal cord injury. And what about those who are completely dependent on others for all their care, or who can’t communicate a desire to live?

If our attitude as a society shifts to embrace the notion that some people are worth less than other people, our willingness to care for them will shift as well. Expressed in offhand comments, facial expressions, or tone of voice, this negative perception would do untold damage to our most vulnerable.

And the Christian response:

All of this runs entirely counter to Christ’s model for the Church. Jesus Christ also preached compassion. He offered relief of suffering to the lepers, not by ending their lives, but by loving them. He reached out with physical and spiritual healing for the disabled. He opened His arms to the children, all the children, including the child afflicted by an evil spirit. Given for “the least of these,” this is real compassion. This is His model for us, too. We are not to be seduced by the idea of this world, that young people with perfect bodies and minds are somehow better and more deserving of life than those who are old, or ill, or dying, or disabled. We must speak up for those who cannot….

Euthanasia must not be used as a balm to ease the suffering of those who are witnessing the death, or the disability, or the pain. We cannot use it to ease our own consciences, to say, “We did the right thing.” No, as is often the case, the right thing is definitely not the easy thing. We cannot show compassion by being the hands of death; we must instead be the hands of Christ.

Go read it all at The Canadian Lutheran.


chi-rho-web“In the beginning was the Word,” we read, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

We know the verse, but too often we read it too quickly. Too often, I say, because this is a weighty sentence, a sentence requiring more than a moment’s pause. The Word was God. God was the Word. And that Word, we continue to read, “became flesh” (John 1:14).

But exactly what kind of word is this Word?

An answer comes in Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush. Moses asks, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13).

God responds with this Great Word, the simple and unfathomable declaration: “I Am.”

“I Am,” God says. “I Am That I Am” (Exodus 3:14).

He is also the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of the Israelites’ fathers, as the passage explain. But this is God defining Himself in relation to His creation—explaining Himself so that Moses can understand his own relationship to Him. But on His own, He is simply “I Am.” He is. He exists. He will always be.

This God, this I Am, is He who exists independently of all other things. God is not a contingent being, to borrow St. Anselm’s phraseology; He is a necessary being. That is to say, He does not rely on anything else in order to continue existing. God simply is. He is before the world was created. He is when the world will be destroyed.

God simply is. He is before the world was created. He is when the world will be destroyed.

What is more, without Him, nothing else could exist. His own existence is what makes possible the existence of other things. “For in Him we live and move and have our being,” Paul quotes the Greek poets (Acts 17:28; cf. 17:24). God is He who holds the whole of creation together.

And it is this great, uncreated, all-sustaining I Am who is the Word of John’s Gospel—“The Word who became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Yes, the infant boy born to Mary is the same God “through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3).

The Word becomes flesh. The necessary God becomes contingent human, marrying forever human nature and divinity in his Person. Intangible deity becomes tangible man.

In Christ, the unknowable “I am” comes close and speaks to us. “I am the Bread of Life,” the Word says. “I am the Light of the World. I am the Gate. I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Resurrection and the Life. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I am the Vine.” In the seven “I Am” statements of John’s Gospel, Jesus declares to us who He is in terms that reveal our relationship to Him.

Yes, He is the great I Am, God of all, immortal, incomprehensible. But He wants us to understand—just as the great I Am wanted Moses to understand—that He is a God who exists in relationship with His creation. In Christ, we see the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). He is not a mystery—a question without an answer. He is the Word of God made manifest to us. In Christ, the immortal comes down and pitches His tent among us. He in whom we find our life chooses to live with us—and die for us—so that we might at last live with Him.


Today is December 22, and if you’re reading this, the world hasn’t ended. So it looks like the Mayan doomsday believers were wrong—just like all the other end-of-the-world predictions thus far. In my column for the November/December issue of The Canadian Lutheran, I take on the connection between doomsday predictions and the season of Advent (which we’re still in for a few more days). A segment follows below:

cls2706But Christians are not the only ones in a season of “waiting” this December. A small number of conspiracy theorists have been predicting December 21st as the end of the world. The idea arises out of some Mayan records which cite that date as the end of an era—the ending of one cycle of creation and the beginning of the next. While Mayan scholars dismiss doomsday interpretations of these records, believers think the Mayans knew something we don’t— that some great catastrophe is coming and that humankind’s time is drawing to an end. Consequently, this has been a year of great darkness for doomsday believers. They have been living under the shadow of death, a shadow growing ever blacker and grimmer as December 21st approaches.

How different from the Christian’s hope! We too dwell under the dark shadow of death, but it is a shadow we know is defeated. We await reunion with our Lord Jesus; doomsday theorists see only the approach of death. At the first Christmas, God Himself entered into our world. In Him was Light, a Light that was the Light of all mankind; and that Light broke into the darkness (John 1:4-5). Yes, on the people dwelling in darkness a great Light dawned—and it forced the shadow of death to retreat (Matthew 4:16).

Check out the full article entitled “Joy comes with the morning” over at CanadianLutheran.ca.