Taking the Plunge
Ok, I'm taking the plunge. After my initial comments about Terri Schiavo yesterday, I want to follow up with some reflection.
First, here's James Kushiner's very brief summary of what's wrong with this picture. I'd like to state up front that I think his criticisms are valid (assuming he's got his facts straight...I haven't checked them).
To be clear, I think there's plenty of wrong in this whole situation - not just with what Terri's husband is doing, but also with the media, the politicians (on both sides), and unfortunately, with the way many evangelicals are responding. There, have I managed to offend everyone all in fell swoop?
I confess that I'm a little frustrated that most of the conversations I've heard about this topic have reduced it to an ethical debate, where everyone is shouting "I'm right, you're wrong!" and pointing fingers. I think this causes two distinct problems:
- 1) some people begin to equate their "rightness" with their "righteousness" (my being right makes me better than those of you who are wrong)
- 2) others begin to conclude that there really is nothing "wrong" (so stop judging me you hypocritical religious zealot!)
You see, I think the gospel skewers both of those positions. The gospel says there really is such a thing as right and a wrong, but then it goes on to point the finger at all of us - we are all on God's wrong side. Creation is fallen, and the effects of that cataclysmic event permeate every square inch of creation. This is why we have tsumanis, serial killers, pedophiles, perjurers, kids going postal...you name it, we've got it. Our sin runs the gamut, it covers a broad spectrum, and Michael Schiavo is just somewhere there in the mix, probably a lot closer to the rest of us than we'd really care to admit.
Now that last statement may raise some hackles, but it's really true. If I am honest and look at what goes on deep within my own heart, I'll bet that I share many of the same frustrations, hurts, desires, lusts, and cravings that Michael is experiencing. And my wife is still alive and kicking - she is beautiful, she loves me, she puts up with me when I am cranky, she is quick to forgive, slow to anger.
She is a godly woman, and most of the time I am actually smart enough to recognize that. But there have been moments within the past week where I have despised her, loathed her, thought, "I would just love to walk away from you forever." (If anyone is still reading at this point, you are probably thinking something like, "Good grief, this man hopes to be a pastor? Lord have mercy...")
But listen! That really is what is in my heart at times - and I have a sneaky suspicion many of you have felt the same way. My problem is not Marilyn; my problem is me.
The same thing is true for Michael Schiavo: his problem is not that is wife is in this vegetative state (although that is certainly bringing his problem to the fore) - his problem is that he is rebelling against the situation in which God has placed him. He is saying, "You screwed up, this is more than I can (or should) have to bear...I'm getting out!"
But the rest of us do precisely the same thing in our hearts all the time!
Now granted, most of us don't pull our wife off life support (more many of us, our wives are OUR life support) - but I suspect that more than a few of us would be sorely tempted if we were in Michael's shoes. And what does Mark 9 have to say about the heart?
So what does it look like to shine the gospel of God's truth on this situation? I think we must continue to agree with God's word: "sin is sin, wrong is wrong." However, we must immediately follow by confessing that "I am right there with you in heart, if not in deed." We must perceive ourselves as sinners in desperate need of God's redeeming grace in our lives, and we must constantly speak in such a way that those around us hear that recognition - not as a theoretical theological platitude, but as the bedrock of our beliefs.
We must be quick to repent of our own sin, and just as quick to identity with others as they feel the weight of theirs.
Michael Schiavo probably doesn't need any more people telling him how wrong he is - God's witness in word and creation have made that abundantly clear already. Most people know they are in the wrong. What people like Michael need most is compassionate friends who are willing to help them bear their burdens, to identity with them in their weakness, to call them to repent when they stumble, and to continually offer the hope of forgiveness when they screw up.
That's really the heart of the gospel - Jesus came not to save the righteous, but sinners. Are you "bad enough" to be eligible for the gospel?