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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Mailbag

Steve at Ragamuffin Ramblings recently left a comment on my post about Joni Eraeckson Tada and Watching Our Words.

Since I doubt many people view comments on old posts, I am posting a portion of his comment now, but please take the time to read all of his thoughtful comments here.

I was glad to see you post Joni's statement. She certainly has solid ground upon which to stake her claims, and I appreciate her position. But it also made me think about a later post of yours.

In your April 16th post, your answer to whatever-is-going-on with the high-school girls was "Because God loves you!" I'll admit that I struggle with that as an answer for the questions of theodicy in daily life, though I won't challenge it in this setting.

But I'm curious how you might see that answer affecting this particular topic.
What happens when an injury or illness destroys a person's ability to feed themselves, to care for themselves in any way, or to communicate, to share God's love with anyone else? If it's "because God loves them," then who are we to separate them from God's love by artificially extending their life? ...

If death is the logical termination of the domination of this world, and entry into unity with Christ in the world to come, then why do we fight it so? ...

I'm just suggesting that this topic is much, much closer to gray-scale-gradient than it is to black-and-white. And I am also suggesting that the decision to let a loved one "go home to God" is frequently not murder, but surrender to God's will at the end of a life (whether at 85, or at 25).
Steve, I particularly appreciate your closing remark that I've posted here, that we Christians have a tendency to make issues seem a lot more black-and-wise than they are. I might add that we presume to know exactly what God's will is while actually parading our own opinions, without thoughtfully considering alternative positions. In the end, that makes our argument all that much weaker.

In response to your questions about juxtaposing my two recent posts, I actually think they fit together very nicely, and I continue to cling to the belief that God's love is what gives us hope, no matter our situation.

You made two comments that I found interesting:

“If it's ‘because God loves them,’ then who are we to separate them from God's love by artificially extending their life?”

and, “If death is the logical termination of the domination of this world, and entry into unity with Christ in the world to come, then why do we fight it so?”

In response to both of those, I kind of question your presuppositions. How is keeping someone alive separating him or her from God’s love? While we usually focus on the “death” in Rom 8:38, Paul also says that “life” will not separate us from the love of God. Also, our union with Christ is the dynamic of our lives in THIS world. Death is not the logical termination of the dominion of this world; Christ’s death and – especially – his resurrection are. That means that Christians presently live in a world that is no longer dominated by sin; the dominion of sin is a defeated and retreating foe. It is true in the sense that we groan, along with the rest of creation, to be set free from the bondage to decay. Yet, in a very real sense, we are living Christ right now – the fact that we have been died with Christ and are resurrected with him, means that for us, “to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21, Eph 2:5).

I guess what I meant by because God loves you was a sort of doble entendre – first, we have to hold on to the fact that God loves us above all. Secondly, however, and I think this is where Joni would come in (if you haven’t read her excellent book When God Weeps, I highly recommend it), we experience God’s love precisely within our suffering. In God’s wisdom, he designed us to come to know him in this way.

Also, you bring up an extremely delicate issue when it comes to artificially preserving someone’s life … which basically means that we choose when it will end. I first encountered that kind of ethical discussion when a neighbor hesitated to put her dog to sleep for that very reason, but she realized that he was suffering immensely more than he would have if they hadn’t been keeping him alive by various other medications for several months. Still, if it’s a hard choice with a dog (I LOVE dogs, so this is truly a hard choice for me), how much more with humans who are made in the image of God!

What I continue hold onto is the fact that someone who is severely disabled and suffering is still not separated from the love of God in Christ. Even if they can’t express anything or understand what we say, I believe that God is wise and powerful enough to communicate to them. So yes, if I were to watch my mom or dad have a stroke and be essentially incapacitated for the rest of their lives, or spend the last 15 years of their lives with Alzheimer’s, when it comes down to it, I would still affirm that, yes, it happened to both them and me because God loves us too dearly to not prescribe this specific circumstance for our lives. Would it suck? Yes, but I would also know that God loves us too much to let us go through life without experiencing his love in this way.

I admit that this doesn’t bring any clarity to the issues that we face with someone on artificial life support, and I don’t think I’ve thought about the topic enough to weigh in on it to the extent that you may have been hoping. However, to have this sort of foundation provides us with a framework out of which to make these decisions, and it also provides us with comfort in the midst of an extremely painful circumstance.

Steve, I also appreciate your statement that you’re not looking for an argument. I hope you don’t feel like I am either. I just thought your comment provided interesting fodder for a bit more discussion, so thanks for the opportunity to interact with you!


2 Comments:

At 11:03 PM, April 17, 2005, Anonymous Oreamnos said...

God does love us!

But do we love God?

Do we love Him with all of our heart?

With all of our mind?

With all of our strength?

And do we love our neighbor as ourself?

I cannot in honesty say I do this completely.

If I cannot do this, How can I understand God's complete and perfect love for us?

I cannot.

But I can hold fast to the promise that He does, and that all things work for the GOOD.

It is easy to write these words, and it is really hard to do them, but it is to His Glory, so I try.

And He is faithful where I am not.

 
At 7:47 AM, April 18, 2005, Blogger Molly said...

AMEN! to your last comment, oreamnos!

We must certainly hold fast to these promises of God, even though we must despair of ever reciprocating his love while we are on earth.

We can only understand God's love "dimly in a mirror" (1 Cor 13:12) while we are on this earth. I think that's part of the reason that God gives us so many different descriptions of his love throughout the Bible. But we should all look forward the day when we will see "fully" and "fact to face."

 

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