Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday

This week, we have all discussed life and death, including who should be "allowed" to live and who should not. And as Christians, I believe that for the first time in a great while, our views on sanctity of life issues have been finally heard by the masses. Those in our society who worship secularism—and secularism is indeed a "religion"—still do not agree with or necessarily tolerate our point of view, but at the very least they now have a . . . much clearer understanding as to where we stand. And I think as Christians we all now have a clearer understanding as to where we fall on this issue. I know I do.

Prior to this week I wasn't absolutely sure where to draw the line on ending someone's life in situations where "quality of life" comes into question. But the Terri Schiavo case coupled with an experience involving my wife's family has helped me to better discern where that line should fall.

My mother-in-law, who is in the latter stages of Alzheimer's disease and lives in a nursing home, cannot feed herself, walk or carry on normal conversation. However, she still exhibits emotions: She has laughed out loud at corny jokes made by her daughter and at the silliness of her young granddaughter's antics; she has sobbed uncontrollably along with her daughter as she laid near death in a hospital bed—this moment of sadness coming after my mother-in-law had overheard a doctor (who thought she wouldn't comprehend) speaking bluntly about her prognosis in her presence. Although this cruel disease has robbed her of so much, there is still a living, breathing person behind those eyes that lock into and look into mine every time I visit her.

Her recent stay in the hospital was the result of severe dehydration, brought on by an insufficient intake of fluids, possibly due to a fading swallow response. While in the hospital, the family was given two options: either connect her to a feeding tube or allow her possibly—if the swallow response was indeed gone—to die of dehydration, just like Terri Schiavo. But unlike Terri's situation, my father-in-law decided that his wife should continue to live. I wasn't so sure, but now I am.

Since being attached to the feeding tube, my mother-in-law has shown improvement. Just last week, two of her old high school pals showed up at the nursing home to visit her. When they walked into the room, she lit up, laughed along with them as they reminisced and seemed to really enjoy their company. No, she can't tell you who she thinks will win the NCAA Tournament; she can't get up, grab the newspaper and walk to the bathroom for a potty break; nor can she pick up a forkful of her sister's turnip greens, take a bite and complain that they're overcooked, but through the grace of God she is still alive. Her life is still precious.

On this day when we as Christians commemorate the death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we are reminded of just how precious life is and how freely Christ gave His own life for us. As Jesus said to his disciples on the eve of his death, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). And as his "friends," we need to remind ourselves of His incredible sacrifice, today and every day. Last year, his suffering on the cross was brought vividly to our consciousness thanks to Mel Gibson and his movie The Passion of The Christ. Many Christians, myself included, were able to see Christ's sacrifice in a whole new light, and for the first time could begin to comprehend how much He suffered for all of us and how precious, as the children's song says, we are in His sight.

So now that the secular world has heard our point of view on the sanctity of life, we need to continue to remember the intensity of that sacrifice and the extent of that preciousness and—to paraphrase the words of the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:15—be prepared to give doubters the reason for the hope we have in Christ Jesus with gentleness and respect.

What is that reason? It is the resurrection of Jesus, which sets apart our faith from all others. If the story had ended on the cross, and Jesus had not risen from the tomb, we would indeed have a different view of our worth and of life. As Paul wrote in his first letter to the people of Corinth, "For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:16–19). But, as Christians, our lives here on earth, no matter how weak they might appear to be, are never in vain, for we live by the power of the risen Christ and the hope of life everlasting.

If you are a skeptic who has a hard time believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and was then resurrected from the dead, I invite you to read a very short 90-page book by Lee Strobel called The Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection (Zondervan, $2.99). I think you will find the evidence he presents convincing and I hope convicting.


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