I intend to be brief here. In recent days a young woman named Brittany Maynard has made headlines with her campaign for "death with dignity" laws, and for her moving to Oregon recently so that she might take advantage of theirs. Diagnosed with cancer at age 29, Brittany has decided to end her life on November 1st.
Many people, including my fellow Christians, are distraught over this. Over her personal choice to end her life, and over the legality of doctors assisting her to do so in Oregon and four other states. That we have become a culture willing to celebrate self-murder, as it used to be called, is indeed very disturbing. I do not wish to argue those concerns, but rather applaud them.
Exodus 20:13 is very succinct on this subject, "You shall not murder." We don't have the right to kill another person (we can discuss times of war and capital punishment another day). You also do not have a right to kill yourself. Why? Because our bodies do not fundamentally belong to us, contra western thought. Our bodies belong first of all to God who made us. They further belong, to a lesser and varying extent, to the other people in our lives. Husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, coworkers, extended family members, and acquaintances all have some claim to us. They are not part of a drama constructed with me at its center, where I may do whatever I want, consequences to them be damned. We each play a part in the larger story of history that God himself is telling, and we bear obligation not only to him, but the other players as well, to play our part in submission to Him. Even whem that means hard things. Even when that means death. Death is not, and never has been, intended to be on my terms. The day of death belongs to God alone.
This said, I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ with Proverbs 15:1,
A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Some of what I have read that has been directed at Brittany Maynard, or at the idea of suicide in general, disturbs me greatly. This, of all topics, is not one to approach with a high-handed self-righteousness. Is self-murder selfish? Yes, it is. Is it rooted more in an escapism that is afraid of reality more than a courageous facing of it? I think that is beyond doubt. But when I see folks just throwing those statements around, it really makes me wonder: have you ever tried to talk someone off the ledge? Have you ever stayed all night sitting at the kitchen table begging your friend to see the value in their life that you see, that others see, that God sees? Have you listened to the stories of the harships which they have walked through that have brought them here? Have you laid in bed at night begging God for the words to speak when you know your friend is teetering on the brink?
You see, this is not an abstract question dealing only with people "out there." This is a question that deals with real people, whom you know - if you will take the time to know them. To listen to them. To love them. Before it's too late.