The Life and Death Brigade

 

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Gentle Reader,

Many thanks to the secretive Ivy League club and “Gilmore Girls” for the title.

I’m going to get heat for writing this. I know it as I type.

Brittany Maynard was wrong to end her life.

Cue explosions and much hand-wringing.

I am NOT saying that Maynard is in Hell. I have absolutely no idea about that. I am NOT saying that she was an evil person. I never met her. It hardcore sucks that she was dealt such a blow so early in life. What her family has had to deal with since the diagnosis is terrible. I am acutely aware that there are real people who are hurting and grieving. I don’t at all wish to throw mud at anyone.

What I want to talk about here today has nothing to do with this specific person or this specific family, but rather the more nebulous realm of the topic itself. I’m talking about suicide. Dress it up with the phrase “death with dignity” if you want, but the result is the same. Death.

It’s wrong.

I can say that. I can say that because I took steps along that path. I decided that I no longer wanted to live. My pain was too great. I thought that it would be better for those around me if I were gone.

I can also say that because an hour ago I was told that I have a tumor in my liver. Benign, praise God, but a tumor nonetheless. I’ll have to have major surgery. I don’t know what that is going to be like. I don’t know how difficult or long recovery will be. This will impact the rest of my life.

I hear the objections, things about apples and oranges and how dare I judge. But here’s the thing, and I believe it’s a thing that all Christians must address in the debate over “death with dignity”: Who is in control? Who is in charge? It leaves me staggering that the answer of many who claim Christ as Lord is so ill-defined.

It is my firm conviction that a follower of Christ must trust Him in all things. Of course, that’s a process. We’ve all always got room to grow. It is also my firm conviction that a follower of Christ does not, in any way, have the right to end the life of another human being. I stand resolutely in the pacifist camp, opposing all forms of violent action from abortion to war.

Nor do we have the right to end our own lives. I oppose suicide. I don’t care if it’s physician-assisted (which opens up a whole can of worms when one considers the Hippocratic Oath) or not. I believe that God has a good, unique plan for every single person – and that He alone is the determiner of life’s span. I believe that He is ready and willing to give us grace and strength for every situation, for every pain, for every sorrow, for every valley. Far sturdier than any umbrella, He will provide shelter in every storm.

This should be the witness of every Christian. Trust me, I know what a difficult witness it is. I know how easily and how quickly tortuous doubt descends. I know how overwhelming sudden loss, unexpected diagnosis and change of finances can be. Yet God has not failed me once. Not once. Things have not always turned out as I hoped or expected, sure. But He has always been there, always truthful, always faithful, always more and better than I could hope for or imagine.

I don’t know what you’re dealing with today. I don’t know how you’re being tried or tempted. Please, dear one, turn to the Lord. Seek His wisdom, His peace, His comfort. That is the way of life.

Grace and peace along the way.

Not the Fundamentals: Politics

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Gentle Reader,

A search for the word “government” in the NKJV yields 6 results. The first, 2 Samuel 20:23, contains a list of King David’s governmental officers. Isaiah 9:1, 6-7 speak of the everlasting Kingdom of the Messiah. Romans 13:1 and 1 Peter 2:13 each admonish the reader to be subject to the government. The same search in the NIV yields 4 results, Isaiah 9:6-7 included. 1 Kings 9:22 records that King Solomon did not enslave any Israelite, but made them leaders. Daniel 6:4 shares how officials in Darius’ government worked to entrap Daniel.

No results in either translation come up when searching for “politics” or “political.” The term “faction” or “factions” occurs twice in both the NKJV and the NIV, all occurrences negative. I Kings 16:21 tells a story of yet more unrest in Israel. Psalm 106:17 recalls how Dathan was swallowed up by the earth after incurring the Lord’s wrath. 1 Corinthians 11:19, taken in context, finds Paul condemning the factions and divisions among the people. Lastly, Galatians 5:20, also taken in context, lists factionalism as a work of the flesh (i.e., sin).

A search for “division” gets you 65  results in the NKJV, 97 in the NIV. Some references use the word interchangeably with “tribe.” Some refer to military units, others to the partitioning of the Promised Land. The Gospel passages record Jesus saying that He will bring division into families and communities. The rest of the New Testament portions warn against those who cause divisions (Romans 16:17) and urge unity in the Church.

Strangely, I can’t find the word “Democrat” or the word “Republican” anywhere.

In the Unites States, political affiliation has become increasingly intertwined with a profession of faith. It’s no stretch to say that significant numbers of Christians believe that this faith should plant one firmly in one party or the other. (In my bleeding-red home state, it’s Christian = Republican). Needless to say, there are major problems with this line of reasoning.

For one, insisting upon the faith = political party equation causes us to become one-issue people. Millions believe that life is created by God and therefore precious, and so hold that abortion is wrong. Since the Republican party has set itself up on an anti-abortion platform, many of these millions vote a straight ticket. They do so seemingly without realizing that the GOP is also pro-military, pro-death penalty and pro-big, deregulated business. Each of these stances can and do lead to the taking of life, whether through the barrel of a gun, the pinch of a needle or lack of health-care options. Is life outside the womb not created by God and therefore precious?

On the flip side, those who vote a straight Democratic ticket often do not seem to realize that a large governmental system with fingers in every pie can and does erode personal and community responsibility. Considering again the issue of the sanctity of life, if it is true that a woman has the right to end the life of her child, what does that say about choice and consequence in a Christian culture that is to be based on an understanding of sin and forgiveness? There are other questions. Has the great health care “solution” really solved anything, or has the government simply become a player in the current, broken insurance system?

The point: Our faith should be the foundation of our politics, but we have got to face the fact that neither the GOP or the Democrats have a monopoly on Jesus. The Lord is not the recognized head of either party. We who function as parts of Christ’s Body do live with Him as our Leader, our Master, and so must wrestle with living out His commands. Sometimes that means voting one way. Sometimes that means voting the other. Sometimes that means some combination of the two.

What it always means is that we honor our governmental leaders. Commenting on 1 Peter 2:17, Matthew Henry wrote:

Christians must endeavour, in all relations, to behave aright, that they do not make their liberty a cloak or covering for any wickedness, or for the neglect of duty; but they must remember that they are servants of God.

How does a Christian honor leaders when those leaders are clearly evil, as with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc? This is a question that each person must struggle with, but my conclusion is that a Christian stands against evil while accepting the consequences for that stand. For example, if it became illegal in the United States to read the Bible, I would have to disobey that law. I would also have to go to jail. If a public profession of faith meant execution, I would be executed. I may be a citizen of the United States, but I am, over and above all things, a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I will obey all laws insofar as they do not conflict with Scripture and the Spirit. If disobedience becomes inevitable, I will still honor the governmental authority by accepting the punishment doled out and praying for the salvation of those involved. (This is something that I think Christians need to decide on before the situation arises. My process started with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, excellent examples of necessary disobedience and submission to consequences).

There is nothing in Scripture that grants license to attack governmental leaders either verbally (which I have been guilty of) or physically. In fact, we are to pray for them, as Paul writes, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, NKJV). And if one truly believes that anyone in government is an enemy, there are the words of Christ Himself:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”  – Matthew 5:43-45, NKJV

This command of our Lord is crystal clear, but there are some who claim to follow Him that say otherwise. Mr. Steven Anderson has this to say about President Obama (warning – the content of this “sermon” is incredibly vitriolic. The portion about the President begins at 5:49). Mr. Anderson has never met the President, but states anyway, “I hate the person. . .I hate him. . .God wants me to hate Barack Obama.” (And yet he also says, “I love all of God’s creatures.”) At :58 in this video, Anderson goes on to say that the President’s children should be fatherless and his wife a widow because of his stance on abortion.

I have never met Mr. Anderson, but I find in his words a fair warning about enmeshing politics with faith. A warning about being one-issue voters. Most definitely a warning about ignoring the parts of Scripture we don’t like. Try as he might, Mr. Anderson simply cannot make a case for praying for or working toward the death of the President or any other leader.

So, my friend, vote. Be active in politics if you enjoy it. Seek to bring about justice and godly change. But be careful to seek out God’s perspective. This world isn’t perfect and perfection will not be brought about by one party being in power over the other. Paradise will come only with the arrival of King Jesus.

“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. . . 

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” – Philippians 2:10-11, Revelation 21:1-5, NKJV

Grace and peace along the way.

 

We Need You

Gentle Reader,

Illness.

If I could punch ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”) in the face, I would.

Though I thank God each day that I’m not bed-bound or attached to a respirator like some of my fellow sufferers, this disease that invaded my body a few years ago just sucks. Literally. Sucks my energy. Sucks my memory. Sucks my ability to find words. Sucks away time with family and friends. Sucks my appetite. Sucks my balance.

Sucks, sucks, sucks.

Unfortunately, there is a bias in the medical world against treating ME as an actual, physical problem. Nobody would dare suggest that a cancer patient is “just depressed.” Nobody would insist that MS is “all in your head.” Yet time and time again, people with ME are confronted with these flippancies. Do I deal with depression and anxiety? Yes. Are the very real low-grade fevers, swollen glands and aching joints part of that? No. In fact, I believe that the ME diagnosis I received in 2010 contributed to the emotional and spiritual problems that were beginning to develop. I don’t know a single person who can grapple with a chronic condition, from migraines to back pain to digestive problems, without being impacted emotionally.

I signed this letter a few weeks ago, urging HHS Secretary Sebelius to sever the government’s connection with the Institute of Medicine in “redefining” this disease. Redefinition is something that ME sufferers long for; we would love to be treated with respect and compassion instead of being dismissed. We would love to see money devoted to research. However, this current redefinition plan is suspect. Nobody on the IOM panel is an expert in ME, and several of those attached to the project have a focus in psychology.

We need you, dear friend. Those of us with ME – and all others who deal with “invisible” illnesses like fibromyalgia and lupus – need you. What we face each day is real. The pain is real. We’re not “making this up.” We don’t “just want attention.”

Please, keep your eyes and ears open in the coming months. Stand with us. If you know someone who lives with a chronic condition, find a way to encourage him. Spend time with her. Do what you can to show your support.

Grace and peace along the way.