On the Right to Die

I’ve never had particularly strong feelings on the issue of the so-called right to die.

My experience with the issue has been limited. The only real experience I’ve had is when my 93 year-old grandmother was near death.

The home health nurse told us she would likely not make it through the night. In fact, my grandmother was in so much pain she was barely conscious and just kept moaning and saying “Lord please take me.” She just wanted to die.

I prayed for her. I put my hand on her shoulder and prayed for healing. The next morning we received a call saying my grandmother was awake and coherent, as if nothing had ever happened. She lived another three fairly normal months.

Maybe you’ve had a different experience. I don’t know. You can take what I’m getting ready to say and see if it seems right to you. I know this can be a difficult issue.

So, yesterday I’m reading the Gospel of Matthew about Jesus’ crucifixion, and I come to the part where it says they gave Jesus wine to drink “mingled with gall; and after tasting it , He was unwilling to drink.” (Matt. 27:34). So I do a little research and find that some think gall was an anesthetic, while others think it was a poison. Assuming it was poison, we could conclude Jesus refused to drink it when he realized it was poison and would kill Him.

By this point, Jesus had been flogged and beaten and was about to suffer one of the most horrible deaths known to man. His death was inevitable. He had the terminable disease of a Roman death sentence. Yet, if He refused poison, Jesus was refusing to take His own life.

In the absence of any model in the Bible of a righteous man taking his own life to avoid the pain of dying, and given the significance of Jesus as the model of holiness in human flesh, if gall was poison, Jesus’ example is a strong argument against the so-called right to die. Of course one could argue that whether gall was an anesthetic or poison, Jesus’ death was sui generis and we should be careful of drawing any conclusions from it that are applicable to our own lives.

The argument in favor of the so-called right to die is one of “compassion.”  Unfortunately emotions are little help in the search for truth and they are often a hindrance. If Truth is objective our emotions should have little to do with discovering it. “Compassion” has made many a Christian a heretical universalist, just as “love” has made many a faithful husband an adulterer.

So, I don’t know. I’m not telling you what to believe. I’m just offering this to be considered as part of the debate.

What do you think? GS

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