Who writes the end of the story?
by Deacon Christine Maddux
It is always a sorry sight to see our once-resplendent Christmas tree stripped of its finery and lying at the edge of the driveway for pick-up, an expired servant of the Christmas season. Yet, as I see it, it has served the purpose for which it was created and carefully cultivated on the tree farm: to pay tribute to the incomparable Christ Child as his birth is recalled and celebrated with such worldwide joy – “Let heaven and nature sing!” I render thanks to God for the handsome tree, and view its end with honor and good memories. My part in its demise does not trouble me.
But there is another kind of end that is more distressing. I see it coming in my beloved old dog, visibly losing ground, with the end of her life looming on the horizon. She, too, has served her God-given purpose well: bringing joy and companionship to our family for nearly 15 years, and teaching us daily about unconditional love. There will come a time when I will probably have a part in her demise, too.
All pet lovers know how wrenching that decision is, even though made as a final kindness to the animal. When the time comes, I will give thanks to God for our pooch, and cherish her memory, too. My part in this will be a heavy responsibility but I believe it is within the God-given order, for God gave humans dominion over creation and all the animals (Genesis 1:26). But where does human authority over life and death end?
At human life. The biblical view is that all human life is sacred, from conception to natural death. This is vigorously disputed in our culture, and it is good to give the matter careful thought when contrary positions may sometimes sound reasonable. People will say, for instance, that ending the life of someone who is old and suffering is compassionate – rather like ending the life of my old dog. The same argument is now being advanced for euthanizing those who cannot be cured of illness, are disabled, or who are no longer “productive” members of society. But this is not how God sees it, as the One who gives life, values every human being, and personally numbers our days from start to finish (Psalm 139:13-16; Luke 12:6-7).
At the front end of life, those who defend the use of abortion may also see it as a compassionate solution to a crisis pregnancy, or discount it by invoking the size of the unborn person, its level of development, its environment, or its degree of dependency. But none of these overrides the absolute sanctity of that unborn life, made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27).
Also countercultural is the biblical stand against the idea that a person has ownership of his or her body and can therefore do what they want with it, including ending a pregnancy or choosing assisted suicide for themselves. The Bible teaches us otherwise. There we see that it is the Lord who gives and takes away (Job 1:21), and that “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We actually belong to God, so the sacred gift of life that is ours or that is within us is his to give and take away, not ours.
Far from being an authoritarian constraint on our autonomy, this is actually a very loving restraint on our pride. By humbly conceding the power of life and death to God, we honor his supreme sovereignty and every person’s God-given purpose, from conception to natural death.
The Rev. Christine Maddux is an ordained deacon at Christ Anglican Church in Cashiers and lives in Sapphire. She welcomes your comments and questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Cashiers Chronicle, January 13, 2021.