The Right to Die?: How to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling

Late last week the Supreme Court of Canada made a monumental ruling. It will put Canada and its people under a microscope. Though it does not take effect for the next twelve months, those months will be filled with debate, concern, and the drafting of interpretations and regulations on national and provincial levels.

If you didn’t hear about it, the Court’s decision lifts the ban on doctor-assisted suicide. (CBC News articleCTV News article; Global News article). The ruling brought cheers and concerns. Though the ruling was very specific, it isn’t freely accepted and triumphed.

empty hospital bed

As Christians we can be loud when issues like this hit the spotlight. We consider ourselves champions of life. I found it interesting that the Court used the Charter of Canada to explain how their decision puts them on the same side, defending life. Before we start banging on doors and shouting through megaphones, we should stop and consider what drives a people to desire such a law. You might be surprised at how your response will change.

I have spent a lot of time in the hospital over the past few weeks. The majority of our congregation and their loved ones are aging and facing the effects of time and disease on their bodies. A man has battled emphysema for ten years with oxygen and had a scare a couple of days ago. A woman in her mid-nineties, already facing a downward slide in her health, fell twice in a week and suffers from bruises and pains. She doesn’t respond to me with more than a smile and occasional nod. Another woman is on her deathbed, her family preparing the day she leaves this earth to rest at her Savior’s side.

To be honest, I didn’t go looking for articles or posts attacking the Court’s ruling. I know they are out there. It’s the typical response by those who believe it is a Christian’s duty to protect life. Yet I am reminded how Jesus never said the world would respect us and change to our values because we shout at them and call them idiots for being faithless and willing to give up. Chances are, our message is received like that.

No; Jesus said the world would know us by our love (John 13:35). The same Disciple who wrote those words was the one closest to Jesus, “the disciples Jesus loved.” In another one of his writings he said, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8 NIV). The love of God is supposed to flow through and out of us. Does a response of anger and indignation portray the love of God?

More importantly, though, I think this kind of response betrays a deeper issue. The newsmakers in the Church seem to enjoy shouting and pointing fingers. They expect the world to live by our values, and they’re somehow shocked with the world proves otherwise. But it is the natural extension of what we do to each other all the time. We have a set of rules that everyone has to follow, and when they don’t, we body slam them for it.

Jesus called those people hypocrites. Paul revealed their words and doctrine as foolish. Jude says they are like clouds promising rain that brings life and refreshment, but are empty and worthless. Sure, they know the right answer. They quote the Bible. It all sounds godly and noble. Yet it betrays cruel heartlessness.

Why would I say something like that? Because I’ve sat alongside a deathbed this week. We don’t know when the funeral will be. Powerful medication holds off the pain. There’s a rattle in the breath. A cough from time to time. Moans for a few minutes followed by hours of quietness. Who can gaze on a frail, dying body and not wonder why they won’t let go, why God doesn’t just hurry up and finish it for them? Only someone who cares so little about the soul in the bed. Someone who, as one television show put it a number of years ago, is “dead inside.”

When we get up on our soapbox and preach life at all costs, we might as well be dressed in a black hood with a sickle in our hand. We appear to the world as angels of death instead of messengers for life. Does that mean we should stop defending life? Not all. But if our words and actions are misconstrued as hate and callousness, nothing we have to say will matter.

Didn’t Jesus cry? Didn’t His heart break to see death and those affected by it? Isn’t our God “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3)? We need to stop beating down those who see no hope at the end of their circumstances. Stop shouting at those who need someone to hold them and support them.

It is often said how Job’s friends should have stayed silent. Bringing the love and life of Jesus Christ into the room is far better ministry than condemnation. Let our words and deeds be full of compassion and love. Only then will our messages of hope and life be received.

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