If it means anything to be a Christian, anything beyond accepting Jesus as a mascot for kindness and civility, then being a Christian means thinking like the Jesus who is revealed in the New Testament. That Jesus lives on: he was raised from the dead and he lives in the hearts and minds of those who have submitted their wills to his lordship.
For those of us who live under the authority of Jesus Christ, who have surrendered our very selves to him, there is a different way of thinking which places at odds with a post-Christian culture. Indeed if we communicate this kind of Christian thinking in the marketplace today, we will encounter strident opposition from a growing segment of the population influenced by popular culture, even among those within “the church.”
I read today that a terminally ill 29 year old cancer patient committed suicide, and that is lauded as heroism by many, even by some who would call themselves “Christian.” Suicide is not heroic. It is selfish, and cowardly. However, I do not expect a world that rejects Jesus Christ and his way of thinking to agree with my assessment. For those who call Jesus their Lord, however, I have a different expectation.
Jesus people do not play God. When someone commits suicide that is precisely what they are doing, even if they have a terminal disease. The reality is, all of us have a terminal disease. We all live under the curse of death. Every single one of us will die. I did not give myself life. I did not decide the day of my birth. I do not have the authority to decide the day of my death. God does. God says, “Do not murder.” This applies to suicide. If you commit suicide you will answer for it in judgment.
But you may say” “You don’t understand. You are callous. You don’t know the pain this woman was in.” I do understand. I simply do not agree with this choice. More importantly, I am making the case that Jesus Christ disagrees with this choice. I am not callous. I have been in great pain. I have suffered emotionally and physically. I have had suicidal thoughts. Fear of God and respect for life has kept me from considering such thoughts.
What if I had cancer? God forbid it, but what if…? I know I would want to die peacefully, painlessly. I believe I would be tempted to take my life too. Sadly, the precedent is not being set by a 29 year old woman, but by the media who condones (perhaps even celebrates) euthanasia. It will make suicide a more viable option for others who are diagnosed with a terminal disease, or even those who suffer physical or emotional pain. Would it make it easier for me to do the same? I know I must face God in judgment. My life is not my own.
The Apostle Paul was facing execution at the hands of the Romans due to false accusations by his own people. He wrote from the equivalent of death row: “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He had reason to despair, but he continued to hope. He confesses that he’d prefer to die and meet Jesus. However, the Apostle was convinced he would continue to live and love.
“Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me” (Philippians 1:25-26, NLT).
A more contemporary example is found in Pope John Paul II. In his waning years the Pontiff suffered from Parkinson’s disease and osteoarthrosis. He had difficulty hearing and speaking. It was painful to observe him in public. However, John Paul II chose to press on as an example to everyone of how a Christian should bear up under suffering. This is an example we desperately need today. Christianity is not about getting everything we want in this life. It is not about the supreme value of freedom. It is not about being healthy, wealthy and wise. It is about denying myself, taking up my cross and following Jesus. Sooner or later that will mean following my Lord through the valley of the shadow of death, but even then I will not fear evil because He will be with me, to comfort and guide and bring me to the other side.
We must learn how to suffer. We must learn to place our hope in Christ’s gift of eternal life. We must learn to value life. Above all we must learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge and wisdom. Acknowledging God in all of our thinking is vital. Too many Christians are influenced by contemporary culture more than the teaching and example of Jesus. Too many of us believe today’s talking heads and self-proclaimed experts above the Word of God. I don’t expect those who doubt the Bible and disbelieve in it’s God to agree with me. But you who claim to belong to Jesus must think differently. The world needs this contrast. For who will recognize that they are in the dark if they are not shown the light?
I love this. “We must learn how to suffer.” That is a tall order, but it is one that even Jesus did. I pray for the understanding and willingness to do so if and when it becomes my turn. I, you and all of us are so precious, so valued by Jesus that he laid down his life for us. He suffered in the truest form of the word. May we be so willing if and when it is our turn.