Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Greater Love" can get you killed, apparently.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. [John 15:13 NIV]
I'm sure you've heard this verse quoted before and in varying contexts, but most likely it was in reference to the love that Jesus expressed for humanity by offering his life on our behalves.  But I'd like to contrast this verse with a scenario that many of us have seen portrayed on-screen: one person takes the life of another as a final act of loyalty, mercy, and ultimately, love.

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Is a 'mercy killing' ever justified; even if someone asks begs you to do it? I won't try to tackle the topic of medical euthanasia in its entirety but what got me thinking about this was a scene from the film Agora *spoiler alert*  The protagonist faces a gory, painful demise by stoning but a friend steps in to 'save' her.  While the mob went to look for stones, he asphyxiated her--with her permission--before they returned and told them that she fainted.  Whether or not she had actually passed out or was truly dead was irrelevant because the mob still stoned her.  But her friend spared her an excruciating experience: the conscious feeling of being pummeled to a bloody pulp by a barrage of stones.  After all, what are friends for?

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I didn't mean to trivialize the situation with that last comment but it wasn't lost on me that he acted in what he thought was the most noble manner.  Another similar tear-jerking scene comes to mind from the 1960 classic, Spartacus. [I won't even bother to put up a spoiler alert because if you haven't seen it by now, you should be stoned! :oP]  But in it, Spartacus and his faithful follower, Antoninas, found themselves in a similarly perplexing dilemma.  Both were pit against each other in a duel in which the loser would die in the fight and the winner(?) would be crucified (yes, as in "Jesus-style"). Knowing that Antoninas was afraid of pain, Spartacus killed him as humanely as he could--considering that he used a sword--and allowed himself the more agonizing death of being strung up to a wooden beam in the blazing sun. Wasn't this truly an act of "love" in its purest form, or is there no exception to the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" [Exodus 20:13]

Looking at 1 Corinthians 13, a.k.a. the love chapter, we see that love is not self-seeking... it always protects.  I would appreciate someone loving me enough to protect me from a harrowing experience. But at the expense of my life?  I don't know... I would have to be in such a situation to give an honest answer, but I honestly pray that such a thing never happens.  But according to God's 10 commandments, there is no room for compromise. Or is there?  Do we think twice about stopping medication to a cancer patient so that they may die in peace?  What about having to sign off on a DNR--do not resuscitate order--for a loved one in the hospital who is unable to do so on their own? By not trying to save a loved one's life, are we, in fact, killing them and thus, breaking a commandment?  Then again, if you sacrifice your own life for someone else, isn't that suicide--allowing yourself to be killed??

For some, the answers to these questions may be clear-cut but now that 'grace' has replaced the law[s of the Old Testament], the overarching law that is supposed to govern us is to love God and love our neighbors.  Can you truly do both if a loved one asks/allows you to take their life?  This one definitely requires some time in God's presence to come to a solid answer because I certainly don't have it. But it's worth thinking about, no?

Be blessed,

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