- By Dr. Wesley Rose (Dr. Ley)
What Would Jesus DO?
Watching the news today can be an eye-opening experience in more ways than one. Sensationalism and shock seem to drive the secular media and it has has its impact on our society. Sometimes they offer stories that tend to blur the lines between right and wrong or legal and illegal. However it only takes a few instances of viewing to reveal that there is often a difference between legal and illegal, and right and wrong. It is the heterodyning, mixing, or convoluting of these separate ideals that is at the root of the problem. The standards of God as recorded in the Bible are not convoluted nor are they confusing. But, because of the humanistic influences of the media and society even Biblical truths are being twisted and misquoted to support this dangerous, even disastrous fervor that has swept America since the 1930’s. Some folks may disagree with the dating of the foundation for this our current social atmosphere and that is fine. It is subjective and somewhat arbitrary anyway. What governs the perspective or opinion is entirely dependent on each person’s worldview. With this in mind, and keeping in mind the social discord and even political climate that has encroached upon our world, let us see if we can determine a standard for right and wrong with its relationship to legalities.
Often as I read the Bible I have numerous flashes of the human condition as we are exposed to it. We see and read of hate crimes, of church stances on this principle or that doctrine and how that directly affect our congregations and society. In some cases it is apparent there has been confusion between legal or right and illegal or wrong. Agreed, sometimes they are the same thing. But what about when they are not? What about when what is legal is not what is right? How do we differentiate or segregate legalism from the emotions or inner voice that guides many?
I have found myself divided on issues such as sexual orientation, assisted suicide, and many other issues. But what I always try to do is ask myself, “What Would Jesus Do” (WWJD) ? That is a question I seem to ask in increasing frequency and with great intensity. When I was younger, everything seemed cut and dried, no gray areas, no confusion. Once I began to grow older and more streetwise I began to see where there were many areas that were now confusing to me. I don’t mean mind bending or deeply shocking, but more sublime and sneaky. I think one of the biggest issues, and one that is huge today, is that of human rights. It divides people up to and including families (including church families). Ok, enough buttering the pan. Let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
I recently watched an episode of a show about law and our legal system in which someone was fighting for the right of assistive suicide. It was an emotional and very compelling case and as my wife and I discussed this I did find myself to be initially conflicted. Not about its legality, but
of its ethics, morality, or whether it was right or wrong. Now that is cutting right to the chase. The character (or person portrayed) had ALS and did not want his family, or himself, to endure the frightening and ultimately degrading aspects of the end time realities of his disease. I understood very well having watched my father, mother, and others die slowly from Cancer and ALS type illnesses. It is not easy for anyone involved. But here’s the rub: Is it ok for someone to have a doctor help them with their “transition” as it was put on the show?
While we consider just this one example, we need to begin to look at and into our scriptures and the examples given us by Christ in the culture that surrounded Him. Is the culture really significant? Well it is to an extent, just as it is today. Did Jesus do things based on what the surrounding culture would approve of or did He make decisions based on the common belief systems of those who surrounded Him? Or, did He make decisions and choices based on a supreme standard, a standard that has no ambiguity, gray areas, or confusion?
As I thought about this particular case I remembered the scripture that I used at a recent wedding from 1st Corinthians 13 and starting with verse 8. The term charity in the King James Bible is one possible translation of the Greek word agape, but there are others which include the word love. We read in our Bibles that God is love, that He loves us, and He does so much so that He sacrificed His only son for us. Now that is love fully defined.. It is the word that I used in this scriptural quote. Now here is the point. Regardless of how your Bible renders this word, it is the depth of love and the actions and teachings of Christ that are and should be central to our thought processes in this case.
Allow me to expand on this a bit further.
We need to agree that there is a set standard of right and wrong and it is contained in our Bibles. It is written and personified in the life and work of Christ. Jesus healed the sick, the lame the blind and raised people from the dead. He was quick to forgive and speedily reproved and chastised those who were superficial legalists who possessed little love and who were more concerned with the letter of the law than with the intent of the law. From the very first book of the Bible through the last book we encounter God’s faithful, unfailing love. This love is fully manifested in Christ and it is evident in everything He did in His ministry and life. To me one of the most striking examples is that of the woman caught in the act of adultery. He did not go by the letter of the law or did he? He admitted that what she did was wrong according to the law and he also demonstrated His love by forging her sin and rebuking her accusers. What she did was wrong, Jesus never said otherwise, but through love He forgave her on the spot, right then, immediately. So, was love greater than the “law” that the accusers were quoting? No, it was just another part of the law they seem to have forgotten. Didn’t Christ tell Peter when asking about forgiveness to forgive seventy times seven? In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, found in the 5th Chapter of Matthew, he specifically tells people to forgive out of love. Jesus knew the law better than anyone and that included its intent and purpose. Of which, too many taught and too many led astray became judges of the law without the compassion clearly running throughout the law and the entirety of scripture. What am I trying to point out here? How does any of this apply to the issue of doctor assisted suicide?
It may seem that I have clouded the waters here, but I hope that is not the case. We can arrive at an answer to this seeming corundum. Let us look at a few other questions that are embodied in this issue:
- Does one follow their heart, the law, or what?
As people we are fallible, flawed, and often really do not know what is right according to God and as delineated for us in scripture. The scriptures clearly teach that we are to obey the laws and those in authority because they both come from God who appoints them.
- What about our heart, or conscience, love, and the example of Christ? What would Christ do in this instance?
Some might say there is no way to know, and some might say that the answer is perfectly clear what Christ would do. But first we know that if the person had faith healing would have been the answer. Aside from that, what can we know for sure?
Let us look at what Romans Ch 14 says about judging others and the individual’s personal relationship with God and free will. 1But him that is weak in faith receive ye, yet not for decision of scruples. 2One man hath faith to eat all things: but he that is weak eateth herbs. 3Let not him that eateth set at nought him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? to his own lord he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand. 5One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike . Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. 6He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord: and he that eateth, eateth unto the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, unto the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 7For none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself. 8For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again , that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
10But thou, why dost thou judge thy brother? or thou again, why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God. 11For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, And every tongue shall confess to God.
12So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. (ASV)
So then, what can we conclude based on these scriptures as well as the example set by Christ?
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