I want to tread carefully here not because I’m afraid of being controversial but because some of the things I will write can be easily misconstrued. The events over the last few weeks have really been heavy on my heart. Fortunately, I’ve been so busy with work and family that I haven’t had a chance to really think about it until now.
In particular, two events come to mind – the tragic suicide of Robin Williams and the death of 18 year old Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. I haven’t done an exhaustive search of all the details in either case but if you are on any kind of social media network, you’ve undoubtedly seen something about both. At the time I’m writing this, there’s been a huge amount of uproar in how people are reacting to both events. Like a self-sustaining neutron bomb, it’s reached the point where people are reacting to people’s reactions (which is, I guess, exactly what I’m doing).
In both instances, someone died. Williams apparently committed suicide after a long bout with addiction, depression, and I’ve even heard he was battling physical disability with Parkinson’s. Brown was shot and killed by a police officer after being questioned, potentially as a convenient store robbery suspect.
As I had mentioned, the circumstances around both deaths have caused a lot of people to draw lines in the proverbial sand. Camps are popping up on all sides and there’s no shortage of outrage. Some are sympathetic to Robin’s choice to end his own life while others are condemning him to hell for doing so. I’ve read some say Williams somehow embodies the left-wing political ideology just because of the fact that he was depressed despite his riches and fame (as if rich and famous right-wing conservatives never suffer from depression or take their own lives). Some are calling his death a choice. Others say he had no choice.
Many are standing firm with the Ferguson police force and justifying any use of force as a result of non-compliance. Others are using this as an opportunity to riot and loot. Some are pointing out that racism is alive and well in 2014. Others are saying economic disparity is the villain here. Some are calling for the demilitarization of local law enforcement and stricter requirements for the use of deadly force. Others are saying we need to arm police even more and give them greater flexibility to use force in order to “keep the peace”. Details of the timeline of events keep coming out calling into question whether the officer who killed Brown was acting in self-defense or whether Brown was caught on video robbing the store just minutes before.
This all made me think about life and death and ask –
Do you own your own body and your life?
For now, I’m not talking about our possessions like our homes, cars, and property. I mean literally our physical bodies and the life force / spirit that indwells it.
We don’t have any control over the circumstances of our own births. No one asked me if I wanted to be born. But as for how I will die, do I have any say in the matter?
The concept of ownership probably requires clarification. Amazingly, our preacher Lyndon Shook, who is going through the 1st chapter of the book of Colossians, spoke on this very topic last Sunday. This week, Lyndon focused on Col 1:16, speaking of Jesus Christ, – “16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
What Paul is saying to us in this letter to the church in Colossae is that Christ owns everything and everyone because He created everything / everyone. Period. Now, some atheist libertarian friends of mine may reject being owned because it violates free will. My response would be that you can choose to deny His authority and ownership of you, but it doesn’t change the fact. My children may grow up someday and want to disassociate themselves from me. Doesn’t change the fact that biologically speaking, they are my offspring.
So how are we to react and live in light of the fact that nothing, not even our own lives, are truly our property? Does our lack of ownership abdicate any responsibility for how we use it? Absolutely not. The consistent theme throughout history from Creation to the coming of Revelations is that we all have responsibilities and accountability for the things with which we have been entrusted. True, we don’t own our bodies. But Christ has given them to us to use for His glory.
While I may have limited authority / use of my own body in light of Christ’s ultimate ownership of me, there’s no way I would support the notion that someone other than Christ has superseding authority to my life over me. That makes absolutely no sense. No state, no government, no agency, no mercenary, no thug with a whip, no employer, doctor or scholar has rights over my life before me and after Christ.
For this reason, almost to an extreme, I oppose the use of deadly force. I won’t go so far to say I’m a pacifist, but the more I age, the more likely I am to reject killing someone over a violation of an arbitrary law. I certainly don’t understand how theft of any kind can justify taking someone’s life. I further don’t understand how we, as Americans, have grown increasingly complacent with people just doing their job which may result in killing someone.
I’m not justifying criminals. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be punished. My point is that we need to seriously scrutinize any further use of deadly force as a society.
(I’ve already addressed one reader’s questioning God’s commanding His armies to kill His enemies, so I won’t repeat that here.)
Before I go any further and write about suicide, let me state this because I have no idea of all the people that read my blog.
No matter how bad things look, no matter how much you think no one will miss you if you were gone, no matter how many times you’ve tried and failed to live your life right – your life is precious and worth keeping.
I know some pro-life Christians, which I consider myself to be, have issues with suicide. I can understand that given the verse above and the acknowledgement of Christ’s ownership of each of us — that taking one’s own life could be seen as a blatant attempt to reject His authority to end our lives naturally and according to His time. To that argument, I have no rebuttal.
The question is – what are the consequences? If you are a professing Christian, if you have accepted Christ as your savior, if you are suffering some kind of emotional or physical ailment and have little hope for relief, if you’ve had just about enough of the growing darkness in this world and how horrible some people can be to each other, and you just want it to end so that you can live the rest of eternity in His glory – will He reject you as a result? I don’t see that in the Scriptures.
As a youth and even a young adult, I’ve thought about suicide. There were times I had just about given up. Not that I gave up hope and faith in Christ or that His sacrifice was sufficient once and for all. I’d given up on finding anything in this life that was important enough to delay meeting my Savior.
I will, however, say that as I’ve aged, got married to the love of my life and started to raise a family, and more importantly, as I’ve matured in my faith and walk with Christ, I now have a better appreciation for Philippians 4:4-13.
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Meditate on These Things
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.“
I, too, continue to learn to be content. It’s a peace that surpasses all worldly understanding. That doesn’t mean that life is easy. Every day is a struggle. Every day I’m faced with the harshness that this life can bring. For those without hope, life itself can be a heavy burden. I can still empathize with those who just want their suffering or pain to end.
I hope and pray that if you are reading this and you are at that point in your life, you will ask the Lord Jesus to give you His peace. He is faithful and He is good. There are still good people in this life. There are friendships and causes for which our suffering will seem small by comparison.
“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
34 May my meditation be sweet to Him;
I will be glad in the Lord.” — Psalm 104:33-34