Thursday, March 24, 2005

Maundy Thursday Reflections

Someone recently told me I was "too moral" to do something. If you want to stop the average Christian's heart for a beat, tell them that. It scares me that people might believe I am "too moral." If only people knew...
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I was sitting in church tonight, partaking of communion and reflecting on many things. First and foremost, I was humbled that God Himself came down to save me from myself. By God's standard - absolute perfection - there is no way I can measure up. God never found me "too moral." God found me a rebel, a traitor to the cause, a sinner. I have sinned and fallen short.

Most reasonable people believe moral crimes, sin, must be punished. And indeed, the punishment from a perfectly just God is steep: eternal separation from God. But for some reason, God is merciful and loving and kind. He offered a way out of our punishment, and that way out is remembered this week. Jesus died so that I do not have to spend eternity away from God. Jesus was raised so death would be defeated.

God isn't looking to condemn us, or send people to Hell. He is looking to offer us salvation from ourselves. We chose something other than Him, He chose to pursue us and offer us Grace. The loving God isn't sending us anywhere: He is lovingly trying to call us back from where we are freely, foolishly going.

I contemplated this in light of what's going on today. Time is running out for Terri Schiavo. She will never again taste communion on this earth, barring a miracle. But by all accounts, she is a believer, and I hope fervently that she will soon taste communion with her Father. In some respects, her case is not unique. But it is instructive. We are a culture that is too eager to diminish life, to chase death. We legalize abortion, and in some parts of the world, euthanasia (or, in the case of the Groningen Protocol, infanticide.) Some people want Terri to die because they "wouldn't want to live like that." Her life isn't worth as much, it is thought, because of her physical condition.

But these thoughts on grace I had this evening apply to Terri. God loved her so very much that He made her. He gave her free will. He offered her His grace through the sacrifice of Himself. He offered her salvation because He knows she is fearfully and wonderfully made, intrinsically valuable no matter what her physical condition may be. He knows her and finds her worth much. He even knows what is in her heart, something the rest of us cannot possibly know. How can we say her life isn't worth living when her life was given to her by God? If He's willing to pay the price to redeem her, how can we determine she's not worth feeding and hydrating?

Because she is invaluable, she should be allowed to live. She is not a convicted murderer, or an enemy of the state. She is an innocent, by human terms, woman in a tragic state. There are also legal questions that, despite assurances by the courts so far, have not been answered nearly well enough. Starvation is cruel and painful. Her diagnosis is in dispute, and the husband who claims to love her is all but married to another woman. Adultery is not love. Breaking one's vows by hastening "'til death do we part" is not love. Starving your spouse is not love.

But here I cannot judge too much. God alone knows what's in Michael's heart. Michael Schiavo may sincerely think he is acting compassionately and lovingly. And I have too many planks in my own eye to worry about specks in his. No criticism so far leveled at him couldn't also be leveled at many of the rest of us. God loves Michael, and Jesus died, and was raised, for Michael. I am no better than he. God willing I will never be put in a position to make similar choices within my own family. I strongly disagree with what he is doing, and it is hard not to question his motives. But I have to remember that God loves him.

Time is running short for Terri. I don't know what the courts will do, but I know God is sovereign over it all. He holds her future in His hands, and nothing that happens from here on out will surprise Him. I trust God to do what is right, and I do not trust any of us to be nearly so wise. Not even myself. God is in control.

This does not excuse inaction, and I must repent of not speaking out more loudly on the behalf of someone who cannot speak for herself. God is in control, yes, but He desires we stand up for the helpless, and help those who cannot help themselves. Insofar as I have lacked in this area, I have disobeyed. I am grateful for His mercy. It is more than I sometimes, in my humanity, wish to offer those who would end Terri's life. Being reminded of my own failings, changes my heart though. I pray for wisdom for the judges, for right thinking and compassionate hearts. I pray for Michael, Terri's parents, and everyone else involved in the case. I sometimes find myself at a loss for words (readers of this blog may not believe that) and trust the Spirit who prays for me. I pray and I hope, but most of all I trust.

I feel the spiritual battle around us so acutely in all this. How blessed we are that God is sovereign and has already won the war.

And He is merciful. Avail yourself of His mercy. Trust in Him. He loves Terri, and He loves Michael. And He loves you.

Pray for the family, the courts, the legislators and the executives. Pray for peace, and if it's inevitable, that her death be peaceful.

But also pray that we would all fall upon His grace and return to the One who is in control. Life isn't only about Terri, although her case rightly consumes much of our attention and prayer. Life is also about God, and our relationship with Him. He gave up everything for us. Let's accept that gift, offered at Easter circa two millenia ago. And then let's fight for all those of intrinsic value, namely every other person for whom God Himself paid the debt accrued through sin.

1 comment:

rev-ed said...

Nice post, Ron. FWIW, I'd consider being told I was "too moral" a compliment. Still not sure how anyone could be TOO moral though. . .