I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Gay marriage, homosexual marriage, same-sex marriage, lesbian marriage, civil union…All of these are terms used in the ongoing campaign that homosexuals are waging against the American culture and people to gain the “right” to marry as heterosexuals do.  Why?  Simply put, to destroy our belief in God.

The basis for marriage between one man and one woman is traced all the way to the beginning of time as recorded in the Bible.

… for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:20-24 (NKJV)

Jesus uses this very scripture reference to defend marriage when confronted by the Pharisees with questions of divorce (Matthew 19:3-6; Mark 10:4-9).  In fact, Jesus always talked about marriage in this context of one man with one woman.

We see Jesus using word pictures and metaphors concerning marriage throughout His earthly ministry.  They range from attendants for a bride waiting for the groom’s party to come take them to the wedding (Matthew 25:1-13), to the wedding contract used by Jesus in the Lord’s supper that shows how His sacrifice would be for our salvation from our sins (Luke 22:19-20), to the return of Jesus to take up His bride to the wedding feast and eternity (Revelation 19:7-10).

Marriage between one man and one woman was very important to Jesus.  As such, it became important to the apostle Paul as well.  And why shouldn’t it be since Jesus Himself instructed him after Paul’s conversion (see Galatians 1:11, 12).

Having therefore been instructed by Jesus, Paul then instructs the church at Ephesus about marriage.  He gives a very succinct picture of roles and relationships between the husband and wife particularly in how the husband represents Christ and the wife represents the church.  Then, quoting the same scripture that Jesus quoted to the Pharisees, Paul emphatically states,

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:29-32 (NKJV)

Marriage between one man and one woman is a reminder of the relationship that exists between Jesus Christ (the man) and his bride the Church (the woman).  Any other type of arrangement as the homosexuals are attempting to do destroys what God has created.

If two men were to “marry” then using the analogy that Paul used there would be two Christ figures.  Only one ever lived to save that which was lost by dying on the cross and be raised from the dead.  That one is Jesus Christ.  To have two parties claiming the headship of Christ in a “marriage” is to denigrate Jesus Christ and His ministry.  The two men become pictures of anti-christs and only deny both Jesus Christ and God the Father.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:22-23 (NKJV)

If two women were to “marry” then again using Paul’s analogy there would be two Churches.  They would be picturing two false religious systems.  These systems would not exist for the saints to worship God but rather to enslave and destroy them instead.

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. Revelation 17:1-6 (NKJV)

Homosexuals say they want to marry as heterosexuals do so they may gain health benefits.  This makes sense sexually transmitted diseases and other disorders are disproportionately high among the homosexual community making the need for affordable health care a priority.  However, the average median income for homosexuals ranges from upper middle-class to “rich” which suggests that “affordable” healthcare is not really out of reach.  They want to be their own gods.

Others will say that they want a way to publicly express their love for and to a partner in the same way heterosexuals can.  One has to wonder why as the average homosexual relationship typically lasts less then five years.  Given that there are indeed some long-term anomalous relationships, this would drive the average down closer to one or two years if those relatively few anomalies were removed from the statistics.  Is this the love they want to express?  And even for those who have “married” in states in which it is allowed, the divorce rate is equal to or higher than the heterosexual divorce rate.  They want their own system.

Homosexual marriage has nothing to do with benefits, or love, or constitutional rights.  It has everything to do with destroying belief in God, His gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, and responsibilities of the universal Church in this world.  The fact that Satan is using homosexuality in this particular fashion is both appalling and frightening.  The fact that the Church seems powerless is both not-surprising and saddening.

There is a challenge therefore offered by homosexuals to the Church.  They are saying, “If you will not be who you say you are, then we will take it for our own and destroy you.”  It is a challenge that is not easily countered in today’s homosexual favoring media.  There is a way that the Church in America can defeat the challenge being presented.  That way is to heed the warning Jesus gave to the church at Ephesus:

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent. Revelation 2:4-5 (NKJV)

The Church needs to turn back to Jesus Christ.  She needs to be separate from the enticements of this world.  She needs to repent and return to being that place in which the saints – those Jesus gave His life for – gather to worship God and share His love obediently.

——-

Lord, thank you for the salvation that comes by your Son’s shed blood washing our sins away.  We praise You for grace and mercy.  Help us to repent of our continued neglect of our relationship with you.  Bring us back to that marriage picture of Christ and His Bride.

I pray also, Lord, that heterosexual and homosexual sinners all would receive that same gift of salvation.  May they all become as new and join the Church as You prepare to receive Her to You.

In Jesus’ Name…

Amen.

The Role of the Church in Society

Society is rife with many issues that are given heed to at differing levels of interest by the church today. There are varying degrees of success – or failures. No matter the cause, opponents of the church will seek to undermine any positive influences and accentuate the negatives. In view of the current trend of secularism seemingly in control of popular opinion, what then is the role of the church in society?

In speaking of and about the church it is important to note that herein “the church” means the local church body made of regenerate members and not that of the universal church. The local church body is the point of contact of, and representative for the universal church. Local church bodies should be seen acting in concert with other local church bodies collectively and cooperatively. This is seen throughout Acts and in much of the other books of the New Testament as Paul sought the support of churches for each other and for the church in Jerusalem.

Luke’s account of the activity of the early church in Jerusalem gives the most succinct picture of the role of the church in society. Acts 4:32-37 shows 1) “the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own…2) with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…3) there was not a needy person among them, for as…it was distributed to each as any had need.

First, the members of the church were as Acts 2:1 says “they were all with one accord” (KJV). As they gathered together they celebrated. As they celebrated they prayed. As they prayed they worshiped. They gave freely of what they had out of love for each other as they epitomized the greatest commandment according to Jesus (Matthew 22:37-39), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and carried through with the second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Secondly, the preaching of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) was important for the public proclamation all Christians are responsible for giving. The early church had the privilege of hearing first-hand from the people that were with Jesus every hour of every day for three years. Today, we are blessed with the Bible that tells the same stories and expounds upon the same doctrines (the main purpose for much of Paul’s writings). Strong exegetical and doctrinally sound proclamation of the gospel is paramount for the church today if wishes to regain a positive role in society.

Thirdly, none in the early church of Jerusalem had any need. This is not so in most churches today. Despite increasing financial burdens and lingering illnesses necessitating being home-bound the members of today’s local churches do not seek to meet the needs of its own membership. Yet, those same non-internally reaching members will lay out literally thousands of dollars to go half-way around the world to do the very thing they neglect in their own church. The hypocrisy of our missions shouts volumes to society today and causes loss of credibility.

The role of the church in society has been in large part abdicated and can only be viewed as a hollow facade of what used to be a respected and sought after leader in our culture. As a whole, forfeiture of an active role has become the norm from community to community though some corners do seem to be able to grab some form of media attention and point to that as proof of an active role. The local church as become less important due to its lack of love and compassion for its own membership (assuming regenerate membership). Instead of the gathering place to celebrate God’s work in their lives, it has become the social club for conscious-salving “mission projects” at best and dark-room-meeting places for the ego-driven power mongers at worst. Church has become more about what-someone-else-does-for-me rather than the assembly of God-worshiping, blood-bought, born again, Christians.

The church must revisit the oft repeated Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 and its corollary of Acts 1:8. Matthew records that the church (implied) should teach all that Jesus had commanded. This carries the overt implication that the teachers would be obeying those very commands. Obeying Jesus’ words will strengthen the church in the rest of the commission to go and make disciples. The role of the church in society starts closest to home and moved outward (Acts 1:8).

Is there concern that the church’s voice is being drowned out by alternate influences? We can change that by hearing the voice of the needy in our own congregations. Is there concern that poor preaching and teaching is corrupting our congregations’ view of God? That can be changed by giving heed to those that only preach the gospel and teach the doctrines found there. Does the church’s lack of influence diminish its presence? Taking care of each other will strengthen the right to be heard in our society.

The role of the church is to start being the church again.

Thus Saith the Lord


The Empty Tomb

Originally uploaded by Through the Veil

(Fourth in a 52 part introspective devotional series, weekly more or less, based on the Scriptures that inspired George Federick Handel to write The Messiah.)
[see the entire series here]

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. Haggai 2:6-7

The prophet Haggai is addressing the returned remnant as they rebuild the temple. In reading chapter one it seems the people have lost focus and have accepted mediocrity as the norm. Of course this does not set well with God and hence a rebuke is given and then the awesome words of the text here as an encouragement.

I wonder though. I get a sense that even though God wants the temple built, He seems to be using the moment to make a point that gets missed. David wanted to build a temple claiming that since he lived in a house of cedar that God deserved better (2 Samuel 7:2). In fact, God tells the prophet Nathan that He never wanted a permanent dwelling. He had plans for Israel that would surpass their design (2 Samuel 7:8-10).

Curiously, God goes on to say,

even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:11-13

And yet, Solomon was allowed to build the temple. And the people worshiped there. And the people soon forgot the meaning of the trappings and dimensions that matched those of the tabernacle of Israel’s pre-Solomonic Kingships (Exodus 25-27 and 1 Kings 7:15-22). In forgetting the true worship of God they were led away into captivity where they would have no temple. Even then, as the book of Daniel attests, some worshipped God despite the lack of trappings and looked forward to the completion of God’s promises to Isaiah et al.

Being allowed to rebuild a structure that God clearly did not view as what He had in mind for His worship, the people just did not have a heart for what God truly wanted. Hence, the words here from Haggai serve to drive home what God told Nathan to communicate to David.

The house was going to be built by God (Matthew 16:18). Jesus even told the people in John 2:19 , “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” He was speaking of Himself. In the bodily form God had assumed He drew the nations to Him, shook the earth, and manifested His glory far greater than the earthly temple of the Israelites or the Herodians.

——————-
Help me to look beyond the mere trappings of earthly temples. Help me to be drawn to the only house You desire us to worship in — Your Son, Jesus Christ. Gather us in that Temple, in which the Prince of Peace reigns. In the Name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Every Valley Shall Be Exalted

Ohio River Valley

(Second in a 52 part introspective devotional series, weekly more or less, based on the Scriptures that inspired George Federick Handel to write The Messiah.)

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” Isaiah 40:4

As Isaiah brings his message to the people of Judah he brings hope along with the judgment. He presents a remarkable picture to the them as he proclaims prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. Starting in verse 3 Isaiah gives an ambitious vision of highway building. “…Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Isaiah calls for a highway to be built by suggesting the valleys be filled in and the mountains leveled off thereby making an easy grade to traverse. This is quite the undertaking and involves much time, effort, resources, and diligence. What application could a 6th century BC prophecy have for 21st century Christianity in general and my own life specifically?

The project to be undertaken should have a goal. The goal stated is to prepare a way for our God. We understand through the fulfillment of prophecies and the unfolding of history that Isaiah is talking about Jesus Christ (see Matthew 3:3). Just as John the Baptist undertook his role to announce the Messiah we, too, should be “preparing the way” for Jesus Christ in the lives of the people we interact with. Some have not received Jesus Christ at all while others may have veered off the task at hand and stopped looking for His second coming.

Any project will have to have resources at hand to accomplish the tasks required for completion. Since God has given to us the mandate to prepare a way for His Son He has seen fit to outfit us with the tools and materiel we need. First and foremost is His written Word, the Bible. Found in this is the rest of the resources He has provided, which we often refer to as gifts (see Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30). Proper personal protective equipment is all required as well. Numerous references throughout scripture relate to this with Ephesians 6:11-18 being the most familiar and comprehensive listing of this “armor of God”.

Many of the gifts we have at our disposal to use as Christians are neglected for one reason of another. If we know we have particular talents and do not use them for God’s glory and purposes then we risk losing the ability to use any of them. They need regular maintenance, practice, and use to keep them in working order. That means study of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15) is vitally important on a regular basis. Knowing the proper wearing of the aforementioned armor of God is essential so we may know how to move about while wearing it. Preparation for the use of our giftings will keep our skills at peak efficiency for the course set before us (2 Timothy 4:7), just as an athlete constantly trains in the use of his own set of skills.

If we look at the road building projects around us in our current day we see that they are undertaken by many people. No road is ever built by one person. Many people with diverse backgrounds are required for completion of the tasks that jointly “prepare the way.” In our individualistic society, this is the most difficult concept of Christianity to comprehend. While many call for unity they usually do so according to their own standards of unity. Ironically, the very institutions we look to for leadership as a cohesive working work-team divide us from each other with resulting fragmentation that does not allow us to work together but rather against each other.

Paul addressed the importance of true unity (see 1 Corinthians 12 in its entirety). In fact, as we understand the wearing of the armor of God it should be understood in the context of the first century Roman army. The pieces Paul used in his descriptions were most effective when groups of soldiers stood together and acted as one. We need to understand that our gifts and our armor must be melded with each other’s gifts and armor in order to be truly effective (Hebrews 10:25).

By understanding God’s plan, properly training and using His gifts, and working together, the preparation for Jesus’ coming into a person’s life for salvation can be wrought. Continued diligence will prepare us again for His second coming.

——————–

Our Lord and our God, I have failed to keep what you have given me in working order. As your servant I ask that you show me how to repair, maintain, and use Your tools for Your purposes. Use me alongside Your other servants to exalt the valley for the return of Jesus Christ. It is in His Name, Jesus Christ, I pray — Amen.

[see the entire series here]

Comfort Ye


Comfort Ye
Originally uploaded by Through the Veil

(First in a 52 part introspective devotional series, weekly more or less, based on the Scriptures that inspired George Federick Handel to write The Messiah.)

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Isaiah 40:1

A sense of restlessness, a feeling of discontent, a foreboding, hopelessness. What can take away these things from my spirit? What caused them? Who caused them? Was it me? Regardles, they exist and need to be dealt with.

Isaiah was used by God to write these words “Comfort ye…” in the context of national upheaval, turmoil, prophecies of judgment, and rampant sinfulness. All of these pervade our society today. All of these have influence in our individual lives as well.

When God said these words to Isaiah He said it in context of a group of people, hence the KJV use of the word “ye” to convey the third-person plural. Who was that group of people? They were people like Isaiah — prophets. Though Isaiah was undoubtedly the most important prophet he was not the only one to announce God’s displeasure with the sinfulness and rebellion of His people. As exhibited in my own meager calling, Isaiah and company certainly would have similar feelings requiring comfort. Why? God told Isaiah that the people would not listen to what he told them. In essence, Isaiah would merely be a messenger charged with preserving the spoken word of God with the effect being that the people would be held accountable for their own actions. Such an “ineffective ministry” is a disturbing end. It should not be difficult to imagine the the DIS-comfort in Isaiah and his contemporaries. As for me, it is my brand of discomfort.

Personally, the things Isaiah brought out into the open in his messages are the very things that plague me. What did Isaiah do differently that calmed his spirit enough, that gave comfort to him, to enable him to move in God’s gifting? He came before the Lord in worship and was still (see Isaiah 6 and also Psalm 46:10). As the psalmist said in Psalm 85:8 he heard God speak. And what God said was peace.

After speaking comfort to the prophets, God directed them to speak comfort to the people. The people needed to hear the same things God spoke to the prophets. Why else would the prophets be called to be prophets, to proclaim the word from the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:4)?

What then is comfort? It implies that one be still, not restless. Comfort is received from a source other than ourselves, often being seen in a need we ourselves may not be aware. It means that as the receiver of the comfort we should not impose ourselves on the provider of the comfort. We should be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God knows the needs for our lives better than we do (see John 13 re: foot washing).

Probably most problematic about “comfort” is the underlying meanings of the Hebrew word. That word, nahum, was also translated in other places as “repent” or some derivative. If that word means repent as well then secondary consideration is that I must also repent! Repentance brings comfort. Without repentance then, comfort is not possible for people called by God.

————————-

Lord, hear my prayer. Grant to me Your comfort. Show me where I need to repent. Still my spirit before Your throne. Let me be weak that Your strength will rise up in me so I can be your obedient servant. In Your comfort bestowed on me, move me to give it to others so they too may be comforted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

[see the entire series here]

“Life or Death” or “Life from Death” or “Life Despite Death”

Cadaveric organ donation, the taking of organs from a deceased person and transplanting them into a live person, has seen many advances in the past years.  What once had the perception of being a rare medical procedure has now become routine in expectation of care rendered.  While many Christian denominations and so-called charitable organizations encourage cadaveric organ donation, the similarities to outright euthanasia are not to be ignored.  A proper Christian ethical perspective needs to recognize that cadaveric organ donation ought to become rare in occurrence and only then after all other options for the receiver of the organs and the care of the donor are exhausted.

The increasing regularity of cadaveric organ donation points to what should be an obvious conclusion – increasing numbers of people are ill and have organs that are failing.  In fact in 2003 there were 82,884 patients on an organ recipient waiting list.  Of that number, 7.5% died waiting for an organ.  Of those that received an organ 18,649 (or 73% of all recipients) received their organs from cadaveric donors.[1]  Those that receive a lung or heart transplant have a survival rate of 67% in the first year after receiving their organ replacement.  The survival rate declines to 46.5% after three years and seems to level off at 44.3% after surviving for five years.  Those that require a repeat transplant do not typically survive three or more years[2].

If numbers of such significant quantity indicate that the population is in ill health, or at least in declining health, what is being done to improve the health of our population?  While there can be congenital and environmental causes of many disease process leading to organ failure, the choices often determine to a large extent how healthy an individual will be.  Alcoholism, a major contributor to several liver diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease found typically in tobacco abusers, are two conditions brought on by lifestyle choices.  Other diseases that affect function of organs are diabetes (pancreas, kidneys, and eyes), hypertension (kidneys, lungs, and heart), and obesity (all organ systems) which each have at a base level a choice made by the disease sufferer.  If smoking tobacco is avoided, the occasion for lung disease is greatly curtailed.  If alcohol consumption is minimized or even avoided then the risk of liver disease is also greatly reduced.  Several publicly known lawsuits and advertising campaigns illustrate the public awareness that lifestyle choices do indeed affect health.

There is with the large number of persons waiting for replacement organs the necessary corollary suggesting a shortage of available organs.  With that shortage there is increased pressure to find and procure organs suitable for transplantation.  Most organs are taken from people who have died though some, such as kidneys and lobes from lungs or the liver, can be used from living donors.  When one of the 59 Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO) identifies potential donors, it sends a team to that donor to evaluate the potential of the organs being considered for transplant.  After appropriate testing to ensure functionality and compatibility of the donor organs, they are removed by surgeons under sterile conditions just like any other type of surgical procedure.[3]

 

How are donors identified?  At least 42 states and the District of Columbia have what is known as “required request laws” which mandates that hospitals must have policies and procedures in place to inform families about organ donation.  The families and patients are under no obligation to donate.  Many drivers’ licenses have a place in which a person can make his wishes known about organ donation as well.[4]

The increasing mandate for policies and procedures about family education and public tools such as driver’s licenses has led to a shift in society.  Dr. Andreas G. Tzakis, a liver surgeon, says, “Recycling our organs is becoming part of our culture[5].  Indeed, Judith P. Swazey, a medical ethicist and co-author of Spare Parts says, “we’re trying to keep people alive indefinitely.”[6]  A nurse taking care of a donor patient at the University of Miami observes that, “Everyone makes it seem like transplants just happen and the organs appear from nowhere.”[7] Our culture has grown so used to the idea of recycling organs that it has started to expect replacement organs almost instantaneously.  In our society of instant gratification, we become alarmed if organs for transplantation are not available after a diagnosis has been made.  Organ transplantation has become the “penicillin” of the current era.

If the economy of organ replacement has a demand then more pressure is required to secure a viable supply.  Where should that supply be obtained is generally understood.  How that supply should be obtained is not so easily understood and poses the ethical dilemma.  Obviously, organs are obtained from a person when that person dies and then his organs are transplanted in another individual.  In fact the policy of the USNO gives a minimum standard in which procurement of organs should occur.  “…The Host OPO is responsible for identifying evaluating and maintaining the donor, obtaining consent for the removal of organ; verifying pronouncement of death and organ allocation.”[8] 

What then constitutes a condition of death?  Traditionally, the stopping of the heart and lungs has been the measure of cessation of life and the onset of death.  But if a transplant team were to wait for that condition then the functionality of the organs desired for transplantation may be adversely affected.  The health of the individual waiting for the desired organ may irreparably decline as well.  A variation of the non heart beating criteria is the Pittsburgh Protocol.  The Pittsburgh Protocol declares death after the heart has stopped effectively beating for two minutes.  Of course, many argue that this protocol is short sighted in that many questions are left open – is the patient really dead? Is it ethical to intervene just to maintain health of the other organs? Are dying patients treated less aggressively if they are identified as donors?[9]

This leads to a different determination of death – brain death. Brain death occurs when the functions of the brain cease and the organs of the now supposedly deceased are kept functioning through artificial means such as mechanical ventilation and pharmacological interventions.  This is now a very familiar determination of death in Western culture.[10]

A problem with brain death as a determination of death is that a temptation arises to declare a patient dead when only higher brain functions appear to be lost.  J. Savulescu opines, “…What matters is our mental functioning, our mental lives, and that treatment which keeps our bodies alive (including our brain) can be stopped because mental life is so impoverished…The reason why we withdraw these medical treatments is because life in the significant sense has ceased.  Our biography, as James Rachels once described it, has closed.”[11]  Understandably, if such an interpretation of allowable brain death were to become common practice then the availability of potential organ donors would exponentially increase.  The increase could come from Alzheimer’s patients, patients declared mentally incompetent, vegetative state patients, brain damaged patients, etc.  Of course, such an obtuse definition becomes even more unsettling in the realization that a wedge is easily inserted to open the definition to broader interpretations that could include populations such as death row inmates and prisoners sentenced to life without parole.  Their debt to society leaves them with no opportunity to live beyond their current condition and therefore “life in the significant sense has ceased.”  A comparison to Nazi Germany would not be unwarranted to describe the conditions necessary to use the “biography” version of brain death.

Another perspective to increase the supply demanded in organ replacement involves the disposition of the declared dead.  One very troubling trend associated with this perspective is the call for mandatory availability donor organs from all declared dead.  According to John Harris, “people would…soon get used to the idea, particularly if there were to be a concerted campaign of education and argument.”[12]  Harris continues his thought by saying,

It…seems appropriate to consider mandatory availability of cadaver organs.  The public interest in saving the lives of fellow citizens at risk is at least as urgent and as important as the public interest which justifies court ordered postmortem examinations.  Moreover it is…less damaging to civil liberties and less compromising of individual autonomy than – for example, compulsory jury service…For although both jury service and postmortem examinations have justifications in terms of protection of the lives and liberties of citizens so of course does the automatic availability of cadaver organs.[13]

Another argument for mandatory organ donation claims that “it is…morally unacceptable for the relatives of the deceased to deny utilization of the cadaver as a source of transplantable organs.  Their only claim upon it is as a temporary memorial of a loved one, inevitably destined to decay or be burned in a very short time.”[14]  The reasoning continues by insinuating that because of the increase in sickness and longer waiting lists for organs than those that do not need the organs any longer, due to death either real or impending, should give those organs freely. This is a danger to anyone who becomes ill because he then is a donor by default thereby making subjective selection for procurement a real plausibility.  Coupled with the cessation of mental function and hence life as a death criteria, every human being then is added to the supply of healthy organs and suddenly the waiting list for those organs decreases dramatically.

What is a proper Biblically-based evangelical Christian response to these concerns?   More precisely, within what framework of understanding do we construct a response?  Some philosophies supporting cadaveric organ donation use stewardship as a basis for the Christian response.  Others use an understanding of one kind or another of love and all the different facets that type of philosophy entails.

A Christian perspective should seek to exclude some factors and include others.  The main and really only factor for inclusion is to determine if and how God will be glorified in the process of organ donation.  This criterion must become the standard by which all the determining factors are measured.  Those to be considered include but are not be limited to the salvation experience of the prospective donor, salvation experience of the decision makers, circumstances involved in the current condition of the prospective donor, emotional state of the decision makers, and expected coping with the coming stages of grief and loss.  It is not the intent here to examine these but rather to point to the issue of organ donation as pertains to a Christian.  How does a Christian approach it in regard to modern secular society’s ambitions and the obvious parallel to euthanasia?

When a potential donor is identified the family has enormous pressure to make decisions quickly and in rapid succession.  The horror and grief of tragedies that are often violent occurrences such as automobile accidents or shootings, leave most people associated with donors pondering a simple question – why?  The family is found asking, “What good can possibly come out of this tragedy?” 

One answer that invariably arises is that of sacrifice for another.   “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) is often inappropriately given as a proof text to help placate the grief of the decision.  The grieving decision maker will try to find solace by equating the supposed gift of an organ as a type of sacrifice.  They see the loss of their loved one as an opportunity to help someone else live on.  Ann Mongoven labels this as an imitation of the crucifixion of Christ and thus a subtle form of idolatry[15].    Mongoven states that “the donor is Jesus-like in ontological status and power to save.”  The Bible teaches that Jesus’ sacrifice is the only sacrifice in which one can hope to obtain eternal life.  He says that His death is for His friends, those who knew Him.  Almost all cadaveric organ donations occur anonymously.  It is a very slim likelihood that the donor family would even know the recipient of the organ much less count him among friends.  If it were truly a case of the donor sacrificing his life, it must be his own independent decision.  He alone can lay down his life for a friend.

An argument for stewardship is also often given to assuage the grief-stricken decision makers.  Stewardship presupposes that a condition of ownership or trusteeship exists.  Are the organs of the prospective donors in a stewardship understanding with those making the decision to donate?  The Bible makes more than one reference to a special understanding regarding how our bodies are special.  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26) implies that our bodies have a similarity to that of God.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  While the text is speaking of using our bodies in inappropriate relationships, the clear understanding is that our bodies are a temple.  Being a temple means that respect, honor, and reverence should always be used in our relationships because God is indwelling and using His temple.  Is a decision by a family to donate organs recognizing this relationship of the body to a temple of God?  Our bodies, reflecting the image of God and a place of worship to God should be treated with more respect and courtesy.  “…Be ye holy; for I am holy” is the call from 1 Peter 1:16, echoing calls for holiness from Leviticus.  Would we make haste, in the guise of sacrifice, to destroy a holy temple, or desecrate the instruments therein, created for the worship of God?

The decision for organ donation is not an easy one.  Many people may indeed benefit from transplanted organs of cadaveric donors.  However, the ease at which our society has come to accept organ donation is alarming.  There is a rising wanton irreverence for the sanctity of human life.  People are persuaded into letting their loved ones essentially be put to death and their organs harvested so another’s sick loved one may live on, commonly with chronic illnesses of varying degrees. 

 

Christians need to examine the issues of cadaveric organ donation.  These medical procedures often have a sordid and troubling past.  As a society, we do not even recognize that thousands lost their lives in facilities designed to experiment with bone transplants (among other more ghastly endeavors) in another attempt to normalize socially accepted euthanasia.[16] A recent telephone book advertisement quotes a teenaged boy, “I am a normal teenager again.  Nobody would even know I had a bone transplant if I didn’t show them my scar.”[17]  The advertisement goes on to state, “You have the power to donate life.”[18]  We must maintain awareness that every time an organ is transplanted someone has died.  “The challenges to Christian communities, to bioethics, and to the general public converge on one central challenge that is relevant to all.  That challenge is never to let organ donation become routine, even as it becomes more common.”[19] 

Christians must recognize the parallels that exist between cadaveric organ donation and euthanasia.  This is only one of the topics in the complicated and convoluted discussion arena of life and death.  We must first embrace our Christian worldview acknowledging God’s sovereignty and purpose for existence.  Without this perspective society will only continue to encourage “everyone [to do] what [is] right in his own eyes.”  (Judges 17:6 NKJV paraphrased)


[1] _______.  Fast Facts about Transplants, January 1, 2003 – December 31, 2003, accessed 24 October 2004, http://www.ustransplant.org/csr_0704facts.php; Internet.

[2] _______.  OPTN:  Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.  Accessed 17 October 2004, http://www.optn.org/latestData/rptStrat.asp; Internet.

[3] _______.  Transplant Primer:  Lung Transplant.  Accessed 24 October 2004, http://www.ustransplant.org/primer_intro.php; Internet.

 

[4] _______.  Organ Donation Statistics.  Accessed 17 October 2004, http://www.applesforhealth.com/OrganDonation/organstats6.html; Internet.

 

[5] Sydney P. Freedberg, “Harvesting Lives On the Edge of Death, People Are Remade,” Miami Herald, 21 September 1997, sec. A, pp1+.

 

[6] Ibid.     

 

[7] Ibid.

[8] _______.  “Minimum Procurement Standards for an Organ Procurement Organization (OPO),” OPTN Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, accessed 17 October 2004; Available from http://www.optn.org/PoliciesandBylaws/policies/pdfs/policy_2.pdf; Internet.

 

[9] Wesley J. Smith, “The Ethics of Organ Donation,” The Weekly Standard, 28 May 2001, 29.

[10] J Savulescu, “Death, Us and Our Bodies:  Personal Reflections,” Journal of Medical Ethics[JME] 29 (2003) 127.

 

[11] Ibid.

[12] John Harris, “Organ Procurement:  Dead Interests, Living Needs,” [JME] 29 (2003):  2.

 

[13] Ibid. 3.

 

[14] H. E. Emson, “It Is Immoral to Require Consent for Cadaver Organ Donation,”[JME] 29 (2003):  126.

[15] Ann Mongoven, “Sharing Our Body and Blood:  Organ Donation and Feminist Critiques of Sacrifice,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 18 (2003):  91-92. 

 

[16] _______.  “Ravensbrueck,” SHOAH Resource Center, Accessed 22 November 2004; available from http://www1.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%205758.pdf; Internet.

[17] _______, User-Friendly Phone Book, LLC (2004):  985.

 

[18] Ibid.

 

[19] Mongoven, “Sharing Our Body and Blood,” 111.

Ooo! Aahh!

Christmas Fireworks at the Summit2007-11-16, originally uploaded by Through the Veil.

A local shopping center recently had a Christmas lights party where they invited the community to celebrate the official lighting of its Christmas decorations. They had fireworks (as seen above), free hot chocolate & apple cider, and a local church to come and “do the show.”

In fact, this local church was the centerpiece of the program. Their talented musicians provided ambiance (despite poor mike work and lousy sound set-ups) to the occasion playing and singing many magical Santa songs and one set of three or four Christmas carols. The “youth” group got in on the act as well.

When we arrived at the event we were expecting a secular presentation, free hot chocolate (as advertised), and a chance to be out and about after a week of work and school. Noticing the prominence of the church involvement, we thought that this might be a good outreach in which Jesus would be presented to many.

We were wrong. Jesus was only mentioned as a character in a few songs. He was not talked about as the nice people gave my children their hot chocolate. He was not there. We were even told to wish each other “Happy Holidays” thereby taking His name out of the celebration entirely.

This “church” thinks it did a “community outreach.” They provided mediocre entertainment, hot chocolate, and a hot air balloon. They conducted a membership drive for a social club. When given the opportunity to “preach Christ crucified” they gave free photo opportunities with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The free travel mug was nice though. My wife scraped the name off it and decorated it.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8 (ESV)