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Euthanasia and the Delicate Balance of Life and Death Issues

The term “euthanasia” comes from the Greek for “well, good” (eu) and “death” (thanatos); thus, it means literally “good death.” The online Merriam-Webster definition reads: “the act or practice of killing or permitting death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (such as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.”

The Church of the Nazarene holds euthanasia (including physician-assisted suicide) as “incompatible with the Christian faith,” [Manual, 2017-2021, p. 53, para. 30.5]. The Manual defines euthanasia as “intentionally ending the life of a terminally ill person, or one who has a debilitating and incurable disease that is not immediately life-threatening, for the purpose of ending suffering.” This paragraph also makes the strong statement: “We believe that the historic rejection of euthanasia by the Christian church is confirmed by Christian convictions that derive from the Bible and that are central to the Church’s confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.”

The Manual further declares that “euthanasia violates Christian confidence in God as the sovereign Lord of life by claiming sovereignty for oneself; it violates our role as stewards before God; it contributes to the erosion of the value the Bible places on human life and community; it attaches too much importance to the cessation of suffering; and it reflects a human arrogance before a graciously sovereign God.”

While each of these points make a significant contribution to the wrongness of euthanasia, let’s direct our focus to the first for a moment. If we believe in “the sovereign Lord of life” as revealed in the holy Bible, then we must make choices that affirm our belief that He is the Lord of life and allow Him to be sovereign.

Ultimate matters of life and death are in God's hands. It follows that for us to overplay our hand is to, in essence, usurp His sovereignty.

Ending a life prematurely through our own volition is to take that life out of the hands of God who is sovereign, whose ways are above our ways and whose plans are beyond our understanding, who promises to not give us more than we can bear without His help, and who tells us that His grace will be sufficient.

Euthanasia is a discretionary act without the element of death being imminent otherwise. Either a person desires it (voluntary) or a person in a position of authority deems it appropriate for someone else (involuntary), and actions are taken (or assistance denied) that ends life. In terms of the latter, another whole set of issues are raised. It is one thing to discuss euthanasia when referencing one’s own decision to end one’s life; it is quite another when authority figures are empowered (be they the physicians or the state) to determine who should live and who should die, as well as the means of the care to be given or denied. Then the issue becomes even more ominous when one considers the law of unintended consequences. Who decides and where are the lines drawn?

Where you place your focus makes all the difference, and that focus should be on the sovereign, loving Lord of life whose ways are beyond our ways and whose plans are beyond our understanding. In Him should ultimately be our faith, hope, and trust.

In Scripture, for the believer, there exists a delicate balance between two truths: We should not do anything to hasten death, and yet we should not fear dying, since that is to go to be with God.

After all, “to live is Christ and to die is gain,” as we’re told in Philippians 1:21. Consider Job who endured great suffering but persevered in part due to his belief in an afterlife with God. And in that afterlife, he believed all the “hard service of life” would be worth it. As he says in Job 14:14-15, “If someone dies, will they live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer you.” Then, in Job 19:25-27, in perhaps his worst days of suffering, he declares, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes– I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

Job becomes one of the greatest testimonies against euthanasia, as he endured such pain, physical and mental, yet placed ultimate faith in his Creator. One cannot but notice, in a book that spans 42 chapters, early in the story (in the second chapter) his own wife says, “Curse God and die.” But he responds, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:9-10). He even rued the day he was born in moments of despair (Job 3:1-11) and welcomed the idea of death but still did not do anything to hasten it. This basic concept underlies the entire book. “Though HE slay me, yet I will trust in [H]im” (Job 13:15, KJV, emphasis mine).

It was because of how Job navigated that delicate balance that we have the “Wisdom of Job,” and we see him ultimately restored and blessed beyond what he had known before. Does it always end that way? No one is saying that. But the point is God has the final say, and that is as it should be.

Does a stand against euthanasia rule out palliative or hospice care, or require wholly artificial means of life support that merely prolong death indefinitely with no realistic hope of improvement? I think not. We are back to understanding the delicate balance of life and death issues—scripturally and in dynamic relationship with the loving, sovereign Lord of life. From this perspective,...

I believe we must make decisions for ourselves and decisions that affect others in our sphere of influence with fervent prayer.

In a free country where opinions and votes matter, this includes being “salt and light” by using our biblical worldview to guide public perception and policy. Our life is a gift from God. I pray that we honor Him with how we use it and how we value the lives of others.


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