Lent 1 – February 18, 2018

“SSSH: Assisted Suicide” – Genesis 22:1-18


Lent 1 – February 18, 2018



  1. Federal Legislation

It was exactly three years ago that the Supreme Court of Canada followed the lead of some European countries – Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland – and struck down the country’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide (death), and gave the federal government 12 months to come up with a replacement law. On June 17, 2016, new federal legislation came into force creating a regulatory framework for medical assistance in dying in Canada. That framework states:


241.2 (1) A person may receive medical assistance in dying only if they meet all of the following criteria:

(a) they are eligible — or, but for any applicable minimum period of residence or waiting period, would be eligible — for health services funded by a government in Canada;

(b) they are at least 18 years of age and capable of making decisions with respect to their health;

(c) they have a grievous and irremediable medical condition;

(d) they have made a voluntary request for medical assistance in dying that, in particular, was not made as a result of external pressure; and

(e) they give informed consent to receive medical assistance in dying after having been informed of the means that are available to relieve their suffering, including palliative care.


(2) A person has a grievous and irremediable medical condition only if they meet all of the following criteria:

(a) they have a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability;

(b) they are in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability;

(c) that illness, disease or disability or that state of decline causes them enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable; and

(d) their natural death has become reasonably foreseeable, taking into account all of their medical circumstances, without a prognosis necessarily having been made as to the specific length of time that they have remaining.


There are hundreds of articles to read, with opinions and positions on both sides of the issue. The question for us is… as Christians, where do we stand on the issue? I realize that you who are here today may be on both sides of the issue – some supporting euthanasia / doctor-assisted death, and some dead against it (excuse the pun). Some of you may already have had to deal with a loved one undergoing intense suffering; we probably all will face that some day. It’s good to talk about it in advance – here, and with our loved ones – so that when the time comes, we can respond reasonably and more important Biblically, rather than simply emotionally.


  1. Bible Suicides

Did you know that there are 7 suicides recorded in the Bible? One, most of us know – Judas. Some of you may remember OT King Saul… but there are 5 more!

Seven suicides in the Bible:

Saul (king) – mortally wounded in battle, didn’t want Philistines to kill him and abuse his body – fell on his sword, when his armor bearer refused to kill the king

Saul’s armor bearer took his own life, too.

Samson (judge) – pulled down the pillars of the Philistine celebration hall, killing himself along with the Philistines

Abimelech (judge) – a woman dropped a millstone on his head, with a cracked skull asked his armor-bearer to draw his sword and kill him so a woman couldn’t take credit (assisted death!)

Ahithophel – advisor for David’s son, Absalom; his military advice was not taken, went home and hanged himself

Zimri – assumed kingship of Israel after killing previous king, after 7 days, plot/coup against him was successful, he set his palace on fire, dying in the blaze

Judas – hanged himself

Besides these actual suicides, there are other cases of people having had enough of life and suffering and wanting to die:

Moses was willing to die (in place of the Israelites)

Elijah wanted to die (fleeing from evil Queen Jezebel, discouraged at thinking he was the only one left who was faithful to God)

Psalm 42:6 – “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God.” – cry of a despondent person

Jonah wanted to die (sulking because the Ninevites repented and were spared when he believed that God should have destroyed them)

Paul wanted to die (to depart and be with the Lord which is better by far, to die is gain)


Interestingly, except for Jesus’ moral judgment on Judas (“it would have been better if he had not been born”), there are no other moral judgments spoken on the other Biblical suicides. In fact, Ahithophel was buried in his father’s tomb, which makes it look like his suicide was not morally blameworthy at all. Historically, in the church, there are many marks of disgrace associated with suicide – can’t have a church burial, body buried outside of cemetery, automatic damnation to hell. I believe our Christian views of suicide have changed, softened, especially as it is related to mental health. I have to admit that I have conducted several church funerals for families whose loved ones have taken their own lives, including one for a 26 year old young man in small town Saskatchewan in which literally the whole town was present in the church to support the grieving family, and including one for Deanna’s brother, who took his life 15 years ago after years of suffering with bi-polar depression. But those stories are different from doctor-assisted death which is requested in the face of intense and irreversible suffering.


  1. The Story of Curt

Curt story: curling teammate (single, rough around the edges), Christmas invitation, October 24 (cancer) & 31 (lunch), hospice visits, Holy Communion, assisted death request, invitation to be there, “Is it OK?”

My questions: Did Curt do the right thing? Did I do the right thing? Did I say the right thing? In the end, I don’t know, but I do know that God is the judge of Curt’s eternity (not me), and I do know that God is merciful. Curt may have done the wrong thing, but Jesus loved him anyway.

This is not time / place to debate the nuances of suffering, and who speaks into the decision to end life, and what constitutes a dignified death, and if it’s always wrong or sometimes OK, and whether we can / should be present to support the person. Long… one-way… needs discussion.


  1. Bible Insights

What I can do is give you some Biblical insights to consider:

– Issues of life and death are in the hands of God. God gives the first breath – the breath of life – when we emerge from the womb, and He withholds the last breath, when death has drawn near. As Christians, we need to be careful not to usurp the role/place of God, and decide for ourselves when that last breath takes place.

– Suffering is part of human life. We all experience suffering – from the owies of childhood, to injuries, to surgeries, to illnesses that threaten the fabric of life itself. (that’s physical, also mental, emotional sufferings) Assisted death is about avoiding suffering (we deserve much more suffering because of our sin, but Jesus took our sins, suffering, infirmities – Isaiah 53) It’s a temptation (cf. Jesus’ temptation) to take the easy way out, to avoid suffering, to manage pain.

Lots of Bible passages about suffering:

Acts 14:22 – “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

God to Paul – “My grace is sufficient for you; my power made perfect in your weakness.”

Paul – contentment in every situation

James 1:2 – consider it joy when you face trials – paradox, conundrum.

1 Peter 5:10 – after you have suffered… God will restore, confirm, strengthen, establish you

Romans 8 – suffering doesn’t compare to glory

Romans 5 – suffering produces perseverance, character, hope

Job suffered! Job’s wife: “Curse God and die.” Job: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Earlier, Job had said: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (we sing a song about that)

– The fear of God – Genesis 22:12. Not suicide, but not a request we’d expect from God – kill your own son. But because Abe feared and trusted God about promise, God provided ram.

– Obedience – 5th Commandment – “You shall not kill.” includes one’s own life. (see Catechism) – Life is sacred. The sanctity of life (week in January to honour issues of life – from beginning to end… from birth/abortion to elder care/death). Value of life, body is a temple of H.S. Carved / written on God’s hands (theme) (Isaiah 49), fearfully/wonderfully made (Psalm 139).


  1. Jesus’ Suffering

One death had eternal significance – Jesus. Didn’t deserve to die – legally, or morally/spiritually; He suffered innocently, with no sins of His own, but WITH your sins & mine; He suffered a lot!! (crown of thorns, slapped, scourged, emotional derision, crucified!) Jesus was the lamb of God that God provided as a sacrifice for us. Mt. Moriah = Calvary. Jesus willingly suffered so that we might be reconciled to God, no matter what sins we have committed, so that we can be sure that we are going to heaven – by His grace, all by His grace.

As you consider the ethics of your own sufferings and end of life issues, or those of a loved one, may God give you wisdom, and the courage to make decisions that ultimately are pleasing to Him, but above all… be assured that Jesus’ suffering was for you, for your salvation. Amen.

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