On the Higher Degree blog, there are occasions where I will answer your questions from a Christian worldview. One of the questions posed to me went like this: “If someone went through with physician-assisted suicide would they get into heaven?”
The only reason anyone goes to heaven is not based upon their morality or righteousness. We are all unrighteous in our natural state in Adam. We are born hating God and loving sin. We are vile and evil and walk in our trespasses and sins. We are born spiritually dead, damned, and doomed.
The good news is that God made a way of salvation. Out of His love, God sent his Son into the world. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a perfectly moral life. He lived a sinless life. He is perfectly righteous. He then went to the cross to pay for our sin. The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23).
Death and hell are the payment for sin. However, Jesus went to the cross as a sufficient sacrifice to make atonement for our sin and provide forgiveness. In his person and work, Jesus restores us into a right relationship with God. He was also a substitute for all men. He would represent us on the cross. Therefore, God made Jesus who knew no sin to become sin so that all those who believe might be declared righteous (2 Cor 5:21).
Going to heaven is never based upon what you have or have not done, going to heaven is based upon what Jesus has done. If God asked you why he should let you into His heaven and you responded with any other argument other than Jesus, you are relying upon a deficient and insufficient Savior. Let’s be clear, the only people who go to heaven are those who have turned away from their sin and in faith turned toward Jesus Christ alone.
The question posed however is more based upon the ethics of physician-assisted suicide. There are various categories of euthanasia as posed by medical professionals, i.e., active, passive, indirect, and physician-assisted suicide. However, for this post, I will be working from a definition of euthanasia as “the killing of a patient suffering from a chronic disease.” Physician-assisted suicide falls within that definition. Therefore, I am not referring to stopping treatment, DNRs, etc. It is not wrong for you to refuse medical treatment for your sickness, and I know I would not want to be on life support indefinitely. I am talking about prematurely taking a life.
For us to answer this question appropriately, we need to start with the law of God. The sixth commandment states, “You shall not murder.” The Hebrew verb for murder, ratsakh, refers to a killing that is unlawful or forbidden. There are other words in Hebrew for accidental killings, something akin to manslaughter, killings during just war, and the killing of animals. Meaning there are such killings considered lawful and other killings considered unlawful. We will discover physician-assisted suicide falls into the category of unlawful killings.
As we think about the sixth commandment, God calls us to respect and protect life. As God’s image-bearers, we bear the mark of God, even though sin has marred and distorted the image, all human beings regardless of their ability are image-bearers. No human, from the womb to tomb, deserves to ever be thought less than God’s image-bearer. God made us in his image and because of this reality, he instructs us to not take human life lightly. In the unlawful taking of life, we are saying they do not deserve the dignity of an image-bearer.
Advocates of euthanasia view it as mercy killing. Advocates for euthanasia argue that they are minimizing suffering and killing someone for their good since their diagnosis is irreversible. People also consider the quality of life when deciding to euthanize. Whether it is dying of terminal cancer or someone being a quadriplegic, advocates of euthanasia believe the quality of life is so poor, or the prospects of the future so bleak, there is no point in them living any longer. However, none of these reasons give us the right or permission to kill them.
In the culture of death that we live in, we see so many are quick to shed blood and so many are quick to embrace death. Euthanasia rejects life as a gift from God. God tells Israel to “choose life” (Deut 30:19). By opting for physician-assisted suicide, we are choosing death and not allowing for the natural occurrence to take its course. Also, may I say, for a doctor to participate in “assisted-suicide” is a very charitable way to describe their actions. Physician-assisted suicide is murder, and we should think of the physician as a murderer. It is the premeditated destruction of human life. For us to speed up the natural occurrence of death is not protecting nor respecting life, but it is embracing death. Therefore, euthanasia in all its forms falls under the category of unlawful killings thereby breaking the sixth commandment.
We desire to protect life, and we do not want to prolong death in such a way that adds to someone’s suffering. There comes a point in someone’s medical care where we simply let them die, but it is only appropriate to do so when they are dying. It is never appropriate to expedite the process.
Anyone contemplating killing themselves, even with a physician’s help, is participating in self-murder. Self-murder does not make murder anymore justifiable. In your suffering, very often God makes his purposes known (Ecc 7:14). No one wants anyone to suffer, and God hears your cries for your suffering to end. However, in a choice to ends one’s life early, it displays a lack of trust in God’s sovereignty over life. He alone is sovereign and determines the span of our life. Trust God to know that there is a purpose in your suffering and illness, and you can rejoice in your suffering when you have Jesus Christ as your Savior (Rom 5:3). God’s timing is always best even when we contemplate our own death.
If you are in Christ by faith, trust that your chronic illness is a light momentary affliction preparing you for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Look to the things unseen that are eternal (2 Cor 4:17-18). No matter the circumstances surrounding your death and the suffering you may endure, in Christ, you receive a heavenly reward where He will make you new and you will never suffer again.