We have legalized ending the lives of those who feel themselves to be at the end of their life; we have also authorized the ending of lives before they have left the womb.
From beginning (womb) to end (assisted dying), we make choices that devalue the beginning and end of life. What does that mean for Canada? What does it mean for people caught in the middle of death?
These occasions for ending life themselves, I suspect, betray a fear of life ending, at least when broadly conceived. One requests an end to suffering (a slow death), while the other seeks to end a life within a womb that will end a parent’s current manner of living without.
In between death, we live in each moment. We enjoy pleasure and avoid pain. If we decide pain is worthwhile, then we create meaning for ourselves through work, art, and relationships. These goods, we pursue not solely because they are good, but because we intuit a manner of existence whose fearsome decree is, “You shall die.”
We are enthralled by this fear. “[T]hrough fear of death,” we “were subject to lifelong slavery,” according to Hebrews 2:15. Had we as a culture overcome this fear, then we would not find ourselves enslaved to experience, to meaning formation.
These sorts of things are our ways of saying, “I shall not die. My work and reputation will outlast me. I will leave this world a better place.” Within good intentions, we find mixed motives. The fear of death enslaves us to find meaning by creating it.
But what about freedom from the necessity of creating meaning? Would that destroy the drive to leave the world a better place? Or might it free us to receive our life’s meaning as gift not formless mass?
Would this change our desire to leave the world a better place if our motivation lies not in immortality through world-building but in receiving meaning as a gift from the Giver? Or might it, as I would argue, free us to leave behind the offer of life?
Most people die are and are forgotten. Shall we fear that? We should not. Christ freed us from this slavery by becoming the only human whose reputation ultimately matters.
He also, to return to the main point, destroyed “the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14).
He frees us to leave something worth leaving behind in this world: life. Life abounding. Life as a good. Life as a privilege. Life as a hope. Death as not the final answer. Life as beauty. Life as redeemed. Life as given. Life as promised. Fear as not the end. Suffering as the journey to joy.
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law,” writes Paul (1 Cor 15:56). He immediately affirms: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).