Think About IT: Biblical Principles for loving the dying

The vast majority of Christians will face difficult decisions regarding impending death of a loved one.  I am refining this list, as well as still thinking through other principles, but these have proven to be quite helpful in guiding me to think biblically about such eventualities.

  1. Strong families are essential since family members are the ones who will be making some if not all of the decisions, and some decisions will require great sacrifice on the part of the caregivers.
  2. Remembering that all life is sacred, valuable, and worthy of love because of being created in the image of God.  To decide their worth, fate, or just desert based merely upon anatomical considerations is Darwinian to the core and should be rejected.
  3. One should never withhold nutrition, water, and love. The amount of nutrition and water given should be limited to what is ergogenic for the patient, which at times could necessitate limiting them to what the body can use or void.
  4. A willingness on the part of decision makers to do what honors God, the “grey haired”, parents, etc., which may be quite costly for the decision maker.
  5. Limits should be set by what is actually “impossible” rather than what is economically, physically, and emotionally difficult, or extraordinarily challenging.
  6. Medical opinion alone is not sufficient to end a life.
  7. Heroic measures are appropriate so long as life is being extended.
  8. There is a difference in dying a “natural” death and facilitating an “untimely” death.
  9. Seek wise biblical counsel concerning long-term care or life and death decisions because there are nuanced considerations that may shape one’s decisions either in the Biblical or Darwinian direction.

I have given these in order to assist, and granted, they may still leave some questions unanswered, but I believe most of those are better addressed on an individual basis.  Safe general guidelines are to treat them as created in the image of God, regardless of their present or future capabilities, and honor them according to the commands of Scripture; e.g. “honor your father and mother”, “honor the grey haired”.