WE'RE hearing a lot of discussion now about how to end life with dignity. One can't help welcoming frankness and compassionate concern. Yet the range of the discussion is wide and can lead into extremes that are just as bad as the fearful, superstitious approaches to death which society has suffered from in the past.
There is something basically wrong in befriending death-- even when it would appear to end suffering or to be a doorway to life after death. This subtle wrong is something that needs "watching and praying about. Society cannot draw vitality from increasingly intense materialism regarding death. Not only does this go against the grain of a deep-seated love of life but it would take us in the opposite direction from Christ Jesus' teaching.
Can we ever, for example, really discuss ending life without even more profound attention to what it means to be truly alive? As society works through the issues connected with "the right to die, the individual's commitment to life becomes central. No one can presume to instruct those who are in such difficult situations as to the appropriateness of medically prolonging a life. But we can certainly see the need to make every effort in our living to learn much more about what life is, as God has actually made it to be.
Christ Jesus' resurrection and his healing acts say more about real life than has ever been said before or since. Because Jesus overcame injury, disease, and death, his healings and his resurrection prompt us to question mortality as "the whole story. Paul put it powerfully when he wrote to the Corinthians, "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
The resurrection of Christ Jesus--which is at the heart of Christianity--affirms God as the source of eternal life. God is the source of all the good, the joy, the strength, the health, and immortality that is or ever will be. That makes it possible to grow in the spiritual understanding that life can't really be taken away from anyone, because it resides in and of God.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "Belief in sickness and death, as certainly as belief in sin, tends to shut out the true sense of Life and health.
If we are fixed on regarding everything as mortal, then it would seem quite difficult to get much of a feeling for the man that Spirit, God, has created. But if we begin to see spiritual qualities like love and integrity as what make us "come alive, then it is easier to understand why it is spirituality, not death, that must define who we are and why we live.
Part of choosing, harmonizing, and prolonging life lies in refusing to make concessions to death all along the path of life. Think, for example, how easily we accept the belief that good things must come to an end. The end of friendships, the running out of initiative, the waning of interest, are all too often taken as a matter of course. It is quite significant that mentally welcoming death and anticipating it--soon or many years away--also tend to make one feel helpless in many other, less obvious ways .
In our heart of hearts we know it is living that deserves our great allegiance--that immortality and spirituality are the essence of who we are. One value of the current discussion may be that it leads us to think more deeply than we ever have about the significance of Jesus' words "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
This is a condensed version of an article that originally appeared in the "Thinking it through column of the March 2 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.