A voice in our society grows incessantly louder, asserting autonomy. Unfortunately, an increasing number of people are listening. They want to be able to do anything as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. If you tell them it hurts, they say it’s not about you.
The attitude that ‘it’s my life and my body’ is frequently used not only to sanction abortion, but also assisted suicide. It fails to consider the profound impact an 'autonomous' choice has on others. We’re not islands. Our connectedness is shown by our influence, responsibility, and power to wound.
We all have an influence on others – either good or bad.
Consider, for example, divorce statistics. In a study headed by Rose McDermott, participants were 75% more likely to become divorced if a friend is. Why? We’re connected and what we do affects others.
Likewise, the much publicized assisted suicide case of Brittany Maynard in 2014 has spawned right-to-die legislation in several states and Washington, DC.
Brittany’s words of autonomy – “Who has the right to tell me that I don't deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?"
And yet her husband admits her connectivity and effect on others – “She really did touch a lot of people in a way that really got them thinking.”
We are responsible for each other.
Although not terminally ill, Dr. Tom Mortier’s mother was euthanized in Belgium. Going through a difficult relationship break-up and distant from her children, she sought medical aid to end her life. No family member was notified of her impending euthanasia or even asked their opinion. Dr. Mortier exclaims, “One day I’m NOT a son, the next when they want me to fill in the papers, I AM a son!”
He goes on to say, “When you have children, you always have to take your responsibility.” “Yes, my mother suffered, but so do I.” “If you don’t have any connection with the world around you anymore…then… we should commit suicide? We have to connect with one another again and respect each other and really take care of each other again.”
We have the power to comfort or wound: “Why didn't I get a say in my husband Simon's right to die?”
Debbie Binner said ‘farewell’ to her husband, Simon, who took his own life at a Swiss clinic in February 2016. Listen to her distress in the following quotes:
“I was told many times, sometimes by the man himself: “This is Simon’s life; Simon’s choice”. But is that true?”
“I didn’t want Simon to suffer but I didn’t want him to die, either.”
“Watching him plan his own death, while I still wanted more time, was overwhelmingly traumatic. He had rights, but how much of his life was mine?”
“I would still have preferred him not to go. There is a beauty in caring for someone who is dying. I loved Simon, I would have loved to nurse and cherish him to the end.”
We’re divinely connected.
As Christians we are well aware that Scripture tells us we have been bought with a price and therefore not our own. We also know that if one member of the body of Christ suffers, the whole body suffers. We are divinely connected and responsible for each other. Our actions deeply affect one another.
We should thank God we’re not autonomous (think lonely, isolated, and lacking help) and cherish the blessing and responsibility of being united together in Christ:
Loving one another… Living in harmony with one another… Accepting one another, just as Christ accepted you… Serving one another… Being kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you… Submitting to one another…encouraging one another and building each other up… bearing with one another in love…
Because this really isn’t just my life.