In typing these words on my computer, I am stunned at how difficult it can be sometimes to apply four small words like those we find in this sixth part of what we commonly refer to as the Ten Commandments. We would seemingly have to have been hiding under a rock to have missed the media firestorm that surrounds the case of Terri Schiavo, a woman in Florida who as I write is in her thirteenth day of life without food and water after a court-order forced the removal of the feeding tube which has been used to provide sustenance to this woman who has been severely disabled since 1990. As of 9:24 AM on March 30, simply typing in the words ‘Terri Schiavo’ in a Google search will provide you with over 3.5 million results.
Her story has captured the attention of not only America, but others around the world. The issues surrounding the case from an ethical, legal, theological, and cultural perspective are voluminous and complex. Others more gifted and skilled in many of these areas have written regarding Mrs. Schiavo’s case and the implications of her situation and I would commend recent columns by Cal Thomas, Al Mohler, weblogs such as those at World Magazine and Christianity Today, and stories such as the cover story in this week’s U.S. News and World Report as places to start wading through a sea of information that is both complex and at times, contradictory.
In pondering this situation and attempting to consider it from a biblical and theological perspective (which might be grounds for throwing out someone’s death sentence in Colorado, but which we believe serves as the baseline for what we believe and how we must live), my mind is quickly drawn to the Sixth Commandment and its dual purpose of prohibiting what we call murder while upholding a culture of life (to coin a phrase!).
Four simple words in English (in the original language, there are only two words). Well, make that three simple words. You, shall, and not are pretty straightforward, but it is this last word which most English translations call murder that causes us to struggle through issues like the case of Terri Schiavo. The question coming out of the Sixth Commandment in regards to the life of Mrs. Schiavo is fairly clear: does the removal of her feeding tube constitute murder?
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