ONALASKA—End-of-life issues become easier if decisions are considered before a crisis arises, Ferrell Foster, director of ethics and justice for the Texas Christian Life Commission, told participants at a senior-adult ministry conference held at First Baptist Church in Onalaska.
The decision to follow Jesus makes all the other decisions easier to discuss, he said. But even in the best of situations, discussion about end-of-life decisions remains difficult.
“It’s not a subject we like to talk about, because for those of us who are left behind, it means loss and separation,” Foster said. “We as Christians bring a different perspective to death. We bring a hope to death. It should not be the scary topic for us that it is for others.”
Some people simply may not realize what questions they should consider. Foster pointed participants to an online resource to walk them through the things that should be discussed and decisions that need to be made, such as advance medical directives, wills and similar topics. That website is a product of the Department of Aging and Disability services.
“An advanced directive is a legal form that will give medical professionals direction on how you would like the decision-making processes to go if you cannot speak,” he explained.
The Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas has a webpage devoted to advance directives, including what they specifically do and what they do not do.
Talk to family and doctors
Talk to family and doctors about what should happen if tragedy struck, he advised. This can help families avoid bitter disagreements about the course to take when they should draw together to minister to one another.
“People, good Christian people, have different perspectives on these issues. If we want our wishes followed when we get into a situation at the end of life, we have to talk about it now,” Foster said.
Christians should consider end-of-life issues in light of their beliefs about the sacredness of human life, he added.
“We don’t value life just because we think people are important. We value life because God created it, and we are created in God’s image,” Foster said.
Quality of life
Quality of life also is a consideration, however.
“Fullness of life is important. Death is not the ultimate tragedy,” he said. “It bothers me that as Christians, we sometimes treat death like everybody else—likes it’s the worst thing that can happen. It’s not. The worst thing that can happen is for someone to die without Christ.
“Is death a tragedy? Yes, especially for those left behind, because we miss somebody we love. But it’s not the ultimate tragedy if they know Jesus.”
A delicate balance
The tension between balancing considerations of the sanctity of life and quality of life creates difficult end-of-life decisions, he said, referencing Baptist ethicist and theologian Bill Tillman.
“Love involves seeking what’s best for another, even when it’s difficult. Sometimes when we keep people we love around, it’s for selfish reasons—we don’t want to lose them. The Christian faith teaches us to love others as ourselves. Sometimes, I think we forget to do that,” Foster said.
Christians don’t enter into this difficult time alone, however.
“One of the things we can be guilty of is forgetting the great resource we have in Scripture and the Holy Spirit. We are not alone,” he said.