Ethics in a time of Illness
First, I am not a physician and make no claim to understand the complexities of diseases. But I am a guy who has walked with hundreds of people in their illnesses, sometimes even unto their deaths. The issue of ethics in the time of illness is not a simple study of a few verses from the Scriptures and then living happily ever after.
In the past few weeks, the whole world has been watching the spread of a novel virus which is causing death in a small percentage of those who contract it. As a Christ follower I need to ask myself what I am to think of this outbreak of a new illness as it travels around the world. The fact is that new illnesses scare us. We fear the contagion. We dread the outcome if we or a loved one might become ill. We imagine all sorts of grim situations as our amygdala pump out the hormones of fear.
What Is Illness?
In this situation perhaps it is good to ask ourselves what we think of illness itself. How do we react when someone becomes ill? For most illnesses we wish the person well and do not think again about the situation. The fact remains that whenever a person develops an illness, something happens in their lives (see the article here). Each illness gives us a moment to lie still and know that the Lord is God.
Anger at God?!
For some the thought of God being Lord is helpful, but for many of us that thought is more like a fact which will focus our anger. Some years ago, I learned a (perhaps overly simplistic) definition of anger. Anger is an emotion which takes hold of us whenever we sense that we are in danger of losing or are actually losing someone or something important to us. In the time of illness, we turn our anger on God since it is God’s fault that the illness is taking place. Maybe even death will happen, and that is for sure God’s fault.
Jesus Christ is Lord
In pondering the philosophical, ethical, concerns about illness, we tend to forget our foundations and our faith. Our foundation rests on God’s infallible Word which tells us that all things are held together in Jesus Christ. There is nothing which is outside the majestic control of Jesus. He is the one on whom all creation depends for its existence. Illness, too, is under his command. I must hurry on to say that God is not the one who creates illness – the presence of illness is a reminder that we chose death rather than life. Now we look for the redemption of all creation in Christ.
The current coronavirus concern is another reminder that in every situation we are to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. As the church has, for generations, done before, we are called to do now. That is to follow Jesus as he leads us to find those that are sick and to care about and for them. That is a sign of the Kingdom that we wish to have come in all its fullness.
We will need to discuss this further, but for today, that is my thought. Any responses?