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FIRST-PERSON: Baptists care deeply for the Schindlers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Easter Sunday has passed. So has Terri Schiavo. And the message of Christ’s bodily resurrection continues to bring help and hope, because there is salvation, new life and heaven in Jesus Christ. In these days following Easter, there is also truth echoing from the untimely death of Terri Schiavo -– this truth that offers help and hope.

The world’s collective heart has been wrung out with love and sympathy for Terri, and especially for her family as they faced heartbreaking decisions. I faced similar decisions in the deaths of my own parents. So, I’m acutely aware of that gut-wrenching, heart-rending ordeal that many people confront every day.

The help we can draw from this tragic situation is to understand that we would help others –- all those we love -– to get certain decisions concerning our own deaths clarified and documented before we leave this earth. Such decisions by Christians should be biblically informed, however.

God’s Word tell us all people are made in His image and as such we have sacred value (Genesis 1:26-27). We were created “a little lower than the angels” and are “crowned … with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5). We must also recall Romans 14:7-8, where God is deemed sovereign over human life: “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

It seems clear to me that mere humans, whether they wear black robes in a courtroom or white coats in a hospital, should not exercise ultimate authority over life and death in cases such as Terri’s. That’s God’s purview.

The hope we get is revealed in verse 9 of Romans 14: “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” The hope we get is not from a so-called living will, but a living witness -– a testimony to the fact that we have trusted in Christ for our earthly and eternal lives. That’s the Good News.

The bad news is that America should be hanging its head in shame because of its complicity in the horrible death of Terri Schiavo, a woman’s whose body committed no crime. No matter what the laws of our land may say concerning euthanasia, and no matter that America slouches toward a culture of selfishness even in death, God is the ultimate authority over life and death. And although many rallied and stood vigilant on behalf of this conviction and in defense of Terri’s life, I’m afraid the effort was too little, too late.

As for Terri’s parents, the Schindlers, I humbly extend my deepest sympathies, my heartfelt condolences and my sincerest prayers on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention in the tragic demise of their beloved daughter. I truly want the Schindlers to know that I, along with millions of other Southern Baptists, care deeply for them and want them to call on us if we can help in any way. We and millions of others grieve and pray for them.

Not only do I grieve with Terri’s parents and pray for them, I applaud them. The Schindlers showed us all what it means to be loving, compassionate parents. May God bless and comfort them in their time of loss and sorrow.

This resurrection season, Terri Schiavo has reminded us that it’s not only about how we leave this earth, it’s much more about where we go when we do. Thank you, Terri; thank you, Jesus.
Bobby Welch is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla.

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  • Bobby Welch