Friday, June 13, 2014

Bioethics: Integrating Faith and Medical Science

Mark 8:34-38 

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Have you heard that BFM 89.9 (The Business station) advertisement on the Property show? You are born, you grow up, you learn to walk, you scrape your knees, you go to school, you fall in love with a girl or a boy, you graduate, you find a job, you break up, you cry, you travel to the Eiffel Tower, you make lots of money, you fall in love with a girl (or a boy), you get married, you have kids, you buy a house. Buy a house? You buy a house.

Is that all there is to life? And you can go on a bit further. After you buy a house, your kids grow up, you travel the world, you play golf, you fall sick and you die.

 Is that all that you live for? That’s the script for most people as they drift along life.

Well, you may say, there’s nothing wrong or sinful with all that, right? That sounds like a perfectly normal kind of life. What else do you expect?

Well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. They are good in and of themselves. But if all that you live for is personal comfort or a great career or great vacation or wealth or success or pleasure or even for marriage and family, if on these things hang your ultimate significance, your purpose in life, your ultimate hope and security, if these things are your mini gods, then you are too easily satisfied. The problem is not that your desire is too strong. The problem is it’s too weak. You settle for far too little.   

We are sometimes like the little child who plays with dirty mud by the drain (longkang), and Mommy comes along and says, “Come, Ah Boy, don’t play in the mud. Come, Mommy bring you play at the sea or at Sunway Lagoon instead.” And the boy refuses (I don’t want, I want to play by the longkang) because he cannot imagine how wonderful playing by the sea or at Sunway Lagoon is like. The problem is not that his desire is too strong, but it is too weak. He settled for far too little.

The irony is you think you saved your life, but you have wasted it. You think you have gained the world but you have lost your own soul in the process. We are made for so much more.
There is a God shaped hole in our hearts that only He can fill. Like a splinter in our mind. It drives us to thirst and hunger for more than this world has to offer.

According to C.S. Lewis, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it… Probably, earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing." These longings, aching for something more are clues that point us to the God who truly satisfies. Don’t settle for less.

But the solution is not just to add some religious activities into life and everything will turn out nice. God is not the means to get us our best life now. Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” You want to be my disciple, you need to die to self. There’s an exchange: You give all that you are for all that He is.

For the longest time, we function as if there were two categories of Christians. If you accepted Christ as your Saviour and say the sinner’s prayer, you were saved. You had Christ in your life. You would go to heaven when you died. You attend church, listen to sermon, sing songs, don’t smoke or drink. You are a respectable Christian. But if you were really serious about your faith, you would then commit yourself to spiritual disciplines, radically serve others. You would sacrifice comforts and do serious stuffs like reading the Bible regularly and actively lead others to Christ. If you were really serious about the Christian faith you would become a follower of Jesus. Evangelism and mentoring others is a pastor’s job. Or a cell group leader’s job. But making disciples is an optional upgrade for ordinary Christians. It’s only for those who are a bit over the top… 

But that is cheap grace… it’s the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, it’s cheap grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, it’s just a mental assent or signing a card that does not transform anything.

If you are a Christian, you are not your own. Christ has bought you at the price of his own life. That means your life is not your own. It is God’s. God made you to be truly satisfied, truly filled in Him. He bought you so that you belong to Him. This is the meaning of our lives.
There is a warning. The path of following Jesus will cost you your life. Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” In other words, it is better to lose your life than to waste it. Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man’ will gladly go and self all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

It changes everything. It is costly and painful. But in the final analysis, there is no ultimate sacrifice. We don’t sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake… we give up things for something much more glorious, more beautiful, more joyful, more worthwhile than life itself. You will lose your life, but you will find true life, abundant life, purposeful life, eternal life with the God who loves you.   

In order to experience that, our Christian faith cannot just be just 2 hours of singing songs and listening to sermons just on Sundays… It’s got to be more radical than that. We have to leave our comfort zone, die to our selfish agenda and really follow Jesus. It is not an optional add-on. We have to follow Him, stay close to Him and be passionate about what He is passionate for. Don’t waste your young life. Be sold out for Him.

Now, what does it mean to follow Jesus in IMU?

Let me ask you a question: If you really love Jesus, if you really follow Jesus, what would your life look like? What would you do with your life? You’d be a missionary and preach the gospel in Africa. You’d give up your studies and become a pastor, right? Maybe. Or a full time worker at World Vision or at the church or a ministry? Driver into the church? Doctor or nurse or teacher? Lawyer? Politician? Musician?

Hierarchy of spiritual work…  Dualism: Heart for God/Mind for Science… Pastor do ministry, the rest are just recipients of ministry. Or they are doing the background, support work so that pastors can do the real ministry. Don’t get me wrong. We need more pastors in our churches. And I pray some of you will serve the Lord in that capacity. But the biblical model is that pastors, teachers are not the only ones doing ministry, all of us a prophets and priests and kings who are to be salt and light, to be witnesses of the gospel wherever we are, we are the ones (every single member of God’s people) doing the ministry… and God gave us pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11)

The good news is you can serve God as you study biomedical science, medicine, dentistry, nutrition, psychology, pharmacy and nursing. It can be your act of worship (heart and mind) to God and as service for the kingdom. How can that be?

In every area of study and work, there are signs of God’s good creation and the corrupting influence of sin. As follower of Jesus, you are to enter into that discipline and affirm/celebrate what is good and critique/correct what is wrong. How can I do that? How can I integrate my faith with my work/my research/my studies?

          Science – What’s Its Method and Limits? Should I assume only what can be tested in experiment is real knowledge? Every day you are confronted with the amazing design of God’s creation (video DNA) – it ought to inspire worship in us 

          Ethics – End of Life Issues? (Janet) When does human life begin? Abortion? Stem cell research? Peter Singer defines a person as a self conscious rational being who can make decisions. Newborn baby does not qualify as a person and can be killed In the first 28 days of life.  

          Reality –How do you view Evolution? Is there such a thing as adultery gene or gay gene? Is our behavior determined by genes?

          Virtues – Dealing with suffering and pain? Caregiver even when you can’t fix the problem? Or is there a life not worth living that justifies a doctor killing patients? (Pediatrician who can't get over her patients/children who die – I don't know what the answer to the problem of evil is, but the cross proves that the answer cannot be that God does not care)

I’m not here to give answers (each of these questions deserve a full seminar on its own) but I’m here to raise these are the issues that will confront your life as a Christian. Following Jesus means grappling with these tough issues, because you are the front line soldiers in this battle that is raging all over the world. If you do not form your convictions based on God’s word, you will conform to the patterns of this world and its assumptions… rather than be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

To be a follower of Jesus means you need to bring a Christian perspective that informs how you make decisions on all these crucial issues. I’d like to give you tool box. The bible storyline of creation-fall-redemption-restoration is also toolbox, a worldview that helps you navigate through some of these complex questions.

I truly believe that this Christian Fellowship is a unique, strategic mission field in the kingdom of God. Because I came to know Christ and learn about ministry through CF. If not for a CF I would not have come to hear the gospel at an Easter gospel meeting. If not for a CF, I would probably have abandoned the Christian faith in college.

You are not here by accident. Firstly, campus ministry is strategic because you only have a couple of years studying in this place. Maybe you will leave to continue studies overseas. You and your friends are at a stage in your lives where you are searching for something to live for, where you are open to new ideas, where you make new friends easily. Opportunities for evangelism abound here that may not be there when they are too busy chasing the Malaysian dream after graduation.
Secondly, in this student fellowship, you get a very precious and rare chance to worship together, pray together and serve together with fellow Christians from a different church tradition. You will mature as you learn to discover your spiritual gifts and passions with each other. You learn from your mistakes.

You can talk to committee members and explore how you could serve. You may think you are not talented, but you are gifted. You think you are not needed, but you are. Lead a Bible study, invite your friends to converse about the areas of your research and give them a Christian perspective, be a friend and show them Jesus. (Campus Outreach) 

Stories: Even when we don't have a quick fix (brain transplant?) we are caregivers. Story: At 2 years old, his muscles ability weakened and so, he couldn't walk properly. At 11 years old, he had breathing difficulties and constantly had to rely on a medical device. One day, this boy told his mom to remove the device because it was a painful ordeal for him. He has lost his will to live. The Pediatrician Neurologist who is treating him asked what are his dreams. The boy wants to be a pilot, to visit Disneyland in Hong Kong and he likes fast cars. So the pediatrician neurologist proceeded to make arrangements with a local plane company that takes passengers on flight simulations. The boy took flight that day as the co-pilot. Something changed after that, the boy wanted to live. The neurologist pediatrician works in UH, he shared today in church on his day-to-day job and the challenges of having to face circumstances treating young lives with tough medical conditions every day. I'm deeply moved, he saved a life by letting the boy fly. I believe he gave the boy a reason to live, Hope.

1 comment:

Ron Choong said...

Good job raising important issues david. It is unlikely we will have any good answers anytime soon, but it ought to humble us to realize how much we know but how readily we tend to offer quick fixes.