In 1988, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved that because “resurrection does not depend on body wholeness” and that “organ transplant technology has transformed many lives from certain death to vibrant productivity,” the SBC encourages “voluntarism regarding organ donations in the spirit of stewardship, compassion for the needs of others, and alleviating suffering.” (Resolution on Human Organ Donations, June, 1988)
"Organ donation: A biblical perspective"
An act of redemption
This world has not turned out as God intended. God, the creator, suffers at the condition of His handiwork. The world as we see it today hardly resembles the perfect creation that God spoke into existence. Crime, hunger, death, and disease were not present at creation, but due to man's fall in the garden, adversity has found a home in every human soul.
God the creator invites all those who would be His to suffer with Him. We are compelled to bear our burdens with the purifying hope that suffering will not have the last word. Even the most timid Christian must stand on the promise that ultimate and unconditional triumph awaits those that love the Lord. Our faith must fasten on the fact that no matter how severe the suffering, God will redeem the situation and utilize it for our good.
Since suffering is inevitable for both God and man, God has created a redeeming value for suffering. The goodness of God will allow something positive to come out of a negative situation. God's greatest demonstration of this redemptive process is realized in His son. The death of Jesus Christ resulted in the redemption of the world. His finished work at Calvary restored the broken fellowship between God and His most precious creation, man. God had rescued creation and mankind from hopelessness with His redeeming love. Christ suffered the loss of His life, but it became the seed of the world's hope and joy.
Sooner or later suffering and sorrow comes to every home. No conditions of wealth, culture, or even religion can prevent it. But the losses and griefs of life have been intended to leave behind an abundance of character and blessings that will make eternity richer. In a Christian home, sorrow should always leave a benediction. It should be received as God's messenger, and when it is, it will always leave a blessing.
Some treasures must be mined. They have to be discovered, realized. Blessings are often shrouded behind the veil of overwhelming grief. There are some tough places in this world, but nothing compares to the intensive care waiting room, where high levels of emotion and active grief can barricade any offer of redemption. Unfortunately, the only time donation advocates can approach a family about organ, eye and tissue donation is in the midst of their grief and sorrow. Many people can only see grief as an enemy to whom they will refuse to be reconciled. They feel that they can never be comforted. For many families who consent to organ, eye and tissue donation, it is a way of redeeming the loss of a loved one. In a situation where you feel victimized, the decision to donate gives the family a feeling of being in control. It gives life to others. Organ donation has helped families deal with their grief by bringing something positive out of a seemingly negative situation.
Not everyone dies in a way that allows vital organ donation. In fact, only a small percentage of people who die can be organ donors. If the decision ever becomes ours to consent for organ, eye and tissue donation, we should consider why God has allowed such an opportunity.
The sweetest songs that have ever been sung have come out of fire. Sorrows should not be wasted. We should yield our rebellion, accept our suffering, and discover if it has some mission to perform, some gift to give, some golden fruit to enjoy, some redeeming value.
A sweet fragrance in the house
In Mark, Chapter 14, we have the marvelous account of a woman breaking an expensive alabaster vase filled with spikenard, a priceless perfumed oil, and anointing Jesus with all of it. Her extravagance was criticized by Judas Iscariot and others in the house. But our Lord praised the sacrificial giving of this woman and declared her deed a memorial. Suppose she had left the expensive oil in the unbroken vase? Would there have been any mention of it? Would her deed of careful keeping and self-preservation been told all over the world? She broke the vase, poured its contents forth, lost it, sacrificed it, and now perfumed incense has drifted into every home where this message has been heard. We may keep our life if we will, carefully preserving it from waste, but we shall have no reward. However, if we empty it out in loving service, we shall make it a lasting blessing to the world, and it shall be well spoken of forever.
By donating our organs, eyes and tissues we unselfishly pour out the fragrant gift of life upon those awaiting a second chance at life through transplantation. The sweet fragrance of sacrificial giving will flow into the homes of transplant recipients whose lives were saved and/or improved through the gift of life.
The donation of organs should not only be regarded as a medical or a secular good deed but also as a religious, sacramental extension of Christ's own life-giving sacrifice. Organ sharing is consistent with the beliefs of all major religions and is viewed as an act of charity, fraternal love, and self-sacrifice.
The cross of Christ is not only substitutionary, but it is also representative. His life of humility and unselfishness should become a prototype for those who bear His name as Christians. We should follow His example by giving the gift of life so that others may live life more abundantly.
The liberating truth
Unfamiliarity with the truth concerning the donor process will hinder the decision to choose life in the face of death. Misconceptions, myths, and mistrust of the medical community will eclipse our perspectives and leave us fearful and ignorant of the facts. God tells us that His people perish because of the lack of knowledge. People are indeed perishing, particularly African Americans. African Americans are less likely to consent to organ, eye and tissue donation than whites, but much more likely to develop kidney failure. Another truth is that African Americans have an unidentified biological susceptibility to hypertension and diabetes, the major causes of kidney failure. If more African Americans would donate, it would provide better matches and increased chances of survival for other African Americans.
The misconception, "I need all my organs intact in order to get into heaven," is not scriptural. The Apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:50 that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." In eternity we will not have or need our earthly bodies. Old things will pass away and all things will be made new.
There is also some mistrust in the medical community. The myths that one could be declared dead prematurely just to gain organs or that you won't receive top medical care if you a have signed donor card are flights from reality. The fact is that no one becomes a donor until all lifesaving measures have been exhausted. An open casket funeral is possible with any type of donation. There is no cost to the family for organ, eye and tissue donation. If we would seek the truth about organ donation, the truth will liberate us not only to accept but to give the gift of life. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)
Through Christ's spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jew or Gentile. In sharing one body, we cannot isolate ourselves from the hurts of humanity. We are called upon to "bear ye one another's burdens." While we can't save the world, we can sign up to become organ, eye and tissue donors when we renew driver's license or get a state issued identification card from the Office of Motor Vehicles. To become a vital organ donor is to give life to as many as nine recipients. An eye donor can restore sight to two individuals and a tissue donor can help as many as 50 people.
Should you decide to give the gift of life, discuss it with your family; let them know your wishes. Death, especially our own, is not something that we love to talk about, but in the last 2000 years no one has been able to escape it.
Death need not be the final comment of our lives. Instead of one stone marker at the head of our grave, there could be living memorials, real people with real families whose lives have been put back together through the gift of life. This is Christianity at its best: sharing one's own life for the purpose of helping someone else.
God, the creator of this world, has placed us as stewards of His creation. Being stewards, we cannot ignore the imperative to heal found in Matthew 10:8, "Heal the sick ... freely ye have received, freely give."
Give the gift of life; it's the chance of a lifetime.
By the Rev. Irvin Lance Peebles