Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Life/Death Trade-Off Revisited

A blog reader asked if I really meant what I wrote in last week's post, Life and Death Trade-Off, when I said I'd use one wish granted by God to ask for the end of suffering for all of mankind rather than ask him to cure me of cancer.

I answered, "I don't really see how anyone could choose otherwise. One person versus all of mankind. Seems like a no-brainer to me."

Actually, maybe "no-brainer" was not quite right. It's my brain that would choose the world over me, while my heart would choose me over the rest of the world. If this were a purely logical decision, we'd all choose the good of many over one. But it's simplistic of me to think of this as a purely logical decision.

I suppose if I spoke with my heart and not my intellect, I'd agree with that blog reader and say, "To hell with the world! I want to be cured of cancer and want many more years with my children and husband." Of course I'd want to choose my own kids and husband over the multitude of faceless, nameless souls that make up humanity.

Sacrificing my own life (and hence, the happiness of my family and loved ones) for a mass of people I don't even know, is a choice I'd prefer never to be forced to make. But many people make this decision every day. Soldiers. Firemen. Policemen.

Think about the firefighters who ran into the second World Trade Center tower to rescue people inside. They'd already seen what happened to the first tower so they knew what they were running into. But they did it anyway. And those firefighters weren't even sacrificing themselves for something as grand as ending the suffering of all of mankind. They were doing it on the mere chance that they might find some people in there they could help. One life for a few strangers. Maybe.

That kind of daily sacrifice puts Jesus's ordeal into a bit of perspective. For God so loved the world, he gave his only son. How about... For the firefighter so loved a bunch of strangers, he gave his only life. For the soldier so loved his country, he gave his only life. For the missionary so loved his God, he gave his only life.

Looks like my thinking that I'd give up my life to save others doesn't make me such a great person after all. There are plenty of people who actually make such a sacrifice every day instead of just thinking and writing about it. And I say... better them than me.

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