Godly Respect for Life and Blood
1. Though the world is accustomed to violence, how does the Bible teach us to view life?
HOW much safer we would be if everyone had godly respect for life and blood! But many persons do not have such respect. Violence and bloodshed are on the increase everywhere. In many places a person’s life is in danger if he simply walks the streets alone at night. So accustomed has the world become to violence that, even for entertainment, people will sit for hours and watch it on television or in a motion picture. However, the Bible teaches us that life is something sacred. Do you view it that way?
2. Why may Bible teachings on life and blood surprise some persons?
2 Unscriptural attitudes have become so commonplace today that Bible teachings on the matter may surprise some persons at first. However, the Author of the Bible, who is also the Giver of life and the Creator of blood, is the Supreme Authority on the subject. His laws are to be respected.—Psalm 36:5-9 [35:6-10, Dy]; Isaiah 55:8, 9.
“SHEDDING MAN’S BLOOD”
3. (a) To whom did God first speak about the seriousness of taking human life? Why? (b) After the Flood, how did God emphasize the preciousness of life? (c) Is that law out-of-date?
3 It was first to Cain, a son of Adam, that Jehovah spoke about the seriousness of taking human life. God had already warned Cain that his anger might lead him into sin, but Cain ignored the warning and assaulted his brother Abel, killing him. Then God said: “Listen! Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.” For his lawless shedding of blood Cain had to answer to God. (Genesis 4:6-11) Following the flood of Noah’s day, God again emphasized that human life is precious in his sight. “Your blood of your souls shall I ask back,” God said. “Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man.” (Genesis 9:5, 6) That commandment has not gone out-of-date. It applies to all mankind today as descendants of Noah. Whether human governments deal with criminals in accord with that divine law or not, Jehovah will call to account those who lawlessly take life.
4. If we want eternal life, what must we root out of our lives, so as not to endanger the lives of others.
4 To remain blameless before the Giver of life, however, there is more required. At 1 John 3:15 it is written: “Everyone who hates his brother is a manslayer, and you know that no manslayer has everlasting life remaining in him.” If we want everlasting life, we need to root out of our lives all hatred for our fellowmen. God is not going to preserve into his new system persons who, like Cain, ignore divine warning and endanger the lives of others with their hot tempers. A godly view of life requires that we learn to love our fellowman.—1 John 3:11, 12; Matthew 5:21, 22.
5. What is the Scriptural view toward abortion?
5 If we conform to God’s thinking on this matter, we will also appreciate that life is no less sacred because a person may be very old or very young. God’s Word shows that even the life of an unborn child in its mother’s womb is precious to Jehovah. (Exodus 21:22, 23; Psalm 127:3 [126:3, Dy]) And yet millions of abortions are performed throughout the earth each year. These are a violation of God’s law, for the human embryo is a living creature and should not be destroyed. If married couples want to limit the size of their families for economic, health or other reasons, that is their personal affair, and the way in which they do this is largely a matter for them to work out personally. But we must face the fact that the practice of abortion does not show a godly respect for life.
‘KEEP YOURSELVES FREE FROM BLOOD’
6. (a) Who has the full right to say what may be done with blood? (b) When God granted man permission to eat animal food, what law did he give on blood?
6 The holy Bible frequently uses “blood” to stand for “life.” This is because the life or soul is in the blood. (Leviticus 17:11) Since God is the Creator of blood, he knows more about it than any of us, and he has the full right to say what may be done with it. It was first after the global Flood that God granted humankind permission to eat animal flesh. So at that time he also gave them his law on blood, saying: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.” (Genesis 9:3, 4) Animal flesh might be eaten, but not the blood.
7. (a) What did the governing body of the early Christians write about blood? (b) How does that decision indicate the seriousness of ‘keeping free from blood’?
7 Later, that law was embodied in the commandments given to the nation of Israel, and God’s Word makes it binding on Christians as well. After thoroughly discussing God’s requirements for Christians, the governing body of the early Christian congregation wrote to the non-Jewish believers: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep yourselves free from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!” (Acts 15:28, 29) So, we, too, must ‘keep free from blood.’ And our doing so is a serious matter, having been put on a level with avoiding fornication and idolatry.
8. (a) If an animal has not been bled, should its flesh be eaten? (b) Should blood be mixed in any kind of food? (c) Why is human blood not less sacred?
8 It is evident from what God says about blood that we should not eat the flesh of an animal that has not been bled. (Deuteronomy 12:15, 16) Nor should we consume animal blood by itself or mixed in other foods. But is it only the blood of animals that is involved? Certainly God did not forbid mankind to eat animal blood while permitting him to eat human blood, as if it were less sacred! He made this clear when he later said to the Israelites: “As for any man . . . who eats any sort of blood, I shall certainly set my face against the soul that is eating the blood.”—Leviticus 17:10.
9. What did an early Christian writer say about (a) the reason why some drank blood at that time? (b) the view of the early Christians regarding blood?
9 This was well understood by the early Christians. Even though it was commonly believed that drinking the blood of another human would benefit one’s health, they knew that lasting good health, both physical and spiritual, depended upon obedience to God. So, Tertullian, a Christian writer of the second and third centuries C.E., said: “Those, too, who at the gladiator shows, for the cure of epilepsy, quaff with greedy thirst the blood of criminals slain in the arena, as it flows fresh from the wound, and then rush off—to whom do they belong? . . . Blush for your vile ways before the Christians, who have not even the blood of animals at their meals of simple and natural foods; who abstain from things strangled and that die a natural death. . . . To clench the matter with a single example, you tempt Christians with sausages of blood, just because you are perfectly aware that the thing by which you thus try to get them to transgress they hold unlawful.” They understood God’s law to include blood of every kind, animal and human.
10. (a) Explain why getting a blood transfusion is not actually different from “eating.” (b) Illustrate that ‘abstaining from blood’ means not taking it into our bodies at all.
10 What about the use to which human blood is put today? Medical doctors, realizing the life-sustaining power of blood, use blood transfusions freely in their treatment of patients. Is this in harmony with God’s will? Some persons may reason that getting a blood transfusion is not actually “eating.” But is it not true that when a patient is unable to eat through his mouth, doctors often feed him by the same method in which a blood transfusion is administered? Examine the scriptures carefully and notice that they tell us to ‘keep free from blood’ and to ‘abstain from blood.’ (Acts 15:20, 29) What does this mean? If a doctor were to tell you to abstain from alcohol, would that mean simply that you should not take it through your mouth but that you could transfuse it directly into your veins? Of course not! So, too, ‘abstaining from blood’ means not taking it into our bodies at all.
11. (a) Does ‘abstaining from blood’ work any real hardship on God’s servants? (b) What happens to many patients who get blood transfusions? (c) Can doctors be sure that a person will die if he is not given blood?
11 Does this put God’s servants at a disadvantage in comparison with persons who ignore the Bible and take blood transfusions? No, it works no real hardship on them. Do not forget that, immediately after telling Christians to ‘keep themselves from blood,’ the Scripture says: “If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!” (Acts 15:29) God had that recorded in the Bible for a purpose. He knows what he is talking about! He knows more about blood than do doctors whose efforts, though they may be well meaning, do not always produce the desired results. (Mark 5:25-29) The fact is that, while most patients survive blood transfusions, many become diseased as a result of them and thousands die every year as a direct result of them. There are other forms of treatment that do not cause such harm. A doctor may tell a person that he will be dead within a short time if he does not submit to a transfusion, but the patient may die even though he accepts blood. On the other hand, as you know, there are many patients who regain good health in spite of a doctor’s predictions to the contrary.
12. (a) Why is it not wise to try to save one’s life by breaking God’s law? (b) Is our present life more precious than loyalty to God?
12 For the doubtful chance that one might be kept alive for a few more years in this system of things, would it make good sense to turn one’s back on God by breaking his law? If we try to save our life, or soul, by breaking God’s law, we will lose it everlastingly. That is why Jesus said: “Whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) So the wise course is always to have confidence in the rightness of God’s law and full faith that, if need be, God can give us life again by a resurrection in his new system of things. (1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14) In that way we will show godly respect for life. We will not view our present life as being more precious than loyalty to God. Instead, we will keep our eye on God’s provision of eternal life for those who walk in the way of the truth.
13. (a) Rather than by blood transfusions, how only can salvation be had? (b) What do we need to do in order to be “clean from the blood of all men,” as the apostle Paul was?
13 As never before, there is an urgent need for people everywhere to get God’s viewpoint of life. They need to learn of the provision that Jehovah God himself has made to save life. He sent his Son Jesus Christ to shed his own lifeblood on behalf of those who will exercise faith, and he resurrected him from the dead. (Hebrews 13:20, 21) It is not by blood transfusions but only by means of faith in Jesus’ shed blood that salvation can be had. And it is urgent to gain and exercise that faith now before this old system of things comes to its end. If we have learned about this loving provision, then we should feel moved to tell others about it. Godly concern for the lives of other people will move us to do it with zeal and boldness. (Ezekiel 3:17-21) If we shoulder this responsibility and persist in it until they have all had opportunity to hear, we will be able to say, as did the apostle Paul: “I am clean from the blood of all men, for I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God.”—Acts 20:26, 27.