Life and Blood—Do You Treat Them as Sacred?
1. (a) How does God view life? (b) How can we demonstrate that we appreciate God’s gift of life?
IT SHOULD NOT surprise us that God’s viewpoint toward life is very different from that of the world. To God, human life is sacred. Do you view it in that way? We are completely dependent on God, who “gives to all persons life and breath and all things.” (Acts 17:25-28; Ps. 36:9) If we share God’s view, we will safeguard our life. But we will not violate divine law in an attempt to save our present life. We treasure God’s promise of everlasting life for those who truly exercise faith in his Son.—Matt. 16:25, 26; John 6:40; Jude 21.
2. Whose attitude toward life does the world reflect, and to what kind of reasoning does this sometimes lead?
2 In contrast, Jesus said that Satan the Devil, the ruler of this world, “was a manslayer when he began.” (John 8:44; 12:31) From the very start of his course of rebellion he brought death to mankind. The world’s violent history reflects his spirit. But Satan can also present a seemingly different appearance. Thus men who are influenced by his thinking argue that, while it may be all right to be religious, when life is at stake you would be benefited by heeding their “expert” advice instead of quoting the Bible. (Compare 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15.) When faced with an apparent life-or-death situation, which way will your heart incline? Of course, our desire should be to please Jehovah.
3 God’s Word reveals an intimate relationship between life and blood, saying: “The soul [or life] of the flesh is in the blood.” Just as life is sacred, so, too, God has made blood sacred. It is something that belongs to him, to be used only in the manner he approves. (Lev. 17:3, 4, 11; Deut. 12:23) So we do well to consider carefully what he requires of us with regard to blood.
Read Genesis 9:3-6
What practices in your area require you to be alert so as not to consume animal blood?
In view of what is said in Ge 9 verse 4 regarding animal blood, how would you react to the drinking of human blood (which was done at Roman gladiatorial events)?
As shown in Ge 9 verses 5 and 6, to whom primarily must one answer for shedding human blood?
Read Acts 15:28, 29
Does this state that the requirements would apply for only a limited time? Do they apply to us?
Is human blood excluded by the language used here?
Does the text indicate that exceptions might be made in cases of emergency?
4. As discussed here, what action do the Scriptures show that a person may need to take so as not to share in bloodguilt?
4 As regards human blood, we cannot assume that simply refraining from murder keeps us guiltless. The Scriptures show that if we are part of any organization that is bloodguilty before God, we must sever our ties with it if we do not want to share in its sins. (Rev. 18:4, 24; Mic. 4:3) Such action deserves urgent attention.
5. How is diligence in the field ministry associated with being free of bloodguilt?
5 In the case of God’s servants whom he has commissioned to warn of coming destruction in the great tribulation, their remaining free from bloodguilt requires that they faithfully proclaim that message. (Compare Ezekiel 3:17-21.) The apostle Paul viewed himself as a debtor to people of all sorts because of the ministry assigned to him. He felt free of responsibility for their blood only after he had borne thorough witness to them about God’s provision for salvation. (Rom. 1:14, 15; Acts 18:5, 6; 20:26, 27) Does your diligence in the field ministry reflect a similar awareness of the responsibility that rests on all of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
6. What connection is there between accident prevention and respect for the sacredness of life?
6 Fatal accidents should also be of serious concern to us. Under the Mosaic Law persons who accidentally caused the death of a fellow human were not viewed as guiltless. Penalties were imposed. (Ex. 21:29, 30; Deut. 22:8; Num. 35:22-25) If we take to heart the principle involved, we will be careful to avoid contributing to any fatal accident by the way we drive a vehicle, by our taking some foolish chance or by allowing unsafe conditions to exist in our home or at our place of business. Does your attitude regarding these things reflect full appreciation for the sacredness of life?
What About Medical Use of Blood?
7. (a) Is transfusing blood of one human into another compatible with the sacredness of blood? (b) Why is it unreasonable to restrict the command to ‘abstain from blood’ to practices that were common in the first century?
7 Although the practice is not new, particularly in the 20th century blood has been widely used for transfusions, with the intention of sustaining life. Both whole blood and primary components of blood are used in this manner. Of course, such medical procedures do not guarantee that the patient will not die. Sometimes, in fact, death follows as a direct result of such use of blood. But of even greater concern—Does the Bible requirement that we ‘abstain from blood’ apply to this medical practice? Yes! Taking blood into one’s body from any other creature, human or animal, violates the divine law. It shows disregard for the sacredness of blood. (Acts 15:19, 20) There is no basis for restricting the command to ‘abstain from blood’ to practices that were current in the first century and thus excluding modern medical techniques. Reason on the matter: Who would claim that the Bible’s command against murder did not include illegally taking human life by means of a gun, since gunpowder was not invented until the 10th century? And would it be reasonable to argue that the prohibition of drunkenness applied only in connection with beverages known in the first century and not to modern-day hard liquors? For persons who truly want to please God, the message conveyed by the command to ‘abstain from blood’ is clear.
8. (a) How can you determine whether a certain medical procedure is suitable for a Christian? (b) If a doctor wanted to withdraw some of your own blood, store it and then return it to your body during an operation, what Bible principles could help you to make a sound decision? (c) How might a person reason on treatment that requires the blood to circulate through equipment outside the body?
8 Nevertheless, the complexity of some medical procedures may give rise to questions. How can these be resolved? First, ask your doctor for a clear explanation of the proposed procedure. Then analyze it prayerfully in the light of Bible principles. The doctor may suggest that you have some of your own blood withdrawn and stored for use, if necessary, during a later operation. Would you agree? Remember that, according to God’s Law given through Moses, blood removed from a creature was to be poured out on the ground. (Deut. 12:24) We today are not under the Law code, but the underlying message is that blood is sacred and, when removed from a creature’s body, is to be returned to God by pouring it out on his footstool, the earth. (Compare Matthew 5:34, 35.) So how could it be proper to store your blood (even for a relatively brief time) and then put it back into your body? But what if the doctor says that, during surgery or in the course of other treatment, your blood would be channeled through equipment outside your body, and then, right back in? Would you consent? Some have felt that, with a clear conscience, they could permit this, provided that the equipment was primed with a nonblood fluid. They have viewed the external equipment as an extension of their circulatory system. Of course, situations vary, and it is you that must decide. But your decision should leave you with a clean conscience before God.—1 Pet. 3:16; 1 Tim. 1:19.
9. (a) To assure respect for your decision to ‘abstain from blood,’ what precautions ought to be taken? (b) Even in the event of an emergency, how can an unpleasant confrontation sometimes be avoided? (c) If a doctor or a court tried to force a blood transfusion, what would you do?
9 To assure that your doctor will respect your decision to ‘abstain from blood,’ talk to him before any medical emergency arises. If it is necessary to check into a hospital for treatment, take the precaution of requesting in writing that no blood be used, also speak about it personally to the doctor that will be handling your case. But what if there is an unexpected emergency? Unpleasant confrontations can often be avoided by having a respectful, reasonable discussion with the doctor, urging him to use his skills to help, but with respect for your Christian conscience. (Prov. 15:1; 16:21, 23) However, if perhaps well-meaning medical personnel insist that refusing blood will endanger our life and so try to force us to acquiesce, then what? Faith in the rightness of Jehovah’s ways should make us firm. Loyalty to Jehovah ought to make us resist resolutely, because we choose to obey God rather than men.—Acts 5:29; compare Job 2:4; Proverbs 27:11.
How Serious Is the Matter?
10. Why would the claim that a transfusion is needed to save a life not change our view of the matter?
10 To persons who do not yet know Jehovah, arguments in favor of blood transfusions may at times seem to show high regard for the sacredness of life. But we do not forget that many who argue in this way also condone the destruction of life by means of abortion. Jehovah knows more about life and blood than any medical “expert.” All His commandments have proved to be for our good, safeguarding our present life and our future prospects. (Isa. 48:17; 1 Tim. 4:8) Is the command to ‘abstain from blood’ any different?
11. (a) What was the only use that Jehovah permitted the Israelites to make of blood? (b) Why is this very important to us as Christians?
11 The seriousness of respecting the sacredness of blood is emphasized by what Jehovah said regarding the only use to which blood could be put. “The soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it. That is why I have said to the sons of Israel: ‘No soul of you must eat blood.’” (Lev. 17:11, 12) All the animal blood poured out at Jehovah’s altar in harmony with that requirement foreshadowed the precious blood of Jesus Christ. (Heb. 9:11, 12; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19) Thus the sacredness of the blood of Jesus itself is emphasized by God’s law prohibiting any other use of blood. From this it can be seen that any misuse of blood shows gross disrespect for Jehovah’s provision for salvation through his Son.
12. If faced with death, why would a true Christian not resort to any misuse of blood in an attempt to stay alive?
12 When faced with a life-or-death situation, how shortsighted it would be to turn one’s back on God! Although we appreciate the services of conscientious doctors, we do not desperately try to keep ourselves or our loved ones alive for a few more days or years by violating God’s law, as if this life were everything. We have faith in the value of Jesus’ shed blood and the eternal life that it makes possible. With our whole heart we believe that faithful servants of God—even those who die—will be rewarded with eternal life.—John 11:25; 1 Tim. 4:10.
● What makes life and blood sacred? Why does the world argue for a different view?
● As regards animals, how do we show respect for the sacredness of their blood?
● In what various ways should all of us show that we treat human life as being sacred? How important is it to do so?