“With you is the source of life.”—PSALM 36:9.
1, 2. What gift from God is especially valuable today, and why so?
OUR heavenly Father has given us a priceless possession—the gift of life as intelligent humans who are capable of reflecting his qualities. (Genesis 1:27) Thanks to that precious gift, we are able to reason on Bible principles. By applying them, we can grow into spiritually mature people who love Jehovah and whose “powers of discernment [have been] trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Hebrews 5:14.
2 The ability to reason on Bible principles is especially important today, for the world has become so complex that no amount of laws could cover every possible situation that might arise in life. Medical science well illustrates this point, especially in regard to products and procedures involving blood. This is an area of interest and concern to all who want to obey Jehovah. Still, if we understand the relevant Bible principles, we should be able to make wise decisions that both satisfy our conscience and keep us in God’s love. (Proverbs 2:6-11) Consider some of these principles.
LIFE AND BLOOD ARE SACRED
3, 4. When was the sanctity of blood introduced in the Scriptures, and on what principles does it rest?
3 Jehovah first disclosed the intimate connection between life and blood, as well as their sanctity, or sacredness, shortly after Cain murdered Abel. “Listen!” God said to Cain. “Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) In Jehovah’s eyes, Abel’s blood represented his life, which had been brutally cut short. So, in a sense, Abel’s blood cried out to God for vengeance.—Hebrews 12:24.
4 After the Noachian Flood, God gave humans permission to eat the flesh of animals but not the blood. God stated: “Only flesh with its life—its blood—you must not eat. Besides that, I will demand an accounting for your lifeblood.” (Genesis 9:4, 5) This command applies to all of Noah’s descendants right down to our day. It reaffirms what was implied in God’s earlier words to Cain—that the life, or soul, of all creatures is represented by the blood. That decree also establishes that Jehovah, the Source of life, will hold to account all humans who disrespect life and blood.—Psalm 36:9.
5, 6. How did the Mosaic Law show that blood is both sacred and precious? (See also the box “Respect the Life of Animals.”)
5 These two fundamental truths were reflected in the Mosaic Law. Leviticus 17:10, 11 reads: “If any man . . . eats any sort of blood, I will certainly set my face against the one who is eating the blood, and I will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have given it on the altar for you to make atonement for yourselves, because it is the blood that makes atonement by means of the life in it.”a—See the box “The Atoning Power of Blood.”
6 If the blood of a slaughtered animal was not used on the altar, it was to be poured out on the ground. Thus, in a symbolic way, the life was returned to its original Owner. (Deuteronomy 12:16; Ezekiel 18:4) Note, though, that the Israelites did not have to go to extremes in trying to remove every trace of blood from the animal’s tissues. Provided that the creature was properly slaughtered and bled, an Israelite could eat it with a clear conscience, as due respect would have been accorded to the Life-Giver.
7. How did David show respect for the sanctity of blood?
7 David, “a man agreeable to [God’s] heart,” grasped the principles behind God’s law on blood. (Acts 13:22) On one occasion when he was very thirsty, three of his men forced their way into the enemy camp, drew water from a cistern, and brought it to him. How did David react? “Should I drink the blood of the men going at the risk of their lives?” he asked. In David’s eyes, the water was, in effect, the lifeblood of his men. So despite his thirst, he “poured it out to Jehovah.”—2 Samuel 23:15-17.
8, 9. Did God’s view of life and blood change with the establishment of the Christian congregation? Explain.
8 Some 2,400 years after the Noachian decree and about 1,500 years after the Law covenant was made, Jehovah inspired the governing body of the early Christian congregation to write: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you except these necessary things: to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality.”—Acts 15:28, 29.
9 Clearly, the early governing body discerned that blood is sacred and that misusing it is as morally wrong as participating in idolatry or committing sexual immorality. True Christians today accept that stand. Moreover, because they think in terms of Bible principles, they are able to please Jehovah when making decisions about the use of blood.
THE MEDICAL USE OF BLOOD
10, 11. (a) How do Jehovah’s Witnesses view the transfusion of whole blood and primary blood components? (b) In what areas regarding blood might Christians have differing opinions?
10 Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize that “abstaining from . . . blood” means not accepting blood transfusions and not donating or storing their own blood for transfusion. Out of respect for God’s law, they also do not accept the four primary components of blood: red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma.
11 Today, through further processing, these components are often broken down into fractions that are used in a variety of ways. Could a Christian accept such fractions? Does he view them as “blood”? Each one must personally decide on this matter. The same applies to such medical procedures as hemodialysis, hemodilution, and cell salvage involving one’s own blood, provided that it has not been stored.—See the Appendix article “Blood Fractions and Surgical Procedures.”
12. How should we view and handle matters of conscience?
12 Are matters for personal decision of little importance to Jehovah? No, for he is keenly interested in our thoughts and motivations. (Read Proverbs 17:3; 24:12.) So after doing prayerful research on a medical product or procedure, we should heed our Bible-trained conscience. (Romans 14:2, 22, 23) Of course, others should not impose their conscience on us, nor should we ask, “What would you do if you were in my situation?” In such matters, each Christian should “carry his own load.”b—Galatians 6:5; Romans 14:12; see the box “Do I View Blood as Sacred?”
JEHOVAH’S LAWS REFLECT HIS FATHERLY LOVE
13. What do Jehovah’s laws and principles reveal about him? Illustrate.
13 The laws and principles found in the Bible reveal Jehovah to be both a wise Legislator and a loving Father who deeply cares about the welfare of his children. (Psalm 19:7-11) Although the command to “abstain from . . . blood” was not given as a health regulation, it does shield us from complications related to blood transfusions. (Acts 15:20) In fact, many in the medical field rate bloodless surgery as the “gold standard” of modern medical care. To true Christians, such developments simply confirm Jehovah’s unfathomable wisdom and fatherly love.—Read Isaiah 55:9; John 14:21, 23.
14, 15. (a) God’s love for his people was reflected in what laws? (b) How can you apply the principles behind these safety regulations?
14 God’s concern for the welfare of his people in ancient Israel was reflected in many of his laws. For example, he required that Israelite houses have a parapet around the roof to prevent accidents, since roofs were places of considerable activity. (Deuteronomy 22:8; 1 Samuel 9:25, 26; Nehemiah 8:16; Acts 10:9) God also commanded that dangerous bulls be kept under guard. (Exodus 21:28, 29) To ignore these requirements showed a gross lack of respect for the welfare of others and could have resulted in bloodguilt.
15 How can you apply the principles underlying these laws? Why not think about your vehicle, your driving habits, your animals, your home, your place of work, and your choice of recreation? In some lands, accidents are the leading cause of death among the young, often because they take needless risks. However, young ones who want to remain in God’s love value life and do not seek excitement in dangerous activities. They do not foolishly think that youth spells invulnerability. Rather, they enjoy their youth by warding off harmful things.—Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10.
16. What Bible principle applies to abortion? (See also footnote.)
16 Even the life of the unborn is precious in God’s eyes. In ancient Israel, if someone harmed a pregnant woman and either she or her baby died as a result, God considered the guilty party a manslayer, and he had to pay “life for life.”c (Read Exodus 21:22, 23.) Imagine, then, how Jehovah must feel when he sees countless unborn babies deliberately aborted each year, many sacrificed on the altars of expediency and sexual liberation.
17. How would you comfort someone who had an abortion prior to learning about God’s standards?
17 What, though, about a woman who had an abortion prior to coming to a knowledge of Bible truth? Is she beyond God’s mercy? Not at all! In fact, a truly repentant person can count on Jehovah’s forgiveness based on Jesus’ shed blood. (Psalm 103:8-14; Ephesians 1:7) Indeed, Christ himself said: “I have come to call, not righteous people, but sinners to repentance.”—Luke 5:32.
AVOID HURTFUL THINKING!
18. How does the Bible address the underlying cause of much bloodshed?
18 Beyond our simply not harming others, Jehovah wants us to root out of our heart the very cause of much bloodshed—hatred. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer,” wrote the apostle John. (1 John 3:15) Such a person does not merely dislike his brother but wishes him dead. His enmity may surface in the form of vicious slander or false accusations that if true would merit divine judgment. (Leviticus 19:16; Deuteronomy 19:18-21; Matthew 5:22) How important, then, that we work at ridding our hearts of any ill will that may lodge there!—James 1:14, 15; 4:1-3.
19 Those who value life as Jehovah does and who want to keep themselves in his love also avoid violence in all its forms. Says Psalm 11:5: “He hates anyone who loves violence.” That text is more than a statement about God’s personality; it is a guiding principle for life. It moves lovers of God to avoid any form of entertainment that may foster a taste for violence. Likewise, the statement that Jehovah is “the God of peace” impels his servants to fill their minds and hearts with lovable, virtuous, and praiseworthy things, which make for peace.—Read Philippians 4:8, 9.
STAY CLEAR OF BLOODGUILTY ORGANIZATIONS
20-22. What stand do Christians take toward the world, and why?
20 In God’s eyes, Satan’s entire world is bloodguilty. Its political systems, portrayed in the Scriptures as vicious beasts, have slaughtered countless millions, including many of Jehovah’s servants. (Daniel 8:3, 4, 20-22; Revelation 13:1, 2, 7, 8) Hand in hand with these beastlike powers, business and science have worked to create some of the most heinous weapons imaginable, making huge profits in the process. How true that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one”!—1 John 5:19.
21 Because Jesus’ followers are “no part of the world” but remain strictly neutral toward its politics and wars, they avoid personal and community bloodguilt.d (John 15:19; 17:16) And in imitation of Christ, they do not respond violently when others persecute them. Rather, they show love for their enemies, even praying for them.—Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:17-21.
22 Above all, true Christians avoid involvement with “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion and the most bloodguilty of all. “In her,” says God’s Word, “was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.” Thus, we are warned: “Get out of her, my people.”—Revelation 17:6; 18:2, 4, 24.
23. What does it mean to get out of Babylon the Great?
23 Abandoning Babylon the Great involves more than having one’s name removed from a membership roll. It also includes hating the evil practices that false religion condones or openly advocates—such things as immorality, political meddling, and the greedy pursuit of wealth. (Read Psalm 97:10; Revelation 18:7, 9, 11-17) How often these activities lead to bloodshed!
24, 25. (a) On what basis can God show mercy to a repentant person who is bloodguilty? (b) This reminds us of what arrangement in Bible times?
24 Before taking up true worship, each of us, in one way or another, lent support to Satan’s system and thus incurred a measure of bloodguilt. However, because we changed our ways, cultivated faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice, and dedicated our life to God, we gained God’s mercy and spiritual protection. (Acts 3:19) That protection reminds us of the cities of refuge in Bible times.—Numbers 35:11-15; Deuteronomy 21:1-9.
25 How did that arrangement work? If an Israelite accidentally caused another’s death, he was to flee to one of the cities of refuge. After qualified judges ruled on the matter, the accidental manslayer had to reside in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. Then he would be free to live elsewhere. What a beautiful example of God’s mercy and of the great value he places on human life! Similar to those ancient cities of refuge is God’s provision, based on Christ’s ransom sacrifice, for protecting us from death for accidentally violating God’s commandment about the sanctity of life and blood. Do you value that provision? How can you show that you do? One way is by inviting others to accept God’s provision of protection, especially in view of the fast-approaching “great tribulation.”—Matthew 24:21; 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2.
VALUE LIFE BY PREACHING THE KINGDOM MESSAGE
26-28. In what way is our situation today similar to that of the prophet Ezekiel, and how can we keep ourselves in God’s love?
26 The situation of God’s people in our day calls to mind that of the ancient prophet Ezekiel, whom Jehovah commissioned to serve as a spiritual watchman to the house of Israel. “When you hear a word from my mouth you must warn them from me,” said God. If Ezekiel were to neglect his commission, he would be held personally responsible for the blood of those executed when Jerusalem was called to account. (Ezekiel 33:7-9) But Ezekiel was obedient and incurred no bloodguilt.
27 Today, we face the end of Satan’s entire world. Thus, Jehovah’s Witnesses count it both an obligation and a privilege to proclaim God’s “day of vengeance” in conjunction with the Kingdom message. (Isaiah 61:2; Matthew 24:14) Do you have a full share in this vital work? The apostle Paul took his preaching commission seriously. As a result, he could say: “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) What a fine example for us to imitate!
28 Of course, to keep ourselves in the warmth of Jehovah’s fatherly love, we must do more than view life and blood as Jehovah does. We also need to remain clean, or holy, in his eyes, as we shall see in the following chapter.
a Concerning God’s statement, “the life of the flesh is in the blood,” the journal Scientific American notes: “Metaphorical significance aside, the statement is literally true: each type of blood cell is required for life.”
c Bible lexicographers state that the wording of the Hebrew text “apparently renders it impracticable to refer the words to injury done to the woman alone.” Note, too, that the Bible says nothing about the age of the embryo or fetus being a factor in Jehovah’s judgment.