What is a Christian view of organ donation? Should a Christian be an organ donor or recipient?
There is nothing in the Bible that would prohibit a Christian from donating an organ or accepting an organ transplant. Of course, since the last book of the Bible was written nearly 2000 years ago, the subject is not specifically mentioned, but the principles in the Bible do not infer that organ donation would be wrong.
In fact, the Bible endorses the motivation behind donating an organ. John 15:13 says that it is the greatest love to lay down one's life for friends. Most religions (and all Christian denominations) allow or even endorse organ transplants as a demonstration of love. (Gypsies and Shintos believe organ harvesting from a dead person is wrong, but these beliefs are based on incorrect theology. Gypsies believe the body must be intact so the soul of the dead can revisit its former life. Shintoism teaches that dead bodies are spiritually dangerous and powerful.) There are issues, however, with organ transplant and how death is determined. For instance, if a religion holds that death occurs only after circulation has stopped, some organs may be inviable.
When speaking of organ transplantation, the only problematic passage in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." But when this passage is cited as an argument against organ donation, it is taken out of context. It refers to sexual immorality and the submission we agreed to when we decided to follow and obey Christ. It does not refer to removing a body part from a person, living or dead, which can be used to help another.
At the gut level, some people are hesitant to donate organs at death because of the resurrection. This view probably has its roots in the days of the early church. The first Christians showed their belief in the resurrection by burying their dead instead of cremating them like the pagans. The practice grew into the conviction that if a body is not whole, the dead cannot ascend to heaven in the Rapture. This fear is based on a wrong view of the bodily resurrection. We will be given a new, glorified body, made by God. He does not need the original atoms arranged in a particular way in order to take us in the Rapture. The Jews in the Bible would understand this; even those who believed in the resurrection buried the body until the flesh was decomposed. The bones were then re-buried in a permanent grave with no thought to the destroyed flesh.
The Bible does have a couple of potential conflicts with the procurement of organs for donation. The first is in regards to organs developed through therapeutic cloning. This is a form of stem cell research in which a clone is manufactured for the purpose of medical research or therapy. We do not know the exact moment in which life begins and God gives a soul to a person. Because of this, it is potentially murder to create a clone merely for the purpose of directing its cells to create a donor organ.
Another is organs harvested and sold through human trafficking. The urban legend of the man who woke in a bathtub of ice with no kidneys is just a precautionary tale. But there are people today—migrants, the homeless, and others—who are tricked or forced to donate their organs. Some are deceived, some intended to donate organs but were not paid properly. Trafficking in body parts is not common (the World Health Organization estimates 7000 kidneys are taken and sold every year), but it is a tantalizing temptation when faced with a real need and a long waiting list (about 23% of people who need kidneys die before they get a transplant).
The Bible does mention one metaphorical organ donation. When Christ died, He took our heart of stone and gave us His heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). Without that transplant, we would be dead to God and eternally condemned; with it, we have life eternal. We should feel free to follow Christ's example and give up the perishable body to help another.
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