On living organ donation

January 15, 2014 | Young Voices
Daniel Bigham | Special to Young Voices

Many of us are familiar with the concept of organ donation that occurs after someone passes away, but more recently I have learned about the need for living organ donations.

Over the past year, I have followed the story of Craig Dunbar, a 41-year-old from Ottawa who was afflicted with kidney failure in 2007.

For six years, Dunbar searched for a new kidney. This past November, he found a match through Canada’s Living Donor Paired Exchange. Two people were in the process of being tested to join the program on Dunbar’s behalf before a family friend stepped forward and donated one of her kidneys to him. The other two are continuing on with the process, in order to be anonymous “angel” donors through the exchange.

The concept of living organ donation strikes me as a rich one for Christians to consider. As I have personally reflected on the greatest commandment Jesus gave us—to love God with our whole being, and to love others as we love ourselves—I ask myself, “If the roles were reversed, would I want Dunbar to donate a kidney to me?”

The answer is yes, as I suspect it is for most of us. But in talking with other Christians, it quickly becomes apparent that most of us are hesitant to donate a kidney to someone we don’t have a strong personal connection with.

This reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan, who was willing to act even though the person in trouble wasn’t a beloved family member or acquaintance. Why? I think it goes back to Jesus’ commandment to love others as we love ourselves. Each human life is uniquely valuable to God, regardless of whether the person is a family member or a stranger to us. Dunbar’s life is as valuable to God as my life, and as valuable as your life.

There are many other ways in which living organ donation is relevant to our Christian dialogue:

• Stewardship. We often acknowledge that stewardship is more than money, that we are also privileged to manage the time and talents that God has entrusted to us. Can we consider it good stewardship that hundreds of millions of Christians keep an extra kidney while people are dying or have very compromised health for lack of one? And since 20 years of dialysis for a person costs roughly $1.2 million of taxpayer money, a kidney donation is also good stewardship of a country’s medical resources.

• Witness. As we endeavour to demonstrate to the world the beauty of loving others as self, situations like Dunbar’s are a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate who God has called us to be. If we turn away, we send a confounding message to the world. We don’t want the church to be known for what it’s against, but rather what it is for.

• Christian formation. As we sit around tables and talk about how to form faith in our youth with this curriculum or that, we must remember that it is actually how we choose to live—and the hard decisions we make—that are most formative for our children.

• Peace. As followers of Jesus we know that the seeds of peace are best sown long before conflict erupts. Sacrificial love for one another is one of the most beautiful seeds of peace that I know of.

When we die and God asks us how we responded to the hungry, the thirsty and the naked, we should also be prepared to account for how we responded to those who needed a kidney.

Were we like the priests who saw the robbed and beaten man, but walked to the other side of the road? Or were we like the Good Samaritan who stopped and helped?  

Donating a kidney won’t be a good choice for everyone. But if it is fear and uncertainty that is holding us back, we need not be afraid because what we, as Christians, are about is love, and love drives out all fear.

We often raise our eyes to heaven and ask for a miracle. As we do so, we must remember that God has also placed miracles within us that are ready to blossom if we are willing.

Daniel Bigham lives in Waterloo, Ont. For more information about Craig Dunbar, visit www.kidney4craig.com. A great resource for more information is the blog of Carol Penner, a pastor who donated a kidney: anundesignateddonor.blogspot.ca.

--Posted Jan. 15, 2014

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