Years ago I was called in the middle of the night to a nearby jail to visit a young prisoner who was talking of committing suicide. We were left together in a room to talk. He told me of his difficulties and despair. I responded that his life was given to him by God through his parents. He had no right to destroy his life. He didn't create it. It was a gift given to him. Therefore, he had a responsibility to life, to use it for a constructive purpose, to give it meaning for himself and for others. This young man said he had not thought of his life that way. It was a new idea for him to think of his life as a responsibility beyond himself.
Every human being has a responsibility to all of life. We are all part of the web of life as it was created and has developed since the beginning of time. We all need to see beyond our own lives. It is in the big view, the "big picture", that our individual drop of humanity finds its purpose and meaning. If we live only for ourselves, our family, our tribe, our group or nation, we are denying the total miracle of life. Like Esau, we are "trading our birth-right for a mess of pottage." (Gen. 25: 27-34). The Creator's love for humanity is all-inclusive, all-demanding, and all-forgiving for the humble.
If you recognize your responsibility to life, you will respect the natural order and processes of nature and life. You will want to commit yourself to marriage and having children. You will love them and educate them to adulthood. They, in turn, will want to be able to do the same. Thus, your responsibility to continue life will be fulfilled.
Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow me." (Mt. 16: 24-26) He also said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light" for those who, like him, are gentle and humble in spirit. (Mt. 11: 29-30) You must give your life away in order to truly find it. You do this when you give your life in faith and obedience to Jesus. You do this when you give your life away to your spouse and your children. You do this when you serve the common good, instead of your own selfishness.
People often speak of the need for "freedom" and "rights." It seems a paradox, but real personal freedom comes from knowing and acting on the truth that it requires commitment toward all life. This calls for a self-discipline that accepts the obligation to value and continue the life you have been freely given. This attitude, this way of life, is the answer to the accidents and sufferings of life.
In addition, that responsibility to life means sharing the natural resources of the earth with others in a way that will provide enough to sustain all people with the basic real needs of food, water, shelter, medical care, work, and education. This sharing of resources can only come out of a spirit of love and respect for others. That is the key to the truth of life.
Recently, my wife and I welcomed our first great-granddaughter. I was reminded of the Native American wisdom regarding life, which states that all major decisions of a nation or individual must be based on how those decisions will affect the next seven generations. Granted, my new great-granddaughter is only the fourth generation, but how are my choices in life going to affect her, and future generations to come? As I told the desperate young man in jail, life does have new meaning when you take the long-term view, instead of only considering the short-term loss or gain. Unfortunately, I lost track of him over the intervening years, but I certainly hope and pray that he used his life for constructive purposes. He helped me realize that we all need to pay attention to the youth of our world. We have to raise our next leaders so they can nurture a culture of life, not death.