The Value of Life

We see it everywhere we look. Our society increasingly has come to value human beings not for who they are, but for what they can do. Sometimes it makes headlines, as with Terri Schiavo, whose parents are still fighting a high-profile battle to keep her alive. Sometimes nobody notices: just one more lonely nursing-home patient or prisoner; one more tiny life aborted and discarded. If they don’t have something to contribute, we have little use for them. But John and Gail Wessells see things differently. In his new book, Conversations with the Voiceless, John explains how and why he ministers to coma patients. It’s a remarkable story, and one we can all learn from. How many of us would be willing to spend our lives singing and talking to people in comas? How many of us even think of them as worthy of time and attention? But that’s just what the Wessells do. They had doubts at first. John recalls, “In the beginning, I truly did this work by faith—faith that, somehow, this was part of what Jesus meant by reaching out to ‘the least of these.’” Because the patients were largely unable to respond, Wessells says, “I created my own tidy categories for God. I had learned not to expect too much.” Until one patient, Rob, gradually came out of his coma, and revealed that he had heard John singing and praying—and had prayed along with him. That was only the first of the incredible responses that the Wessells have received from the “voiceless.” Again and again, through their obedience and faith, the Wessells have been allowed to see that the “least of these” are as human as you and I and need to be in relationships. John Wessells was present years ago when pro-life protesters flooded a nursing home, speaking up to save the life of a comatose woman whose feeding tube had been removed. It was a high-profile case with lots of media coverage. A week later, after she died, Wessells says he was disappointed that none of those protesters were there visiting all the other brain-damaged patients in comas. In the process of his work, he’s learned something about the things God values. He writes, “Everywhere you look, people are burning out, suffocating under the burden of working sixty-hour weeks. . . . Attending too many church meetings. Reading too many books on how to have perfect families. Listening to too many seminar speakers who tell us how to run successful ministries.” Wessells speculates, “Maybe we should be listening to the voiceless. . . . What I think they’re saying [to us] is this: Truly, as Christ told us long ago, the yoke is easy and burden is light.” Even the most helpless among us are loved by God, simply for being who they are. It is central to the Christian worldview that all humans are created in the image of God, even humans in comas. And we can never treat the image of God as a means to an end. Humans are always subjects, never objects. Visiting the voiceless, as John Wessells does, is a simple, yet eloquent, reminder of this great truth.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary