The Sanctity of Human Life
Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
All lives matter! All lives are precious in God’s sight. The reason – because God created us in his image, after his likeness (Genesis 1:26). Consequently, every person – male/female, young/old, born/unborn, black/white, Hispanic/Asian, citizen/immigrant, rich/poor, religious/irreligious, Christian/non-Christian – every person has worth and dignity as God’s image. The dignity of all human life is evident in God’s words to Noah that if one person takes the life of another person, they forfeit their own life, “for God has made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6). All lives matter because all lives are precious before God. There are no qualifications, no distinctions.
Sadly, our culture rejects the idea that all lives matter. The history of racism in the United States has shown us that too many black lives don’t matter. The eugenics movement has advanced the notion that children born with genetic abnormalities don’t matter. The white nationalist movement promotes the idea that immigrant lives don’t matter. And the pro-abortion movement has legalized a practice which communicates that unborn lives don’t matter. Any movement that promotes the idea that any human being doesn’t matter is anti-God, evil, Satanic.
As Christians, we have a responsibility, not only to honor all human life but to seek to protect all human life as we have the opportunity. While we should honor and celebrate all life each day, every January, Christians throughout the United States acknowledge the sanctity of human life. Why January?
First, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929. It’s appropriate that we remember, not Dr. King’s assassination day but his birthday. By celebrating Martin Luther King Day, we remember Dr. King's dream that all humans have dignity because each person bears the image of God. However, Dr. King reminds us that we cannot sit silently on the sidelines while injustice against humanity continues. In his 1963 speech, “I Have a Dream,” Dr. King rightly said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” But Dr. King did not choose to arm his objections with violence. Instead, he argued that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” (Sermons from his book Strength to Love, 1963).
Secondly, we remember and promote the doctrine of the sanctity of human life in January because, on this month in 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion in the Roe versus Wade decision. To date, abortion has taken the lives of over 58 million unborn children – many of them from lower-income and minority families. When considering human life, the unborn are the most vulnerable because they literally have no voice. If we don’t speak on their behalf, who will? That’s one reason why on January 13, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22 as the first National Sanctity of Life Day.
When I was in Israel in December of 2017, I had the opportunity to walk through the Yad Vashem (the holocaust museum) in Jerusalem. It was disheartening to observe the evidence of hatred against Jews, not only from Nazi Germany but from governments all over the world. One theme stood out to me during that visit. It's captured in a quote often attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”
If we don't speak up against injustice, who will? Evil only needs us to be silent to continue to have its way. So, whether it's having a much needed personal conversation with a family member, walking out of the room when an ethnic joke is told, volunteering with an organization that is seeking to address issues of injustice (whether poverty, hunger, racism, sexual abuse), gathering for a public event like a Martin Luther King Day parade or a March for Life - let us be silent no longer. May we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to bring together one new man from Jew and Gentile. Let us announce the good news of the kingdom that Jesus is reigning at the right hand of the Father, and he is gathering for Himself a people from every tribe, language, and nation, making them brothers and sisters. In God's kingdom, all are family, and all are equal, all are of worth and have dignity – male/female, young/old, black/white, Asian/Hispanic, rich/poor, citizen/immigrant, born/unborn. Let us dignify and celebrate such life!