1) What do we mean by the phrase “Sanctity of Human Life?”
Specifically, we mean to communicate the biblical truth that each and every human life, being made in the very image of God, is a special object of God’s love and concern (Gen 1:26-27; 9:6; James 3:9).
God is no respecter of persons, and so we ought not to be either. Every human life, no matter how young or old, no matter how functional or dysfunctional, is truly worthy of our love and deepest respect. While human life is not to be worshipped, it is to be valued greatly and protected.
2) What is the origin of the practice of observing a “Sanctity of Human Life” day each year?
President Ronald Reagan began the annual tradition. By his proclamation, January 22, 1984, the 11th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, marked the first national observance of the Sanctity of Human Life. That tradition has been continued by some, but not all, presidents since Reagan.
Political observances aside, Christians across the denominational spectrum have annually been calling attention to the tragedy of abortion on demand ever since the Roe v Wade decision (Jan 22, 1973).
Roe v Wade was a wake up call. Specifically, it awakened evangelical Christians in America to the responsibility of being salt and light (Matt 5:13—16) in a culture that was growing increasing callous towards human life.
3) What does it mean to be “salt and light?”
Being salt and light entails bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to bear on a lost and dying world. Preaching and personal evangelism are of paramount importance to the task, but they are incomplete and often rendered ineffective if our words are not matched by lives radically altered by the Gospel.
A life radically altered by the Gospel is one that is no longer controlled by fleshly desires and worldly thinking, but rather, it is in tune with God. It values what God values, and it finds deep and abiding joy in obeying His commands.
What is it, then, that God commands of His people? Here is the answer He gave through the prophet Micah:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NASB)
“Doing Justice” – that is what Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is about.
Among other things, “doing justice” demands that we advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, that we uphold the interests of the weak over and against the schemes of those who would oppress them.
Human Life is under attack, and doing justice demands that Christians concern themselves with the problem and minister accordingly.
4) In what ways is human life under attack today?
Human life is under attack across its entire spectrum. On the back end, it is threatened by the evil of euthanasia. The notion that killing can be a genuinely compassionate ministry to the aged, disabled, and/or infirm is a lie borne straight from the pit of Hell.
Even towards the healthy, we see in our culture a blatant disregard for the value of human life. Murder and violent crime are the obvious signs, but no less concerning is the disregard for human life that permeates much of what passes these days for entertainment.
For the Romans, the sinful appetite for violence was satiated at the Coliseum; for Americans, the appetite is no less strong though the venue for its satisfaction may be different. Yes we have our sports arenas for modern-day gladiatorial contests that feature all the violence without, it is hoped, the killing (e.g., UFC); but we also have our television viewing rooms, our video game stations, and comfortable cinemas where, for our viewing pleasure, human bodies are violated, desecrated, and discarded like rubbish.
Now, what generally gets the most attention at Sanctity of Human Life observances is the assault on human life on the front end, and elective abortion in particular, which has claimed over 50 million lives in the US since Roe v Wade.
Many, frankly, have grown tired of the public controversy over abortion and just wish it would go away. But, absent a mass awakening in our country to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the killing will continue. As the Christian’s charge to protect the innocent and vulnerable is neither optional nor in harmony with the worldly ethos of our day, we may expect that the controversy will continue.
We can take heart, however, in the fact that we stand in good company for Christians have been battling the evil of infanticide from the Church’s earliest beginnings. In Roman culture, it was socially acceptable for fathers to abandon unwanted babies on the doorstep of the family home – death by exposure largely served the same purpose that abortion does today. Convinced, however, that all human life is a gift of the Creator God and thus to be valued and protected, early Christians not only refused to participate in the horrific practice, but even more, they rescued many an abandoned child. As they did so, they provided a powerful witness to the love of God and his gracious salvation extended to helpless sinners.
Human life on the front end is also threatened in our day by the effort to control reproductive outcomes and, in particular, the attributes of our progeny. Whereas the Romans had to wait and see what “nature” delivered, nowadays we have the increasing capacity to determine what first goes into the womb.
Implicit to the drive to select children of a specific type or kind is the judgment that some children are not worth having.
In China, that judgment has manifested in a higher abortion rate for female offspring that has left the population with an enormous gender imbalance. That imbalance poses for China serious threats to peace and order – both internally, and with its neighbors.
Here in the U.S., gender selection is occurring, though not on the same scale as in China. Its not that we are any more humane, however, its just that our focus has been more on the elimination of babies perceived as defective.
And so, for example, those among us who lived in the days prior to pre-natal testing recognize that we have in our midst fewer children with Down’s Syndrome. Current estimates are that somewhere close to 90% of children identified through pre-natal tests as having Down’s Syndrome are now aborted.
Reproductive medicine has not only yielded an increasing capacity to control the makeup of our children, it has also created a huge “surplus” of human embryos. Most of these embryos have been consigned to the freezer. Few will ever come to occupy a womb, but instead, most will either expire on the freezer shelf or be dissected and destroyed in a medical laboratory.
To assuage the conscience uneasy about embryonic experimentation, researchers and their supporters tell us that these embryos are not really human beings or “persons,” but we know better. We were all embryos at some point, just as we were infants, and then toddlers, and then children, and so on.
From conception onward, we are who we are: individual persons known and loved by God and, thus, to be loved according to His command: as neighbor. Neighbor love is sacrificial, but note, it sacrifices not the interests of the one being loved, but rather, those of the one who loves. Killing an innocent neighbor can never be a genuinely loving thing to do.
5) So, what is the Christian to do?
First, we must recognize the assault against human life for what it is. Most fundamentally, it is spiritual warfare. We face an enemy, Satan, whom the Scripture describes as a “murderer” (John 8:44) who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8).
Second, we must then utilize spiritual weapons.
1) The Gospel Truth
The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls sin for what it is, but doesn’t leave the matter there;
It also proclaims in Christ Jesus redemption and forgiveness to all who would repent and place their faith in Christ Jesus;
It is lived out through daily ministry to neighbor – word and deed must be in sync.
Much prayer is required. We are up against a mighty foe, and so, we must call upon the Most High God
3) Guarding our hearts and minds
We must take care to not let that which is unwholesome and impure to capture our hearts or minds;
This is not a call to disengage from culture, but rather, a reminder of the need to filter it and deny it a controlling influence.
Third, we get involved i.e., we seek to be salt and light.
1) Through personal evangelism
Hearts and minds must be transformed by the Gospel. Yet, as the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans declared, “how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?”
2) A personal, social ministry – several avenues exist
Making other people’s problems our own; sharing burdens
Working with agencies whose aim it is to uphold the value of human life
Advocacy in the Public Square: telling the truth in love, pointing our culture to God’s vision of the good life