Five Reasons that I Cherish and Champion the Sacredness of Human Life
I hope you’ve experienced the richness of God’s presence this week. That has been my prayer for you. In three days, we’ll celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (SOHL), a morning on which thousands of churches around the country will consider and reflect on the sacredness and value of human life. And even though I’m not going to preach a message on it, the issue has become so polarizing, separating not just the political left and the right but also members of the same family, that I thought I’d offer a (brief) five-point theological argument for the sacredness of human life at every stage of existence. Here goes:
- Every human being is an image-bearer of God.
When God created the world and everything in it, he said to himself, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). The next verse continues: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” But what does that mean? Does it mean we look like God? That he looks like us? Does God look like what we could consider the perfect human being: muscular, bald, etc.? No, the Scriptures tell us that God is a spirit; he doesn’t have a body. But the text is clear: We reflect his likeness. Like God, we are spiritual, emotional, relational, volitional, and imaginative creatures. We bear God’s image. This is a privilege of the human race that is shared by nothing else in creation. Animals don’t reflect the image of God. Plants don’t. 3D images don’t. Computers don’t. Human beings alone bear the image of God.
- To be an image-bearer of God is to be a person.
Being a divine image-bearer is tantamount to being a person. One leading evangelical ethicist says this: “If we accept the biblical revelation that man is the imago Dei, the image of God, then every human being is a person—a person by nature, a kind of thing different from any other kind, a being whose very existence is a kind of sacrament, a sign of God’s grace.” Personhood is inextricably tied into being an image-bearer of God.
- Personhood begins at conception, not birth.
When Jenine and I were expecting our first child, we went back and forth on names. I wanted John Peery Sloan V. She definitely didn’t. And, as leverage for her insistence on having the final say, she reminded me that she was the one experiencing all the discomforts of carrying a very large baby. Oddly enough, it was at our first ultrasound that we spontaneously agreed, “Let’s name him John Peery Sloan V, but call him Quinn, Latin for fifth.” What was it about that ultrasound that convinced us? We saw this little boy and we thought, he looks like a Quinn. He was clearly a person already, with a unique personality and traits.
Well, that’s a cute story, you say, but is there biblical evidence that God views and recognizes human beings as persons before they’re born? Actually, there is. In Psalm 139, we have the first-ever, divinely-inspired ultrasound, as it were. David writes: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. … Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Critical to understanding that song is the Hebrew word golem, which is translated “my unformed body” (verse 16). This is the only time in the Bible this word appears in this way, and language experts contend that it refers to a human embryo, the unshaped mass that has yet to take full bodily form, but in every way is a living person. Dr. John Jefferson Davis comments: “The point to be noted here is that during the earliest stages of human life—when the embryo does not look human—vulnerable human life is seen by God and is the object of divine awareness and concern.” To be seen by God, by the way, means more than to just be noticed, it means to be cared for. The eyes of the Lord, the Bible tells us, watch over the ones he loves. God loves pre-born children and regards them in every way as persons.
4.Thus, all human beings are persons (at conception) and therefore are to be protected, defended, and loved.
The Bible makes it unmistakably clear that God is deeply concerned about those who bear his image. Because God made us in his likeness and breathed life into us, we are of great value and deserving of protection and love. In Genesis chapter 9, in the days following the Great Flood, God himself calls for the fair and honorable treatment of all his image-bearers. He says, “And from each man, too I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” To bring harm to God’s image-bearers is to needlessly mar the image of God. And this angers God greatly. Old Testament scholar Henri Blocher says concerning humankind, “God himself has placed his image in his cosmic sanctuary and he wishes due homage to be paid to it by the service of mankind.”
- Finally, God cares deeply about women.
Cherishing human life naturally also means championing what’s best for women. Despite the (often angry) rhetoric that denies the harm suffered by women who undergo abortions, medical evidence, sociological data, and the personal testimonies of many women tell a very different story: Abortion harms women physically, psychologically, relationally, and spiritually. For example, studies show that women who have had abortions are 30% more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. On the medical side, women who have abortions are at greater risk for breast, cervical, ovarian, and liver cancer. Because God cares about women, those who reflect his likeness and who are deserving of protection and love, we who also care deeply about women don’t want to see any woman go through suffering.
Of course, it must be said that God’s grace is sufficient to cover all of our sins, even abortion. The woman who has undergone an abortion and has run in faith to Jesus is totally and completely cleansed and need not ever be concerned that God is against her or is looking to punish her. She is a daughter of the Most High King. And she is beloved.
On Sunday, we will only briefly mention that it is SOHL Sunday. But that’s only because we believe that our chief priority as a gathered church is to lift up the glory of Jesus. Nevertheless, we care much about safeguarding the sacredness of human life and protecting the pre-born for the five reasons I mentioned and more. If you would like to find out how you can assist us in doing so, please email Pastor Brent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By his grace,