Each January, many churches observe “Sanctity of Human Life” Sunday, and, to be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a joy to preach the whole counsel of God. And of course it’s not that I think Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is somehow unbiblical. No, indeed. The entire canon of Scripture is filled with God’s commitment to the fatherless and to the widow, his wrath at the shedding of innocent blood.
And I don’t think it’s inappropriate. To the contrary, just as every Lord’s Day should be Christmas, with the announcement of Jesus’s incarnation, and Easter, with the proclamation of his resurrection, so every Lord’s Day should highlight the dignity and worth of human life.
Instead, the reason I have mixed feelings about this day is that it reminds me we have to say things to one another that human beings shouldn’t have to say. Mothers shouldn’t kill their children. Fathers shouldn’t abandon their babies. No human life is worthless, regardless of skin color, age, disability, or economic status. The very fact that these things must be proclaimed is a reminder of the horrors of this present darkness. And I hate it.
But the reason why we need Sundays like this is because human dignity is a spiritual issue. It’s a spiritual issue because the gospel grounds human dignity in Jesus Christ himself. In Christ, God has forever joined deity with flesh. Jesus did not merely become human once; he is human to this day, and God’s purposes in Christ center on the humanity that bears the Creator’s divine image. To deny human dignity, then, is to deny Christ himself.
The kingdom tells us who and what matters, and this isn’t determined by strength or force of will. None of us is “viable” in ourselves alone. We may be tempted to see the vulnerable—the unborn, the aged, the poor, the diseased, the disabled, the abused, the orphaned—as “the disadvantaged,” but in the long run they are not; they are the sons and daughters whom God delights to make future rulers of the universe.
Throughout the whole gospel narrative, from Pharaoh to Herod, the enemies of God consistently carry out murderous wrath on innocents. Such attacks are not merely dramatic scenes in Scripture; they are pictures of the ongoing spiritual warfare that denigrates the value and worth of every human life—warfare that continues to this day. Moments like Sanctity of Life Sunday are reminders that the culture of death is still waging war.
That’s why it grieves me. It grieves me because it reminds me of the babies warmly nestled in wombs who may not be there tomorrow. I’m reminded there are children, maybe even blocks from my church, who’ll be slapped, punched, and burned with cigarettes before nightfall. I’m reminded there are elderly men and women languishing away in loneliness, their lives pronounced a waste.
But I also love Sanctity of Human Life Sunday when I think about the ex-orphans in our churches who have been adopted into loving families. I love it when I reflect on the men and women who serve each week in pregnancy centers for women in crisis. And I love Sanctity of Life Sunday when I see men and women who have aborted babies find their sin forgiven and washed away by Jesus Christ.
I pray regularly that for my future great grandchildren, a Sanctity of Human Life Sunday would seem as unnecessary as a Reality of Gravity Emphasis Sunday.
We’ll always need Christmas. We’ll always need Easter. But pray that someday soon, we won’t need Sanctity of Life Sunday.
Editors’ note: Join Russell Moore, Matt Chandler, Albert Mohler, Jackie Hill Perry, and more at Evangelicals for Life 2017 in Washington, D.C., January 26 to 28. Register now with the exclusive code TGC30 to receive a 30 percent discount or watch the FREE simulcast.