Sanctity of Life Sunday, 2016
A scientist once approached God and said, “Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.”
God replied, “Don’t need me huh? How about we put your theory to the test. Why don’t we have a competition to see who can make a human being, say, a male human being.”
The scientist agrees, so God tells him they should do it like he did in the good old days when he created Adam.
“Fine” says the scientist as he bends down to scoop up a handful of dirt.
“Whoa!” says God, shaking his head in disapproval. “Not so fast. You get your own dirt.”
In this little story, there’s a whole lot of truth. It puts us in our place. God is the creator of everything, seen and unseen. And if God is the Creator, then that means everything that exists is part of the creation, and therefore inferior to Him.
Now, many deep thinkers and even those in the hard sciences often have at the forefront of their minds one of the things God has given to His creatures: Life. Science describes what happens regarding life, especially how unborn children are formed. But how was life introduced in our world in the first place?
Harvard professor of biology Andrew Knoll was interviewed as to how life began. He had a couple of interesting observations. For starters, he said, “bacteria are necessary for every cycle of a biologically important element; organisms like ourselves are optional.” So, bacteria are more important than human beings. Really, Dr. Knoll? He was asked whether we will ever get to the bottom of figuring out how life began. This was his answer: “I don't know” he said. “I imagine my grandchildren will still be sitting around saying that it's a great mystery, but that they will understand that mystery at a level that would be incomprehensible to us today.”
Now let’s lay a simple statement alongside all the learnin’ of the best and the brightest and see which one resonates better: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” What’s the difference? One says, “I’ll figure it out for myself. I don’t need a god telling me stuff.” The other says, “I need the true and living God to figure out for me where life came from and how it happened.”
We who hold to the truth of Scripture say with one voice: “God is author of life”. He created it. But over the years, many who don’t hold to the truth of Scripture have rushed in where angels fear to tread. They’re asking questions such as: Is human life useful? Or sacred? How our culture answers that question determines so much of how we treat our citizens. If life is useful, then it’s perfectly fine for the powers that be to control people. To manipulate them. For the good of humanity and the planet, of course. Take the organization Negative Population Growth. Yes it is as it sounds. They have world-wide aspirations: “We judge that a sustainable population for the United States should not exceed 150 million, and should probably not exceed two billion for the world.” So, NPG people, which of you will be first to advance your agenda by leaving us?
But that’s a logical conclusion when the movers and shakers of the world live out Romans 1:21-22. They fail to honor God as God. They fail to give Him thanks. As a result, they become futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts become darkened. They profess to be wise but they become fools.
God created life. This is a thing we know. Even the animals. Psalm 104:29: “When You hide Your face, they are dismayed; when You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” It is God who gives life and breath to all, especially the greatest of His creation, human beings. For we are the only creatures made in His image, according to His likeness.
And so we consider life something worth talking about. Of course, we weren’t able to last Sunday—God had other plans for us. But January 22 marked the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton abortion related cases. Over the past 43 years, literally millions of people have marched for life in Washington DC, standing up for the unborn. But we know that there’s so much more life than that which is in the womb. There’s life after the little one has exited his or her mother, all the way up through to natural death. Martin Luther King Jr. said it well: “Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter”. We don’t want to be guilty of being silent on this all important issue: the value of human life, wherever we find it. So we’re going to talk about it today.
My goal is for us to walk out of here today a bit more human than when we walked in, giving praise to our God for how He has made us. I want to remind all of us about the value of life, whether in the womb or out, regardless of our age, station in life, or condition. I want you to walk with me as we look first in the womb and discover life there. Then let’s look at life outside the womb and lastly, a brief word about the end of life. You know, all of us are getting . . . older. When we were young, we had our whole life in front of us. But as we know, the older we get, the faster the days go by. Our bodies aren’t as agile as they once were; now they’re a bit more fragile. Our minds aren’t as sharp as they used to be. But regardless of what condition a human being is in, we are to celebrate life. This is one of God’s essential gifts to us!
Scripture tells us how God created the first man and woman: Dirt and ribs. God formed man from the dirt of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and became a living being. After awhile, God looked at His perfect creation and observed something not good about it. He said, “It’s not good that man should be alone. I’ll make a helper suitable for him.” So, God put the first man into a deep sleep, and fashioned a woman from a rib He took from Adam. He brought her to Adam, and it was literally a match made in paradise!
Now we know that playing in the dirt is not how the rest of us were conceived. God set it up in a beautiful way that both man and woman would be involved. And part of the reason for marriage is that husbands and wives obey God’s command to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth. Now there are many married couples who don’t have children. And that is message for another day. But in the normal scheme of things, a natural part of marriage is to produce kids. So, when the act of marriage happens at the right time, a daughter of Eve has a fertilized egg and a new life is conceived. He declared human beings as made in His image, and therefore, it stands to reason that life is sacred, which flies in the face of the PC answer to the question, “Is human life useful or sacred?” God says it’s sacred.
Of course, we know that the Scripture has a lot to say about human life in the womb. Psalm 139:13–14: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
When God called Jeremiah to be His prophet He said, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” When Elizabeth, to whom God gave ability to have children in her old age, heard the voice of her cousin Mary, who was also carrying a miracle baby she said, “the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Elizabeth thought her so-called product of conception was human.
We know that there’s life in the womb. God says so. That should be enough. But there’s ample evidence to back up this truth. Take the science of biology. It not only tells us there’s life in the womb, but also that it begins at the moment of conception—when an egg is fertilized, life is present. In putting together this message I sought an expert opinion about when life begins—my daughter-in-law who works in the birthin’ babies department in a hospital in Hampton. In your bulletin you have an insert that lists seven signs of life that you can take a look at later.
And to dovetail what she uncovered, let me give you two tell-tale signs of life. Without these two things, we don’t have biological life: A heartbeat and brainwaves. Now, I have four questions at this point. First, what is a fetus? This is the term used almost exclusively when addressing the entity in the womb. “Fetus” according to Webster is: “a human being or animal in the later stages of development before it is born.” Second question: In this unborn baby, when is a heartbeat first detected? About 3 weeks after the egg is fertilized. Medical science tells us the heartbeat is sporadic at the 3 week stage and not all that rhythmic but it’s still there. Third question: In this unborn child, this fetus, when are brainwaves first detected? About 6 weeks after the egg is fertilized.
Fourth question: In the normal course of events, when does the woman find out for sure that she’s pregnant? About 8-10 weeks. So, the mother doesn’t even know for sure she’s pregnant until after the brainwaves and heartbeat have been going for a little while. And that’s biological science.
But there’s something else we need to consider: Whether the unborn is a person. Right now, that is not nailed down. But this is the all important issue when it comes to abortion. In the Roe v. Wade case, Justice Blackmun, who wrote the dissenting opinion, said that if what is in the womb can be considered a person, then the case collapses, and the fetus is protected. In other words, Roe v. Wade can be overturned if it can be established that what is in the womb is in fact, a person.
And there is a lot happening in this regard all over the country. Bills such as “the Life Begins at Conception” act are making their way through various state legislatures, and even in the congress. If these bills are signed into law, then the unborn child will be granted full personhood, on the same level as you and me. On the information table you can pick up and read the Virginia Joint House Resolution 29—Virginia’s version of the “Life Begins at Conception act” which is up for consideration in this session.
So we need to pray. Let’s pray that those in positions of power will have the mental and moral clarity and courage to be able to declare the unborn child to be what he or she is, a person.
Let’s continue. Since there’s life in the womb, certainly the person who exits his or her mother has life, too. Let me give you a couple of observations C.S. Lewis made about persons outside the womb in his book “The Weight of Glory”: “We need to give careful thought of how we treat others, because there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.”
No wonder the apostle John put such a high priority on loving fellow Christians. He said in 1 John 4:20–21 “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” And let’s not forget what Jesus said about the Great Commandment: we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to love our friends and our enemies equally. We are to do good to those who treat us kindly and those who do not.
Scripture tells us that giving to those who have legitimate needs is how God describes love. But how does the world describe love? Meeting the emotional and “connection” desires and needs of others, usually translated as fully embracing the lifestyles of every person. Regardless. Loving them means we make them feel good by connecting with them. But that’s so one dimensional! Purely horizontal—God may or may not be in the equation. However, God’s way of love is two-dimensional. We don’t compromise our faithfulness to Him. That’s first and foremost. And second, we meet the needs of others. That’s secondary, and just as important.
Let’s also keep in mind that there are many fellow image bearers who don’t exactly appreciate us. I think of members of ISIS. Radical Hindus. They too, have worth and dignity. But even with these people, Jesus tells us to love them by meeting their needs. To pray for them. To forgive those who wrong us. That’s when they mistreat us as individuals. But we are also called to protect those we are charged by God to protect. And when people are killed or maimed in the process it’s heartrending, because every person, whether enemy or friend, whether “normal” or “abnormal”, are image bearers of God.
And the Body of Christ isn’t the only place where true worth and value of people are recognized. Our culture, as godless as it has become, still recognizes this. We have put incentives in place so that people will keep in check the sinful desires of those who are bent on taking away worth and dignity of people. Those incentives are called laws: Against rape. Murder. Slander. Stealing. Violating the property rights of others. Regardless of whether a person is what we would call normal or abnormal, when someone breaks a law designed to protect members of society, the one breaking the law owes a debt to society for desecrating the worth and value of an image bearer of God.
Now, it’s much easier to treat with worth and dignity what we would call a normal person. One with whom we have a connection. But what about those who are not what we would call normal?
What you’re about to see puts into clear focus what I’m talking about.
I will add one observation: Ian and Larissa see that the Lord is the giver of life and He is in the the center of their marriage. And that makes all the difference. Ian is no less an image bearer of God now than he was before his accident.
Now let me remind us that the image of God doesn’t fade away from a life just because a person grows older. God sometimes doesn’t even begin to use a person greatly until they are elderly. Moses lived 2/3’s of his life when God initially commissioned him for what he was most famous for. Abraham was middle aged God first appeared to him. Noah’s life was 60% gone when God called him. Caleb was in his 80’s when he volunteered to “take the hill country” in battle. God calls it honorable when people are elderly. For example, He tells us to pay respect to those older and wiser. Leviticus 19:32 tells us: “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. Notice how paying respect to the elders equated to fearing God here!
Now wouldn’t be great for all of us to live forever, to not have to leave this life in a coffin! All of us, the rapture notwithstanding, will have to cross the threshold of death. But how many “older folks”—as in older than you and me—have an increasingly difficult time just living day-to-day, because of their physical health?
I came across this poem a number of years ago. See if you can resonate:
Old age is golden, or so I’ve heard said,
But sometimes I wonder, as I crawl into bed,
With my ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup,
My eyes on the table until I wake up.
As sleep dims my vision, I say to myself:
Is there anything else I should lay on the shelf?
But, though nations are warring, and Congress is vexed,
We’ll still stick around to see what happens next!
I get up each morning and dust off my wits,
Open the paper, and read the Obits.
If I’m not there, I know I’m not dead,
So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed!
How do I know my youth is all spent?
My get-up-and-go has got up and went!
But, in spite of it all, I’m able to grin
And think of the places my getup has been!
Indeed! I sort of like getting older. Grandkids! And I at least have a little more sense to avoid making the same mistakes over and over. But like the poem, it seems that I don’t have as much get up and go now as I used to.
You know, Ecclesiastes 12 has some good things to say about getting older—primarily, don’t wait until “later” to live for the Lord. God prefers that we begin to live for Him in the days of our youth.
But as I mentioned, the image of God is His gift to us that doesn’t fade with the passing years. It stays the same. Intact. Regardless of our station or condition of life.
And we never know from one day to the next what will happen to us. A little over a year ago, Ms. Marie was doing well. She loves Mustangs and traded for a new one every couple of years. She had lived for years in her own house as a widow, and was fiercely independent.
Then on a Sunday afternoon, we got a call and was told that Marie fell and probably had a stroke, which indeed is what happened. After having gone through rehab, Ms. Marie’s life was never the same. In and out of surgery. Having to push a walker. Sitting in a wheelchair. Her fierce independence is no more. Her house now sits empty. And she is in Warsaw Virginia close to her sister Mary Lee. In another rehab center.
We love Marie. What has changed in her? A lot. But her life is just as valuable now as before her stroke. Her worth and dignity, still intact. Marie has not lost her status one bit as a person made in the image and likeness of God. Marie is still worth visiting. Loving. Communicating with. Though it requires a bit more effort, she is still part of us and we all feel it when she is not with us. Funky hat and all. Her feisty spirit! And our sister in Christ. She has made a clear proclamation of her faith in the Lord. And at her age and condition she is not able to do much. But she can pray. She can tell others of the Savior who loves her and those she is with, in their last days on earth. And we can pray for her. And we can encourage her. Let’s continue to celebrate the life that God gave her.
As I said at the beginning of the message, I want us to walk out of here today a bit more human than when we walked in. How do we do that? When we become convinced and aware that God is the author of life, both in the womb and outside of it. By the way, abortion and euthanasia are not political issues. They are moral and spiritual ones.
We are more human when we become convinced that there are no ordinary people, and in an ongoing manner treating every person with dignity and respect. Even those who would seek to do us harm.
The bottom line is simply this: the closer we walk with Jesus, the more human we become. Jesus was the perfect man. 100% God, yes. But also 100% man. There wasn’t, isn’t, or will be any person that the Lord Jesus didn’t die for. There wasn’t, isn’t, or will be any person who Jesus will refuse to forgive and lavish on them His grace and mercy when they come to Him in repentance and faith in Him. What marvelous grace and mercy of our God! Jesus made it clear to His disciples: “freely you have received, freely give.” If you have received His forgiveness, then freely give it. If you have received His mercy, freely give it. This is part of what it’s like to be more human. This is part of what it’s like to be more Christlike.