Imago Dei: Sanctity of life
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday celebrates God’s gift of life with a special emphasis on the value of the unborn. The church at Lake Mead’s pastoral team believes it’s important to share a few thoughts on this significant topic.
As followers of Jesus, we naturally start with him. We pattern our lives after his. Jesus taught that the essence of God’s law was to love God and to love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). So, everything we believe, teach and live out must be filtered through these two commands. Further, as we consider a specific issue (like the life of the unborn), we once again follow Jesus’s example and root our beliefs in Scripture. (Matthew 4:4; 5:17). After Jesus’s death and resurrection, his followers took the good news of Jesus to the ends of the Earth. And everywhere the message of Jesus has gone, human transformation has followed—both as individuals and as a society.
All of this means that as we consider how we should think about the issue of abortion we must do this in conversation with Scripture and the tradition of the Church. We’re not the first Christians to think about these issues, and so we look to what the Bible says and what Jesus followers have traditionally taught. So, with love of God and neighbor in our heart, I’d like to talk about this subject from three different angles: truth, love and grace.
First, let’s consider some truths around this topic. As mentioned above, Jesus followers look to the Bible for ethical and moral instruction. The Bible says that humans were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). God values human life and considers the taking of innocent human life a great injustice. (Genesis 4:8-16; 9:5-6; Exodus 20:13; Leviticus 24:21). Second, the Church of Jesus has historically spoken out against infant exposure and the killing of the unborn. A first century church manual known as the Didache reads, “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born.” Additionally, the second century Church leader, Clement wrote, “Abortion is killing human life that is under God's care, design, and providence.” Sociologist Rodney Stark argues that one of the main reasons Christianity eventually overwhelmed Rome was due to the Church’s care for abandoned infants and refusal to abort their children. It was only a matter of time before Christians were raising the next generation. So, the consistent message of the Bible and the history of Christian thought uniformly condemns abortion.
Now, let’s consider the angle of love. The topic of abortion has touched virtually every family in the United States. Since the legalization of abortion in 1973, nearly 62 million abortions have been performed in the U.S. Closer to home, Nevada has an abortion rate of 16.4%. The prevalence of abortion in our culture means that many women in our community and church have either made the decision to end the life of a baby or perhaps seriously considered it. As a pastor, I’ve never met a woman who considered abortion (or who carried it out) that did not agonize over this decision. For many, abortion is a dark secret that carries deep shame and regret. Therefore, love compels us to discuss this topic with great sensitivity and care. We must love truth and people—just like Jesus did. We must help those struggling with what seems to them like impossible options. This is why places like the Women's Resource Medical Center and Christian adoption agencies are so important. They embody Christ's love.
This brings us to our final angle, grace. Grace changes everything. First, it changes the way God sees us (Romans 5:10). Second, God’s grace changes how we see ourselves. He gives us a new identity! (II Corinthians 5:17; I Timothy 1:12-15). Finally, grace changes how we see each other. Since, we’ve all sinned, we’re all saved the same way—by grace (Ephesians 2:8-10). We’re all in the same boat. That’s what so good about the good news! God loves us, even when he shouldn’t! No more shame. No more condemnation. So let’s move forward in God’s forgiveness.
I’d like to end these thoughts with a reminder from Paul’s letter to Romans:
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NLT).
Praise God for his amazing truth, love and grace. As we hold these three together, we live out the Jesus way and open the door of hope to others!
May the peace of Jesus our Lord always rest on you,
 As cited by Michael Gorman in https://store.ancientfaith.com/abortion-and-the-early-church-by-michael-j-gorman/ (This is good essay if one would like more information on the early Church’s view on this topic.)
 Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, 1st HarperCollins pbk. ed (San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997). p. 95-99
 https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states This number is based on reasonable extrapolation from this data.