Our conviction about the dignity and sanctity of human life is confirmed in the Scriptures, the word of God. The Book of Genesis teaches us that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). ‘Thou shall not kill’, says the Lord in transmitting the commandments to Moses (Exodus 20:13). ‘Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live’, Moses warned the chosen people (Deuteronomy 30:19). And, of course, the whole life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus confirmed the dignity of human life and showed how dear each individual person is to God.
Jesus said, ‘Even the hairs of your head have all been counted’ (Luke 12:7). This teaching of the Scriptures, along with the clear and consistent teaching of the Church throughout the ages, reveals God’s infinite love for the life He has created and therefore the love we should have for life. In view of this testimony, the primordial transgression against God, the giver of life, is the act of destroying human life itself.
God holds us responsible for upholding human dignity. Each person, created by God, is endowed with a sacred and inviolable human dignity. In the Book of Genesis, God describes the persons he creates as ‘very good’ – not because of anything they have accomplished or produced, but by the very fact of their existence as his creatures.
Never has that responsibility for upholding human dignity been more difficult than in our day, in the third Christian millennium. At a time when many in society tend to judge a person’s worth on an obscure and subjective ‘quality of life’ scale, we are convinced that human dignity is not based on productivity or usefulness. As members of the human family and as Christians, we must ensure that every human life is protected from conception until natural death. This responsibility must be accepted on many levels. Each person has a charge – society and its leaders have a duty, and most assuredly so does the church community. Respect for every human being should be our first priority. Our words, actions, and prayers must reflect God’s command that we love one another as he has loved us.
An important indicator of a growing indifference toward human life is the position of those who excuse themselves from the abortion debate by arguing that they are ‘personally opposed to abortion but publicly neutral’. This display of indifference sends the message that it is acceptable to withhold protection from certain persons. The idea that a person can oppose abortion personally and defend and support it publicly is no more applicable to abortion than it is to any other critical social or moral question that challenges our world today.
Sanctioned disregard for the unborn has broadened into a so-called ‘right to die’ and a ‘duty to die’ mentality. Our elderly and disabled brothers and sisters are now seen as burdensome to society. Isolated but well-publicized efforts to give legal sanction to assisting in the suicide of sick or elderly people are only thinly disguised attempts to legalize the killing of such persons. This eugenic philosophy only adds to the problems of our societies, already mired in violence and death.
Deep within us is the voice of God’s natural moral law that finds expression in our conscience. Even when that voice has been silenced by so many alternative views of life in our highly secular and materialistic world, it continues to echo in our hearts. Some things we know are right and others wrong. Only human beings have the gift of knowing what we ‘ought to do’. The awareness of this distinction so critical to a civilization of love is rooted in the moral law etched into our very being by God at our creation.