Focal Passage: Psalm 139:1-24
Forty years ago a teenage girl in our church made the choice to have an abortion. As her pastor I went to the hospital prepared to deal with her grief but was surprised that she was very nonchalant about the whole matter. Our society has continued down this road toward an ever-increasing disregard for human life.
Our lesson this week, “Value Every Life” is an attempt to remind us of the sanctity of human life even beyond the usual discussion about abortion. Our familiarity with death up close on television has in large part inoculated us against the ravages of death, be it from terrorism, war, tsunamis, accidents, or natural causes. Of particular concern is our inability as Americans to believe the horror that cheapens life in so many instances.
We are in many ways a violent nation, in the sense of supporting violence against each other and those who disagree with us. We hardly blink at bodies laid out as a result of war or some other fatal event. Human carnage is so familiar that it does not faze us much any more. Movies and video games are all about killing and destroying those who threaten us. Another school shooting (ho-hum)! Another tsunami with thousands of lives destroyed (does it bother you)? Another battle over abortion (is it just a political ploy)? Another family caught in the crucible of cancer (will it ever end)? Do we value every life?
Jesus prays for Himself (John 17:1-5). When does human life begin? At conception, or when there is a heartbeat, or when the fetus can survive outside the womb. Modern medicine has enabled babies long thought unable to live to survive by the advances of neonatal skills. At the other extreme are newer and more private forms of birth control. Issues with regard to women’s right of choice and male lack of concern lead to a variety of strong opinions. The psalmist in verse 13-14 says, “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.” Surely the psalmist appreciated far beyond his scientific skill the wonder and the sanctity of human life.
I find it disturbing that our society seems to be more concerned about cruelty to animals than we are about abortion as a form of birth control. Can you remember the public outcry about a pill to prevent pregnancy. Now we are discussing the appropriateness of a morning after pill to dislodge a fertilized egg the morning after casual sex. I, for one, am opposed to abortion as a final means of birth control. I do not know when the newly fertilized egg becomes a person in God’s sight. I do know that we need to think long and hard about the casual disregard our society has for sexual freedom and the value of every life. What about issues regarding gun control and capital punishment? What about the increasing gulf between the haves and the “have nots?” What about white slavery and ethnic cleansing going on in our world today?
Surely, He reminds us, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body” (vv. 15-16). God knew us before we were a twinkle in our father’s eye or a dream in our mother’s heart. Rejoice with the writer, “How precious to me are your thoughts O God! How vast is the sum of them” (v. 17). Verse 16 can easily be interpreted as predestination. We cannot comprehend God, or God’s knowledge. He knew us before we were born, knows us now, and knows us beyond any knowledge we can imagine. Also, I believe that God is grieved by our lack of concern for one another, the cruel attitude we harbor toward others, including the innocent unborn, the tragically abused, and the often abandoned aged residents of nursing homes.
Our medical advances have enabled us to do in vitro fertilization to create life — and in the same century prolong life (sometimes too far) beyond the three-score-and-ten. The ethics of medicine, money, or insurance determining who will have life, a transplant, or a baby are crucial, not casual choices. As individuals and as a society we need to look deeply into our culture of convenience and seek the mind of God. We must not allow government or finances to crassly devalue human life — every life continuing to erode.
— Dean lives in Orlinda. He is the retired executive director of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association.