The Concept of the Sanctity of Life

There is much talk in Pro-Life circles about the sanctity of life. That is, life is considered a sacred thing of inestimable worth. When we say that something is sacred, we are recognizing that it possesses a value that is not derived from itself. This is seen in our own nation’s founding documents with the concept of rights, of which life is said to be paramount.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

A few things to note:

  1. Rights are self-evident truths grounded in the reality that all humans are created beings.
  2. Because rights are given by God, governments do not create them. Rather, they are responsible for ensuring they are protected.
  3. The logical conclusion of this is that the ruling authorities themselves, while instituted by consent of the people, are ultimately subordinate to the One that made both the citizens and the institution of civil government.

From this we may deduce that life is a gift from the benevolent hand of God. It is for this reason alone that it is sacred. Sacredness denotes value. We protect what we value. What makes human life special is that its meaning comes from a transcendent source. Its value cannot be defined by its relationship to any other created thing. Its regard can only be real and unalienable as considered in relation to the Being who possesses within Himself immeasurable worth, honor and dignity. 

Unlike God, human beings do not exist by their own power. Those that are fashioned in His image did not bring themselves into being. They do not operate under their own strength, for “he gives life and breath to everything” (Acts 17:25) and upholds all things by His omnipotent Word (Hebrews 1:3). God alone has aseity. He is self-existent and utterly self-sufficient. All that is cannot possibly exist for its own end. But all things in heaven and on earth were created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7), “for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

Life as a Gift from God

From beginning to end, the gift of human life, as with the salvation of sinners, is all of grace. We do not bring about the moment of our own birth. Neither are we reborn of our own volition or exertions (John 1:12). This is why our value cannot be couched in what we do, but who we are, and more importantly, whose we are. 

The Almighty God is the unchanging, external reference point for the sanctity of life. With this firm footing established, we can safely exclude any notion that rights are a reward or something we are entitled to receive. After all, if it is on the basis of works, it is no longer of charity (Romans 11:6). Even the right to so-called bodily autonomy is indebted to the Creatorhood of God. Despite this glaring actuality, there is an unconscious orientation toward pridefulness in every fallen son and daughter of Adam. 

This point is especially true for the religiously boastful, who are often the worst when it comes to their self-styled hypocrisy. They apply their standards of tradition to others while exempting themselves from true obedience. They rely upon the merits of their outward devotion, while inwardly their hearts are wayward. They love to be seen and praised for looking virtuous, even if they are not truly morally upright. This human condition is not unique. Sin-laden consciences that cannot satisfy the demands of true justice will always seek self-justification instead of the righteousness that comes through faith (Romans 3:21).

Pharisaic zealots forget that although life is a right, it is only so because it is a free endowment allotted by Him who was under no compulsion to bestow such a treasure to the children of mankind. The deep-seated problem within today’s modern movement for life is that those charged with the task of protecting it do not recognize their great privilege of having been born. They say life is precious, but their actions do not match their profession. They affirm that preborn children share full equality with their brothers and sisters of the human race. But they will not lobby to ensure the same laws that protect their lives are applied to those yet unborn.

The Problem of Partiality in Legislation

Our society has so devalued babies in the womb that even those who profess to be Christian have aligned themselves in agreement with the cheerleaders of death who proclaim that full legal protection for humans should only begin after we are born. This is reflected in the very laws we write. We have different statutes to protect these children instead of including them under the same statutes that guard us against anyone who would seek to take our lives. By opposing equal justice for the preborn and opting for partiality in our legislation, we have effectively said: “laws to protect me, but not thee.”

This is a tragic violation of the great commandment:

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:31

Love and Justice in the Sanctity of Life

When it comes to the sanctity of life, love and justice are seen most clearly in how we fulfill the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) as it pertains to the preborn. When we refuse to demand the same provisions for them that we enjoy ourselves, it reveals within us an obstinate bigotry. Whether or not we profess that all humans have the same value, we show our inward disbelief when we treat them differently under the law. God’s law of love prohibits such arbitrary discrimination (Leviticus 19:15). When we show favoritism towards those that oppress the preborn, we are selfishly exhibiting what Constitutional Attorney Bradley Pierce has rightly dubbed “our born privilege.” It was not to our credit that we made it to the day of our own birth. We did not knit ourselves together in our mother’s womb, or grow and nourish our developing bodies. Nor was it by our merit or achievement that we secured a warrant to be delivered. Every moment of our existence is pure grace. Therefore, let our words and actions accord as we appeal to the magistrates God has established to protect the innocent. May the Lord forbid that we act like we are of more worth than our neighbors in the womb. May he rescue us from cherishing any prejudice towards these little ones, and empower us by His Spirit to obey His law concerning them.

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

1 Corinthians 4:7