What is the Sanctity of Life? The Bible establishes that human life is sacred in Genesis 1:27:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (ESV)
To be created in the likeness of God means that each human bears His image and with it, a value beyond our unique characteristics or individual attributes. Nothing else in God’s created order has the distinction of reflecting His image; it’s a privileged status reserved only for humankind.
This is a bit of a mystery as God’s image in us isn’t something tangible we can see, taste or feel; yet it establishes our significance and worth at the highest level. The Bible says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). From the miracle of life in the womb to the body’s ability to regenerate cells and tissue for healing, we see God’s amazing fingerprint at work. Humans are breathtaking creatures embodying a touch of the Creator Himself and reflected in the wonder of human life.
The Life Ethic: What Does It Look Like?
Contrary to cultural messages, our value isn’t determined by our ethnicity, race or gender; nor by our age, ability or location. It’s our divine membership in the human family that sets each of us apart as sacred. Men, women and children (including preborn children in the womb) should be respected, regardless of their mental capacity, physical ability, or social position. Some people may not exhibit attributes of God or behave in ways that recognize their own value yet their intrinsic worth remains.
The concept of human dignity comes from the sanctity of human life. Since humans are made in God’s image, we hold a distinctive status that sets us apart. Human dignity is bestowed upon us by God. It’s not based on our ability to care for ourselves or competence to complete the task. Dignity is not a concept that can be forfeited, so being dependent on others cannot cause us to lose our dignity.
Our failure to recognize and honor human dignity is apparent in phrases like “quality of life.” Dependency is viewed as the ultimate weakness and as a result, some people would rather die than continue living if it means living with a disability. This attitude increases pressure for the acceptance of physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia instead of providing a compassionate response to those who are disabled or face a terminal illness.
A common fear among the disabled or terminally ill is that of becoming a burden. We help restore human dignity through our witness of caring for each other, especially in our times of dependence and need. The sanctity ethic reminds us that God is ultimately sovereign over the affairs of our lives, including our frailty and infirmity.
The Life Ethic: How Can We Incorporate The Sanctity of Human Life Into Our Lives?
The cornerstone of living out this fundamental truth is to recognize the value of our own lives and the lives of others.
In fact, knowing who you are is a big part of understanding the sanctity of human life. Do you value your own life as sacred? Do you embrace your worth and significance as one who bears God’s likeness? Comprehending this is the first step in embracing the truth of who we all are!
The second is in the way you view others. Do you see others through God’s eyes? Does your gaze stop at their physical appearance or ability, or do you look deeper to try and see the image of God in each life? Hidden heart attitudes of pride, superiority and contempt prevent us from seeing others with the respect and significance they deserve.
Finally, to live out the sanctity truth requires at action: to remind those around us of the value of all human life by speaking out for “those who cannot speak for themselves” (Proverbs 31:8). Look for opportunities to talk about and act upon your pro-life views. Teach your children and grandchildren to respect all human life and demonstrate that respect in your own word and actions.
Together we can live out and communicate the beauty, wonder and reverence our Creator intended for each person in the human family.
What does the Sanctity of Life? It begins with Psalms 139:13-18, where we are told
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; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
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; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.
This means that human life begins in the womb. We begin our life with a plan – God’s plan for our life. God knows what we will be before we are born. And he knows us. God has an interest in us, all of us, from conception.
Next is Genesis 1:27:
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
This tells us more about our value to God. We were created in God’s image, which is different from animals. We bear God’s image, which gives us value beyond anything we do. We have inherent value to God, and it’s a privilege only we have in all of creation.
Next, consider Genesis 9:6.
Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.
This means that our life is important to God, and our death is a tragedy to Him. Because we were made in His image, no one can be killed lightly. There is a cost. This is also found in Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 27:25a, and Proverbs 6:16-19.
Obviously, God prohibits murder, but it also prohibits other occasions for taking innocent human life in situations that many people find acceptable, such as:
- Before birth – abortion
- When near death or when restricted by disability – euthanasia
There are a variety of secondary ramifications, such as:
- Equal justice before the law – that no one should be treated better than others or worse than others, and that everyone gets the same consideration before the law
- How we conduct war – that war should be conducted in a just manner. Note that this is often reflected in theories of “Just War”, which means that war is carried out in a manner that brings and end to the war while minimizing human casualties.