Have you ever asked where our value comes from? While we recognize the value of a beautiful unborn child in their mother’s womb, it’s fairly easy to feel degrading resentment rise up in our hearts when someone disagrees with us on something we care about. We also see tremendous value in the lives of our children whom we love and have invested so greatly in, but it may be difficult for us to hear of heartbreaking realities that children across the world are struggling with and feel moved to action. Is this tendency a part of our human brokenness or is it a valid theological stance?
This thought comes to mind when I think of terrorists (loosely defined). We may remember the story of Hitler’s demise, the news coverage of Osama Bin Laden’s end, or even shocking realizations of sexual or child abuse by those we are most inclined to trust and the feelings of anger are certainly justifiable and even good. But we should also acknowledge that there is a theological danger to stretching this sentiment too far into the flesh. What might we mean by that?
The value of human life, at a basic biblical level and especially as espoused by the Christian pro-life movement, is defined by being created in the image of God. That fact does not change with poor behavior nor shift with the extent that evil has become synonymous with their character. Every unborn child is valuable regardless of how they eventually turn out during their life.
But again, where does their value come from? Genesis 1:27 tells us that mankind is created in the image of God, which makes implicit that there are no human beings who rest outside of that fact. This means that even our worst enemies who cause us great harm are actually created with divine value that cannot be denied. Psalm 139:13-16 is another passage which describes the process of the creation of each individual human in the womb. It gives great care to explain the activity of God in molding together even a single person when He is capable of creating the entire cosmos with a word. He deeply loves every small child that is created.
Let’s even take that a step further. Remember the parable of the prodigal son? In Luke 15:11-32, the reader witnesses a beautiful story from the mouth of Jesus in which a father is treated rather horribly by his son. Rather than enjoy living in the presence of his father, this son takes his inheritance, communicating that he cares far more for wealth than for the very life of his father, and he leaves. For those who know the story well, we see the prodigal return home and the father, who has been waiting, runs and welcomes the son with open arms and celebration. This, however, is a very specific application being presented to the child that would actually return.
What of the children of this Father who do not return? Should we believe that God, the Father, is only waiting to express His love to those who would receive it? Absolutely not. The rule of common grace shows that God’s unending love is expressed in infinite ways to both those who wish to be in relationship with Him and to those who don’t. Human dignity is not gifted only to those who receive Christ but to all who are created in His image.
How does this apply in our lives? We recognize that there is inherent value in humanity, whether we approve of an individual or not. There is inherent value in the lives of the Hitlers and the Bin Ladens of the world. So, while we celebrate the end of tyranny, the ceasing of massive loss of life, and the finality to the pain that may be issued at the hands of even the world’s worst terrorists, may we never celebrate that even a single soul be lost to hell. May we couple our celebrations of the end of pain with the mourning and heartbreak that this person never knew the will of their Savior in the first place.
A consistent theology of human value means that we don’t look at a person down the pew from us as having less value than ourselves because they are rude. Nor does our next door neighbor have less value because they fly a flag of an opposing political candidate. Nor does a person south of the border have less value because they attempted to come into the country illegally. Nor does a North Korean dictator have less value because they believe themselves to be a god.
God has numbered the hairs on even our most zealous of opposition. He is a Father even to those who deny His direction and cause immense pain to others. He loves all humanity and “wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). As we allow this truth to overwhelm us, we will learn to accept people as they are just as Christ has done for us, keep from believing it’s our job to change anyone, and wish to see the Holy Spirit do this incredible work in His own power because everyone we come across is loved by God.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff