In the earliest days of the Church, a charge that used to be levelled at Christians by the Romans was that we were cannibals. The Romans heard people talking about the “body and blood of Christ” and decided that must mean that Christians were man-eaters.
However, over time, Christians became known for something else. During a great famine, Romans would leave their newborn children at the rubbish dump to die, as they couldn’t afford them. The Christians would scour the rubbish dumps for these children and raise them as their own. They did this out of charity but also because they had a profound belief in the sanctity of life.
Life is often taken for granted in society. In the way we treat the “unloved” of our community, we don’t value the gift of life from God or that each person bears the imago dei (the image of God). But, the Bible speaks into this vacuum:
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
From these 2 verses, we see that humanity bears both the image of God and the breath of God. Life is a profound and special gift from God. And, as such, it must be esteemed and honoured as sacred.
Jesus showed this in his personal mission statement:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19)
As Christians, we preach the Gospel but often we only apply that to the spirit of the person. But, as Ron Sider says,
Jesus commands me to care about the whole person, and my first commitment is to love the whole person—not just his soul alone or his physical needs alone—and out of that commitment grows my emphasis on overturning social structures that foster inequality.
The 6th Commandment, “You shall not murder,” is founded on the sanctity of life. So, to limit it to nothing more than a prohibition on taking life would be to miss God’s heart for people. Again and again, God calls people to honour His gift of life through caring for others. Jesus even applies the commandment to anger (Matthew 5:21-26).
In the same way, Christians must uphold life to our community through charity, love, forgiveness, preaching the Gospel, sharing and fellowship. In this way, we can live out the message of an old evangelistic campaign, “Jesus: All About Life!”