Sanctity of Life: Part One

This past Sunday was Sanctity of Life Sunday in America, and this coming Sunday it will be in South Africa. With this in mind I thought I would write about what the sanctity of life is.

The principle is human life is sacred; sacred in a different way than everything else. This is taught in Genesis 9:5b which says, “Surely I will require your life-blood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God he made man.” Now somebody is going to say to me, “So if animals kill a human being God is going hold those animals accountable? How does that work?” The answer is, I have no idea, but the point is clear: If God is angry at animals doing instinctive things, for killing human beings, how much more accountable are human beings for one another’s lives? What God is getting across here is that of all of his creation there is something special about human beings: Human life is sacred. Anyone who violates it will be held accountable.

Well what do we mean by “sacred”? What does it tell us? And I would suggest that right here in the text you have basically three grounds for see why God says human life is sacred. (I will do two here and the last in the next study.)

Human Life is Priceless

Human life is sacred because if you look carefully its priceless. Why is it priceless? If you see a diamond ring and you ask the man who owns it, “I would like to buy that diamond ring,” what if the man says, “No, that was my wife’s, I gave it to her when we were engaged. She died tragically some years ago, its priceless to me”? What does he mean? He means that there is no exchange for it. God is saying (here is one of those areas that I’m going to have to skirt around because many people are unhappy about what looks like a bloodthirsty reaction), “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.”

When this was written it was a tremendous advance toward the dignity of every human individual, because it’s saying that there is nothing that can pay for human life. Human life is so priceless; there is nothing else in all of reality that can be exchanged for it. In other words if you said, “If you shed human life, that will be R1,000,000 please,” that means that a person’s life was worth R1,000,000. If you say its thirty years in jail, then a human life is worth thirty years. In other words anything that you would put in the place of human life would make human life a finite value.

But because the text there is nothing that you can exchange for it, you can’t pay for it in anything else other than its own currency, it’s a way of saying, “Human life is infinite in value.” God is coming out and saying, no matter who you are, whether you are rich or poor, no matter your class or race, every human individual human’s life is priceless. Human life is sacred because it is infinite in value. Nothing can pay for it but itself. Nothing but human life blood can pay for human life blood. There is nothing more valuable than human life.

Now, by the way, I am avoiding the issue of capital punishment because I want to keep this post at a readable length. So instead of reading this and worrying about capital punishment, don’t miss the point: Human life is priceless; you can’t put a price on it; it’s infinite in value. That’s one way in which this text is saying that human life is sacred, because it’s priceless.

Life is Not Yours

Secondly this text is saying human life is sacred because it’s not yours. You are accountable for it. Something is scared if it’s put into your hands and yet it’s not put into your ownership. If a person gives you R100,000 as a gift, that money is not sacred. You can do anything you want with it. But if on the other hand someone gives you R100,000 and asks you to be the broker and invest it; in that case the money is sacred. It’s in your hands but it’s not yours therefore you are accountable. If it’s a gift, if it’s your money you are not accountable you can do whatever you want with it. But if it’s not yours, but it’s in your hands, you are accountable. That’s what we have here, it says, “For your life blood I will demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting for the life of your fellow man.” Now this is a frightening thing.

We are saying, human life is sacred in this sense: Every human life that comes into your life whether it’s the guy serving you behind a McDonald’s window, or a taxi driver, you are accountable for it. Every human life is a sacred deposit, how you treat other people God says, “I will hold you accountable.” Because human beings are not yours! No human being, not your children, not your parents, not your friends, not your family, no human being is yours to cut up, stack, use and discard as if it is yours.

Human life is sacred because it’s priceless and because it’s not yours. Next time we will consider the last point from this text.

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