Because of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, many Christians celebrate the month of January as “sanctity of life” month, or at least this past Sunday as “sanctity of life” Sunday. My church had a local pro-life activism group come and speak and set up a table in the atrium, for example. But sanctity of life has to do with a lot more than just abortion.
Sanctity of life means valuing and respecting the incredible dignity and worth of every other human being, not for any characteristic or behavior or ability, but simply because they are human.
It means that I don’t take advantage of my wealth or privilege to destroy another person’s reputation or livelihood.
It means that I greet an elderly person, a disabled person, a homeless person, a child, or a transgender person with the same kindness and courtesy with which I would like to be addressed.
It means that I give, of my time or my money, to keep people off the street, away from crime, in families and communities that love and support them.
It means that I treat the potential of new life in my own family as a great gift and blessing instead of a burden and a pain.
It means that I prepare financially and emotionally to care for my own parents or my husband’s parents as they reach old age and return to dependence and need, as they once cared for me.
It means that I listen – genuinely listen, seeking to understand – to the stories of people whose worldviews are diametrically opposed to my own, instead of resorting to personal insults or deaf ears.
It means that I care about the vulnerable around the world – the oppressed in my own country, the immigrants, the refugees, the orphans and the widows – and use the opportunities I have to make a difference for them, even if sometimes it can only be through writing and prayer.
And yes, it means that I fight for the lives of the unborn, the voiceless among us, equally human, most vulnerable and yet least protected.
We should not forget about the reality of abortion, the pain and horror of it for everyone involved – the mother and father robbed of their parenthood, the medical personnel betraying their healing profession, the baby robbed of life itself. It is good to be reminded of those things, to renew our strength for the long work of protecting the unborn. But we should also remember that life continues after birth, and that the ideal of sanctity of life can only truly be fulfilled when humanity is respected through all the long or short years of that life.