I took a break Sunday morning from my sermons in Luke to focus on what the Scriptures teach concerning what it means to be a human being. The key passage and the text for the sermon was Genesis 1:26 & 27 in which we read that God created man “in his own image” and “after (his) likeness.” The most fundamental aspect of our identity as human beings is that we are image-bearers of God.
This means many things. It means at heart we are spiritual creatures, with a mind and soul capable of reason and speech. Like God, we have a moral will, heart affections, and the capacity to love. We were created to enjoy communion with God and with other image-bearers of God. Being in God’s image also means God has delegated to man some authority and rule. Just as God is the Sovereign Lord over all things, we have received from him a mandate to have dominion over the earth and its creatures (Genesis 1:26).
It also means we were created to reflect the righteousness and holiness of God. This aspect of our bearing God’s image has been lost due to sin. In our post-fall, sinful nature we no longer resemble God as we were meant to do. Nevertheless, there is an ineradicable divine likeness that remains and has not been obliterated by the fall. It’s what makes us human. To be sure, we are broken and sinful humans. But we are still human beings, we still bear God’s image.
And that is what gives us an intrinsic worth and value far greater than any other creature. We bear the image of the One who is infinite in worth. For that reason, every single human being possesses an inherent dignity and worth that must be respected. To murder, injure, insult, or hate an image-bearer of God is to dishonor God himself. “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker” (Proverbs 14:31).
This inherent value of a human being is what makes the practice of abortion such a great evil. Sunday was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, a day set apart to remember the saddest anniversary of the year – the Supreme Court decision on January 22nd, 1973, that legalized abortion throughout the United States. Since that time 60 million babies have lost their lives in the wombs of their mothers as a result of abortion.
Some pro-abortion advocates make a fine but deadly distinction: while an unborn baby is indeed a human life (which, really, is impossible to deny), he or she is not yet a human person. That is to say, until a human being attains a certain point of development, or once he or she fails to retain basic capabilities, that human being doesn’t enjoy the status of personhood and therefore is not subject to the same protection of law that we accord to other persons. And so the unborn (or the severely disabled) may be destroyed with no moral objection.
And so abortion is justified by distinguishing between the body of a human, and the personhood of a human. But according to Scripture, we bear God’s image as living bodies. God created Adam and Eve not as spirits, but as whole persons with souls and bodies. Our personhood is not distinct from our physicality. And so to destroy a living human body, no matter how undeveloped or disabled, is wrongly to destroy a human person. Abortion violates the sanctity of human life, a sanctity intrinsic to us as image-bearers of God.
(I borrowed this insight from Nancy Pearson’s new book Love Thy Body).
But apart from the issue of abortion, we’ve all violated the sanctity of human life in one way or another. We’ve hated and hurt others, and in so doing have dishonored the God in whose image they were created. But praise God there is hope for us. God gave us his Son that we might be forgiven for our sins, and also that we might one day, finally, be true image bearers of our Creator and Redeemer (Romans 8:29).
Soli Deo Gloria!