What Is the Biblical Meaning of the Phrase "Sanctity of Life"?
The sanctity of life simply means all human life is sacred. This sacredness is not a reflection of the goodness or holiness of man, because we are sinful. It reflects the origin of man because we were all created in the image of God.
One of the most precious gifts God has bestowed upon us is the gift of life. Think of how we celebrate the birth of a newborn or mourn the loss of a loved one. By doing this, we acknowledge the importance and value of a human life.
This term “sanctity of life” has most often been connected to the battle over abortion and protecting the lives of the unborn, but is there more to it? For this reason, I want to challenge your thinking about this term and make sure you have a true biblical understanding of the phrase “sanctity of life.” A biblical understanding means the sanctity of life must become a true moral conviction, and for this to happen you must examine the way you think about all human lives.
I admit this article might make you a little uncomfortable or possibly bring conviction, but that is okay because for something as precious as life, we must get this right and cannot afford to get this wrong.
What Does "Sanctity of Life Mean"?
The word sanctity comes from the Latin word sanctus which means holy, sacred, or set apart. The Bible makes clear from the beginning that all life is sacred. This sacredness ties back to Genesis 1:26 when God said let us make man in our image. This means when you look around you, every human life you see has been created in the image of God and is a reflection of God. This is often referred to as the Imago Dei.
The origin of who we are and who we reflect is what gives every human their value. Where our society gets into trouble is when we create hierarchies of value. There is the tendency to place a higher worth on one person’s life over another and when we do this, by default we devalue the worth of the other person. This type of thinking and behavior stands in direct opposition to a true biblical worldview on the sanctity of life.
In the New Testament, Paul removes all barriers that would attempt to lift one people or group over another.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
In the body of Christ, there is one head Jesus, and the rest of the body is all equal, all necessary, and all valuable; no life is dispensable. This is the understanding of the sanctity of life we must use when we consider the worth and value of every human life.
Does the Bible Mention Sanctity of Life?
The actual term “sanctity of life” does not appear in Scripture, but the Bible is clear in its affirmation of the sanctity of life. The Bible affirms life in the womb and life outside the womb.
Life in the Womb
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).
Life outside the Womb
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-36).
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
Scripture is clear that God makes no distinction in the value of any human life. It makes no difference where a person comes from, what they look like, how old they are, how much money they have, or the color of their skin. Every person is created in the image of God and for that reason alone we need to treat them as a person of value.
What Is the Biblical Meaning of This Phrase?
Let’s dive a little deeper into the biblical meaning of sanctity of life, because in our modern culture this term has been a rallying cry to protect the lives of unborn babies. However, if you view it only in this scope, then you limit the true meaning of this term.
If life is sacred, then all life is sacred. If we are going to take a biblical approach to the sanctity of life, this means we have a responsibility to help the poor, the widow, the orphan, the elderly, the immigrant, the disadvantaged, and the underserved. We cannot cater to one group of people over another. To be clear, this is not a political statement but a biblical one.
“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other’” (Zechariah 7:9-10).
If we really understand and live by this term the sanctity of life, then this should be shaping or reshaping how we look at those around us – not just when the baby is in the womb, but even more so when they are out of the womb.
The Challenge of Practicing the Sanctity of Life
If you are going to be an advocate for the sanctity of life, then here is where this gets a little sticky. Before you can proclaim you believe in the sanctity of life, it is imperative you begin by searching your own heart and asking yourself some tough questions (don’t worry I had to do this too). Take a moment and really think about these questions.
Do you really believe in the value of all human life?
The quick answer is to say yes to this question, because who is going to say no? But we cannot stop there; we must go deeper. Here is the next question to ponder.
Are you willing to fight for the rights of the child after they are born in the same way you did before they were born?
In the womb, the child is innocent, but outside the womb they start living and life means the necessity for food, shelter, education, opportunity, and other things which require time, resources, and may infringe on your life. In this instance, the value of the life has not changed but has your attitude changed? (I told you this gets a little sticky, but these are necessary questions.) Here are some more to ponder with no commentary.
- How do you think about people groups outside of your own?
- How do you view others that may be in a different economic or social class then you are?
- Does a poor uneducated person have the same value as the wealthy educated one?
- Does the life of the immigrant matter just as much as the life of the citizen?
- Are the elderly just as important as the young?
If we are going to believe in the sanctity of life, then we must be willing to ask ourselves the hard questions to make sure this is how we truly view every human life. If we don’t check our hearts on this matter, then sanctity of life is nothing more than an empty slogan – words we say with our mouth, but we don’t truly believe in our heart.
The goal should be to be about life and the sanctity of life because that is what the Bible requires us to do. However, this is also the challenge. It can be easy to get lost in the noise of media or political talk and forget about the human, their life, and its intrinsic value. But if we are going to preach and believe in the sanctity of life, let’s make sure we allow God’s word to be the final word on this matter. All life is sacred, those in the womb and those outside the womb and we need to protect it and care for it all at the same time.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.