Christians believe that there is something special about human beings. Being human is not the same as being anything else in the cosmos – different in nature from being a rock, a tree, a spider or a chimpanzee. Humans are ‘in the image of God’. That means we share something of the nature of God – we know the difference between good and evil, we have the ability to be creative, we have a capacity to love and seek justice, and we have a nature which is in some way eternal (some people call this a soul).
Everything Christians believe about the sanctity of life follows on from this. And the most wonderful of those facts is a belief that God knows every human individually – from the baby that lives only a few tragic minutes to the great-grandfather who celebrates his hundredth birthday. Christians also believe that God has a total and unconditional love for every human. (This is exhilarating but also challenging, because it means he must have loved Hitler as much as he loved Saint Francis of Assisi). It means that God loves you, wherever in the world you are reading this right now.
Several things follow logically from this:
Human life has a purpose
Evolution has not just led us to an existence in which we are what we are because we were the species that is best at surviving, but because God willed it to be this way and wants us to do something with life.
Human life is very precious
In Christian ethics all humans should treat all humans with total respect. Admittedly we are not very good at this, but that is what God has asked of us.
Humans need to respect themselves
That means Christians try to do something worthwhile with their lives. For almost all Christians it means they try not to throw their one beautiful life away by viciously abusing drugs, alcohol, tobacco and so on.
Humans need to respect others
Out of this has come the laws that have made the UK civilised – about murder, the death penalty, abortion, euthanasia, contraception, embryo experimentation and so on. All these are controversial and Christians don’t agree. However, they try to have their debates about it in the context of seeking God’s best for humankind.
Human life has absolute dignity
Perhaps the most important belief of all is that God himself has inhabited a human body and so he has conferred utter dignity on human flesh. Christians believe that in Jesus God himself was walking and talking on this planet.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honour.
Where to find it:
About these words:
From a hymn addressed to God ten centuries before Jesus, which seems anticipate by thousands of years the belief that human life is just one part of a vast creation, but is a unique and precious part of it.
And they said…
William Wilberforce, 1759-1833, politician and reformer:
My only prayer is that when I stand before God he will say that my life counted for something.
Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town:
Your ordinary acts of hope and love point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.
Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, Nobel prize-winning physicist:
There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
Basil Hume, 1923-1999, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster:
A society which treasures the elderly and disabled and looks after them is a generous society. Once this stops, life becomes cheap.
John Wayne, 1907-1979, actor:
Life is tough. But it’s tougher when you’re stuipid.