Yesterday churches across the world acknowledged Sanctity of Life Sunday—a day set aside to encourage people to celebrate the gift of life, honor lives lost to abortion, and commit themselves to protecting human life at every stage. As a pro-life Christian I’ve got big dreams of living in a world that is abortion free. But as a pro-life Christian who spent the majority of my life as a pro-choice/indifferent non-Christian, I’ve got some thoughts on how we Christians are handling the matter.
I think the term pro-life has become so political, so controversial, so oppositional, that we have actually sort of forgotten what it really means, at its core. The rhetoric around life has become so convoluted that we don’t even know where to start, and so we just don’t. On one hand, it’s really not as complicated as we’re making it, and on the other hand its bigger and more involved than we realize.
Here’s the simple part: being a pro-life Christian means that I acknowledge and remember how God feels about me. That He knew my spirit long before my birth, that He knit me together intricately in my mother’s womb. That He created me perfectly—with a plan and a unique purpose.
And here is the hard part: He created each of our neighbors this way too. He created and loves your pushy boss, your difficult co-worker, and the annoying person down the street who doesn’t clean up after their dog. That person on Facebook who is very vocal about their political thoughts, the person who opposes you, the child that tests you in your classroom, the cold man sleeping on the streets, the differently-abled woman bagging your groceries. People of every race, culture, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation. The pregnant 14 year old, the alcoholic, the prisoner, the immigrant (yes, even those here illegally), the strung out addict on the corner… Every single one.
My hope this Sanctity of Life Sunday, and always, is that we will all take a moment to remember who we are as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, and relish in that. But that we will also remember that God feels the same way about every single person in this world. And He calls us to treat them as such.
This is what it is to live in a culture that upholds the Sanctity of Life. This is what it is to be a pro-life Christian.
And, if you’re listening closely, it should motivate you to do something. We all have a job to uphold the sanctity of life in some way.
And because, if I’m honest, I’m pretty tired. Exhausted really, of the world we live in and of the apathy of my own heart and that of my Christian brothers and sisters. I’m soul-aching weary of the hatred we all express towards one another, and the lack of compassion I see for our hurting communities. Yes, it’s complicated and messy, but that does not mean we are exempt. Jesus asked us to engage. To wade through the challenges and find a way to serve and love our neighbors, in His name.
I am a lover of stories and this year our church celebrated some beautiful stories on this special Sunday. Stories of great heartache and trial, but that end in celebration because God does not ignore our pain, He transforms it into something beautiful and sacred. It’s called redemption, and it’s probably my favorite thing about this Christian life, and about choosing life.
But I have just heard so many stories over the years that my heart can barely take it. There is an urgency here that might never be fulfilled. A thirst for better that will probably not be quenched in this life. It is discouraging and hard and burdensome and ugly, but it is true and it is real. And what is our life if it is not based on truth? Where is our purpose if we do not live in the reality of our brokenness? If we pretend all is well and that God is not broken by the darkness that is all around us?
We don’t get to be ignorant about the heartache around us. God calls us to see it, feel it, and do something about it.
Because God didn’t lovingly create each beautiful life so that babies could be torn from their mother’s wombs, or so that children would be found in trash cans covered with insects and badly injured from being exposed to the elements, or so that those sweet lives could be used or abused or taken advantage of for the pleasure or gain of others, or so that the single mom would be without help or resources. God didn’t create children with down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and a host of other differences so that those lives could waste away in orphanages or institutions, or sheltered from the rest of society.
Because ultimately God didn’t create the 7 billion people currently on this planet so that their lives could be discarded, uncared for, marginalized, and rejected.
I don’t pretend to know the solution to this problem. Obviously it is vast and it is the human condition. The solution, I suppose, is just heaven. The dreams I have for this world will likely not be satisfied in this world. This is part of our depravity: our soul’s longing for heaven.
But I do know one thing: one solution to one problem can start with me. And you. And each one of us who bears the name of Christ. I can’t solve all the problems, but I can do something to help.
I have rubbed the belly of a single mom, and I have heard the heart of the post-abortive woman and the tearful birth mom. I have hugged the orphan, the foster child, the poor, and the marginalized as I whispered prayers for a better future for them. I have watched a newborn tremor from drug addiction. I have been to other countries and seen the depravity and I have lived in the United States and seen the depravity. I have held a sick baby the day before his passing into heaven and I have watched someone so important to me slowly degrade from cancer. And I have watched in helpless horror as families dear to me have had to say goodbye to their babies too soon. I have been to psychiatric institutions and seen the darkness that oppresses and tears lives and families apart.
This brokenness…it’s all around us.
But you know what else I’ve been privileged to witness? A single momma bravely raising her beautiful children, a post-abortive woman freed from her pain and secret shame, a birth mom actively seeking ways to support other birth moms and trying to create the community she didn’t have, an orphan embraced into a loving home, a family bravely opening their home to foster children, the poor finding comfort in the arms of Jesus, the addict celebrating sobriety, the special needs child overcoming hurdle after hurdle, and people persistently and triumphantly raising their hands in worship—finding the strength to tell God He is still good—despite the difficulties they’ve endured.
This Jesus…He’s all around us too.
We are all fellow image-bearers and the mission to build a culture of life starts with each of us. It starts with me seeing myself as the beloved daughter of the King, then transferring that belief to every single human being I encounter. Even when it’s hard…especially when it’s hard. It starts with me and you speaking life into our fellow image bearers and celebrating the unique way that they represent the creativity and artistry of our creator. It starts with each of us.
Please prayerfully consider how God wants you to get involved. There are a lot of image bearers suffering out there, but I believe there are also a lot of image bearers out there who are willing to bend a knee and defend the sanctity of another’s life.
For the love of all that is sacred, let’s show the world what it really is to be pro-life.
Alicia Terhune lives with her husband and her three sons in the rolling suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA