WHOSE LIVES SHOULD BE PROTECTED, VALUED, SACRIFICED OR RELEASED?
Perth Bible Church, Sunday AM January 21, 2007 Pastor Todd G. Leupold
PREFACE: Before I begin this morning, I want you to know that other than my Mom’s funeral this may be the most emotionally difficult and wrenching sermon I’ve ever developed. It has cut deeply to my heart. I say this to ask for your patience and grace if I struggle and stumble along . . . at least more than usual. Please also keep in mind that, for reasons I hope will become obvious, my introduction this morning will be the longest portion of the message.
INTRODUCTION: What Ever Happened To Human Dignity?
Perhaps the most starkly vivid example of indignities against human beings that we all have a shared knowledge of is the Holocaust perpetuated by Nazi Germany in the 1940s. When people mention the Holocaust, the most common association is the imprisonment, starvation and mass killing of Jewish people. “Ethnic cleansing.” Gravely, however, this was just one of the atrocities to human dignity by Nazi Germany. Thousands upon thousands of committed Christians and people of other ethnicities, races, and other religious and political persuasions suffered as well. Further, the Nazi atrocities were not limited to hard labor, starvation, and mass killings in the gas chambers and shooting fields. Thousands of others were humiliated, tortured, de-humanized and even killed in the name of “scientific advancement” and “small sacrifices for a greater public good.”
Human beings were treated as scientific samples and “guinea pigs.” Some were forced into human “breeding experiments” that included not only rape but a horrendous variety of forced dietary, chemical, and other impositions through a heart-less trial-and-error process created to learn how to “breed a better human.” Similarly, others were subjected to unmentionable experiments to test the limits of human capabilities, healing, endurance and genetic manipulation. Those most often sacrificed in this manner were women, the elderly and the disabled. The very definition of what it means to be “human” was redefined as something to be determined by individual functionality rather than inherent worth. Infanticide, eugenics, euthanasia and abortion were all considered necessary acts of ’mercy’ for the betterment and improvement of the greater society and world.
After World War II, when a new, Democratic Government was formed in what became West Germany those responsible added a constitutional clause designed to prevent any repeat in ’kind’ or in ’spirit’ of these Nazi atrocities. This essential clause simply stated that “human dignity is inviolable.” That is, it is from that point on it would be illegal to in any way violate human dignity. What a wonderful clause! Just imagine if every government included and honored such a principle?
Thank God, we live in America – a country whose Declaration of Independence began by acknowledging: “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle” and the “self-evident truths” that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” - so that human dignity would never be forgotten, taken for granted or violated.
So, in Germany, it was thought that assaults against human dignity would forever be ancient history. Unfortunately, even in a country with such a history and that had done so much to reaffirm the value of human dignity and all human life began to forget and ignore it over the years. On May 28, 1993, the highest court in Germany remembered and did something about it. In a decision that would create a firestorm of protest and conflict in our own country, the German high court struck down previously passed abortion laws that they determined did not sufficiently respect or protect unborn life. Their decision was based and supported by the constitutional clause that “human dignity is inviolable.”
Fast-forward to our time. It has been estimated that in 1987 alone, between 36 and 53 million children were aborted world-wide. In 1995, 1,210,883 legally documented abortions in the US were reported to the CDC. Without dispute, there were countless others unreported (reporting is entirely voluntary). On any given day, if you turn to any form of media in the US you are likely to read at least one significant report concerning other “life” issues such as genetic engineering, cloning, so-called “mercy killings,” “assisted suicide,” embryonic stem cells, and extreme “modifications.” Our common vocabulary has been expanded to include terms such as “bioethics,” “selective reproduction,” “population control,” and the right to life has been superseded by a “right to die.” Why, after thousands or - according to some, even tens of millions of years – of existence we are now suddenly unable to define “life” or what it means to “be human?” Like Nazi Germany, we no longer talk about life as something of intrinsic worth, but as something to be measured according to subjective ’value.’ Whatever happened to human dignity?
No doubt, some of us here today consider these words to be unreasonably harsh and exaggerated. I only wish it were!!! Consider: One of the most recognizable names in America is “Dr. Death” Kevorkian. Groups and individuals that promote the value of all human life are labeled “intolerant,” “hateful,” and “ignorant.” Not long ago, Whoopi Goldberg publicly referred to the human embryo as “stuff coming together.” Margot Kidder proclaimed, “Abortion might be killing a life. But if there is a sin, it is the sin that we adults perpetrate on the children of the earth – who truly are innocent and defenseless – by bringing those children into the world when they will not be cared for.”
In an interview with National Review, Dr. Philip Nitschke (Australia’s ’Dr. Death’) proclaimed: “If we believe that there is a right to life, then we must accept that people have a right to dispose of that life whenever they want. . . The so-called ’peaceful pill’ should be available in the supermarket so that those old enough to understand death could obtain death peacefully at the time of their choosing . . . If you believe that your body belongs to God and that to cut short a life is a crime against God then you will clearly not agree with my thoughts on the issue.” Duh!!!
At least several years ago, now, the Dutch government made it legal for doctors to intentionally end the lives of disabled newborns, teens and even elderly who are said to be “suffering.” According to this week’s Time magazine, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecology in Britain is proposing “that doctors openly consider allowing euthanasia of the sickest infants, which is legal in the Netherlands” : ’A very disabled child can mean a disabled family,’ the college wrote to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and urged that it ’think more radically about non-resuscitation, withdrawal of treatment decisions. . . and active euthanasia, as they are ways of widening the management options available to the sickest of newborns.’” Again, I ask, Whatever happened to human dignity?
By the way, that last quote appeared in an article about today’s hot-bed ethical controversy, “the Pillow Angel.” While the real facts are much more complicated, the article begins with this question: “What kind of doctors would agree to shorten and sterilize a disabled 6-year-old girl to make it easier for her parents to take care of her?”
Friends, whether we like it or not, ALL of us are now living in a place and age where each of us will at least once in our lives have to face an incredibly complex, difficult, and controversial bio-ethical situation. A suffering loved one, a severely disabled or handicapped child, a suffering elderly parent, a vegetative sibling or spouse, a horrible life-threatening disease, etc. . . The more society and science ’advances’ the more complex and confusing our lives, ethics and the situations we face have become.
In the face of so many different voices, so many options, so many “future possibilities,” what do we do? Amidst our 21st Century dilemmas, competing interests, and seemingly vast clouds of “gray,” how are we to choose? When circumstances dictate that a choice MUST be made, how do we determine whose lives we should protect, and at what ’cost’? Whose lives should be ’sacrificed’? When are we to fight for life and when are we to release it? In other words, how do we put a value on human life?
Folks, before we go any further, I want to make it abundantly clear that I fully understand the great complexity of many of these issues. I understand that what might be an ’easy’ and ’clear-cut’ decision in one case may be anything but in another. It is NOT my goal to tell you this morning how you need to respond to any and every situation. I CAN’T. While some of these situations may indeed be “black-and-white” “no-brainers” (such as 99.99% of abortions) - I recognize that there are many situations that clearly need to be left as a prayerful ’judgment call’ by those closest and most responsible. Further, in those situations, once that time comes and that ’call’ is made the rest of us need to gracefully step away and refrain from judging – we’re not in their shoes! In the end, we will each individually be responsible before the LORD God Almighty!
However, what I CAN and purpose to do this morning is to provide a solid, Biblical foundation of the principles that God has given us and that we need to prayerfully and carefully apply to the situations that we and those close to us may one day face. The body of this message will, therefore, be a review of relevant Words from God and very little commentary. Please follow along with me: the conscience you live with the rest of your lives may depend on it!
THE ORIGIN & NATURE OF ALL THINGS
Genesis 1:1-2; 2:7
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.
EVERYTHING was entirely created by God – directly and personally. As our Creator, then, only He has the right to define us, our purpose, or the value of our lives!
WHERE DOES OUR HUMANNESS & VALUE COME FROM? OUR CREATED IDENTITY & PURPOSE
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth." So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God, He created them male and female. God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth."
Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image. But you, be fruitful and multiply; spread out over the earth and multiply on it."
We are to produce and protect the life and image God has given us, and NOT manage, control or destroy it!
1 Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s
AT WHAT POINT IN TIME DOES GOD FIRST RECOGNIZE OUR UNIQUE HUMANNESS AND VALUE AS AN INDIVIDUAL LIFE?
For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know [this] very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all [my] days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.
Indeed, I was guilty [when I] was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.
The word of the Lord came to me: I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
One cannot be declared guilty or sinful, unless that one is first already recognized as existing, valuable and purposeful!
HOW CAN TWO HUMAN LIVES BE COMPARED?
WHAT ABOUT RELIEF FROM EXTREME SUFFERING?
We Have An Example to Be the Ones Who Sacrifice
No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.
Who then is a faithful and sensible slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the proper time?
Matthew 25:34-40 The Least of These
We Have An Example of Reaching Out to the Suffering & Unfortunate, Even at Our Own Risk
Matthew 8 (esp. vv. 16-17) Jesus & the Leper, Cent.’s Servant, Peter’s mom-in-law, demon-
Luke 8:43-48 Jesus & the Women with bleeding
John 5:2-8 Cripple at Pool
John 9:1-5; 40-41 Blind Men
We Have A Command to Especially Watch Out For the Children
Some people were bringing little children to Him so He might touch them. But His disciples rebuked them.
Matthew 9:13 (Jesus to the Pharisees after they complain of his associating with ’sinners’)0
Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners."
But Jesus, knowing the thoughts of their hearts, took a little child and had him stand next to Him. He told them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me welcomes Him who sent Me. For whoever is least among you all--this one is great."
We Have A Mandate to Look After the Lost & Unfortunate
Luke 15 The Parables of the Lost Coin, Lost Sheep and Lost Son
Just ’one’ has inestimable value to God. ALL are important to Him. ALL need salvation.
Luke 10:25-37 The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Loving God Absolutely and Loving Others Sacrificially!
CONCLUSION: WHAT CAN WE DO?
We must acknowledge that:
1.Our value as human beings is determined by Our Creator, not other creatures.
2.There is never any ’dignity’ in the willful taking of another human life.
3.Suffering and loss of independence are opportunities for ministry and spiritual growth, NOT problems to be eliminated at any cost.
4.We must love others sacrificially! Sometimes, love requires great sacrifice of time, finances, emotional distress, physical discomfort or even embarrassment. Love is going the extra mile, not throwing in the towel and ending the race before the finish line!
5.We must ACT compassionately. It is not enough to simply be sad, disappointed, or angry. It is not enough to protest, judge and criticize. It is not enough to memorialize. We must ACT and we must act TODAY to help the helpless, the defenseless, the hurting and confused!!!
Get involved with LifeSavers!
Set the example for others with the decisions you make.
Get involved in the community – volunteer.
Study God’s Word endlessly! Come Wednesday nights, where we will discuss these ethical issues one-by-one from a Biblical and personal perspective.
KNOW JESUS, HIS LOVE & VALUE FOR YOU – SO THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH OTHERS!