Sadly, life is cheap in America these days. The preservation of human life is no longer a primary value in contemporary culture, in spite of our Judeo-Christian heritage, which teaches us to value human life. What of the ongoing slaughter of unborn, innocent babies for reasons of uninhibited pleasure and personal and family convenience? No wonder Pope John Paul II in his encyclical proclaiming a gospel of life is constrained to describe modern culture as a “culture of death.”
Jesus said that when a sparrow falls to the ground, God notes it. The birds of the air are incredibly precious to God. He made them. And ours would be a visually tedious and eerily silent world without them. The created universe and this beautiful planet of ours are of inestimable worth to God and therefore should be treasured.
Having said that, let us be clear: Precious as all created life is to God—and the environments and ecosystems in which it thrives—human persons are worth a great deal more to God. “You are worth more than many sparrows,” (Matt. 10:31) says Jesus.
If we could focus as much compassion and creative energy on kids in our inner cities-blowing each other away with automatic weapons and self-destructing on crack cocaine—as we give to saving whales and the nesting sites of tufted titmice, we might accomplish a great deal for the peace and prosperity of our cities, not to mention the salvation of these kids! Perhaps we can, and should, do both! Look at the mass graves in Rwanda and read the painful reflection of horror in the eyes of the children there and you need not be persuaded that there is much to fear in our world.
Recognizing the value Jesus places on human life makes His words even more poignant and powerful: “Do not be afraid of those that kill the body, but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). Many a martyr to totalitarianism within the past 50 years has sealed their testimony to that truth with their blood. There is something beyond human life, valuable as it is, that is of infinitely greater consequence. It is the soul.
It is the simple but liberating truth that God values us all as human persons. It is that love of God for us, not based upon our merit, but upon His grace toward us, that makes us infinitely worthy. This is such a crucial issue that God invested in it the life of His own Son. We can know ourselves loved, unconditionally. And we can respond to that love.
Paul A. Rader, The War Cry