Valuing Life (Exodus 20:13, 1 Samuel 26:1-25)
Scientists estimate that since the earth’s beginning, more than five billion species, ninety-nine percent of which are now extinct, have called our little blue planet home. Diversity is the hallmark of creation. Take birds, for example: there are thirty-five types of sparrows alone in North America, each a little bit different from the others. And insects: more than a million species populate the earth, and that doesn’t even include spiders (which are actually arachnids). Our world is teeming with wonderful, diverse, fascinating life.
Think about the people you’ve met. Aren’t they all different? Even identical twins aren’t identical in every sense. But there is one thing we all have in common. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us [the triune God] make people in our image, in our likeness.” Despite our differences in gender, skin color, hair color, height, and every other way it is possible to be different, we are all created in God’s image and likeness. How can that be?
The image of God, or imago Dei, must be something in us that can’t be seen by the eye. It is the thing that animates us, that makes us alive. Genesis 2 says that God formed all living things from the dust of the ground (accurate because all life on earth is carbon based), and into man “he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” When God created humans in his own likeness he instilled something of himself in us: life. Therefore, all life is God-breathed and precious.
God’s commandment against murder in Exodus reminds us that all life has value. Even if we intensely dislike another person, even if another person has harmed us in some way, even if revenge seems justified, God forbids murder. Taking away the spark of life that God instilled drives a wedge between us and God and between us and our fellow human beings. How can we expect to live in harmony with one another if we utterly disregard the value of any person’s life?
Yet, as terrible as depriving a person of physical life is, there is something worse: the separation from God that results from rejecting his gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Our mortal bodies will die, but our immortal selves will live forever. Jesus sacrificed himself so that we could live. We have a choice about how we will spend eternity. Will we choose darkness and despair, or will we choose light and hope? Death or life? It’s up to us to decide.