Explore the Bible

with Wayne VanHorn

Sunday,  January 20

Protect and Serve

Genesis 1:27; 9:1-7; Matthew 5:21-22

God values humanity. Every year Southern Baptist celebrate the “Sanctity of Human Life.” on the third Sunday of January. An excellent resolution was passed at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention entitled “On the Sanctity of Human Life.” I recommend usage of the resolution as an aid to teaching this lesson.  (http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/2256/on-the-sanctity-of-human-life)

In His Image (Gen. 1:27)

The main reason human life is precious to God is that humans are the only part of God’s creation explicitly created in His image and likeness. We learn from Genesis 1:26-27 that people are made in God’s image and likeness. This is affirmed in Genesis 5:1 and 9:6. These two terms are used only of people, never of animals, plants, or any other part of creation. We also learn that the image and likeness of God applied to male and female, without any gender preference on God’s part. All people of all stages of development from conception to death are made in the image and likeness of God.

Therefore, believers are to affirm the value of every person as being created in God’s image. Properly understood, Christ-followers should take a bold stand against any practice of taking human life. God’s people cannot allow the death culture to progress unabated.

To Be Protected (Gen. 9:1-7)

When Noah and his family exited the ark, God made a covenant of life with them for all humankind. God had brought judgment in the form of a massive flood on every evil person, having seen that “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5; NASB). It is important to note that God is the only righteous judge, knowing who is deserving of death and who is deserving of life.

Noah had found favor in God’s eyes (Gen. 6:8). So, God spared then blessed Noah and his three sons, and their wives. This family would become the beginning of a renewed human race with a strong appreciation for the value of human life. This value rested intrinsically in the creation of people being made in God’s image and likeness, but it also was tied to those people honoring God with their lives.

The blessing on Noah and his family included the command to multiply and fill the earth, the promise that the lower life forms would fear humans, and with the provision of all animals and plants as food for people (Gen. 9:1-3). God so valued human life that He commanded procreation and promised to provide ample food to feed the growing human race.

However, one caveat was placed on eating animals; the blood had to be drained from the carcass before the meat was consumed. Blood represented life. The Lord then focused on the sanctity of human life (Gen. 9:5), holding accountable every animal and every person who took the life of a human. Thus, God, in His covenant of life, decreed capital punishment for any animal or human who took a person’s life.

Genesis 9:6 is clear, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (NASB). Capital punishment was intended to eliminate dangerous animals and, more poignantly, dangerous people who so devalued God, they could kill a human made in His image. Having established a clear punishment for a severe crime, God returned to His command for Noah’s family to “be fruitful and multiply.” They were to “populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it” (Gen. 9:7).

Believers are to protect human life, advocating for those who cannot speak for themselves. Capital punishment should be administered only in cases of premeditated murder and only when the evidence clearly condemns the accused. Abortion and euthanasia should be eliminated altogether.

In Action and Attitude (Matt. 5:21-22)

Jesus raised the stakes by linking the act of premeditated murder to harboring angry attitudes and spiteful remarks against others. The seeds of premeditated murder are germinated in the soils of anger and disrespect. Believers are to demonstrate that they value everyone by showing respect to all people.

Twenty-first century America is characterized by division. Harsh language, stereotyping, racism, name-calling, dishonesty, and corruption, are pervasive. Often Christians enter the fray on social media and other venues to express their frustrations. Yet, God has called us to be a voice of grace in the midst of the turmoil of hatred. Believers are to be points of light in a world shrouded in deep darkness.

VanHorn is Dean of the Mississippi College School of Christian Studies and the Arts.