The decision handed down a few hours ago from the Supreme Court of the United States in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a pivotal moment in the history of our country and a hopeful development for those who cherish the sanctity of life. In many ways, this decision signals a new wave of societal debate as each individual state wrestles through their own legislation. But as followers of Jesus, there is cause for hope that this ruling marks a meaningful shift that will offer greater protection for preborn human lives.
As many in our culture react to this ruling and the leak that preceded it, it is increasingly evident that ideas have consequences. If the secular story is true, human life is the result of meaningless chance and the survival of the fittest. We owe our existence to ancestors who overpowered weaker beings in pursuit of their own destiny. Human life has no intrinsic value beyond its societal utility. As Stephen Hawking famously said, “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet.” Is it any wonder that a society that embraces such foundational assumptions would also embrace abortion, euthanasia, and be increasingly plagued by murder? Ideas have consequences.
The idea of the imago Dei (Latin for “image of God”) has consequences as well. The Bible affirms that all human beings possess imago Dei; they are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Part of what it means to be made in the image of God is that humans are both physical and spiritual beings. Human lives are the product, not only of human conjugal love, but of the divine love of a God who calls each of us “fearfully and wonderfully made” in our “mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13-14). The Bible holds that human beings are not just children of humanity, but are also children of God, bearing His image and likeness. Therefore, all human life is profoundly sacred from conception to natural death.
This conviction that all people are created in the image of God undergirds and motivates followers of Jesus to sacrificially serve humanity all over the world through medical care, disaster and famine relief, childhood wellness, refugee resettlement, prison ministries, domestic abuse shelters, foster and adoptive care, after-school mentoring, trauma-informed counseling, educational resourcing, advocacy for under-resourced communities, care of widows and orphans, advocacy for sex trafficking victims, literacy initiatives, sanitation programs, and so much more. Our belief in the sacredness of the imago Dei serves as a fountainhead for a wide range of humanitarian efforts. After all, ideas have consequences.
It is the imago Dei that also informs our desire to seek protection for the lives of preborn human beings. These little ones also bear the image of God and are infinitely valuable. They are not just children of humanity; they are children of God. Their souls are made for eternity. In their moment of greatest vulnerability, when they cannot speak for themselves, is it not our duty to protect them? If justice is speaking up for the powerless, are their lives not our concern? The imago Dei means all human life is sacred. Ideas have consequences.
It’s not just theology that suggests that human life is sacred. As science has progressed in the last few decades, we are increasingly aware of just how very “alive” babies are in the womb. At the moment of conception, so much of the preborn baby’s amazing journey is written: whether it is a boy or girl, their eye color, their hair color, their unique talents and personality. The preborn baby’s heart begins beating just three weeks after conception. Around twelve weeks the baby starts sucking its thumb and can sense discomfort and pain. At twenty weeks, if it is a baby girl, all the eggs her reproductive system will release over her lifetime are fully formed, which means in a sense three generations of women are connected at this one moment in time. By twenty-two weeks, the unborn baby recognizes his or her mother’s voice, breathing, and heartbeat, responding with playful movements. We could go on and on, but the point is that these little lives are both wondrous and precious. Everything we learn about these preborn babies points to their true humanness.
My experience is that most women who seek abortions are not trying to end a preborn baby’s life but are trying to find a way out of what seems like an impossible situation. In many cases, there seems to be no choice but to abort. These women in their moment of distress are worthy of our utmost compassion. They too bear the imago Dei and deserve our generous concern. That is one of the reasons I appreciate Caris Pregnancy Counseling and Resources, our long-term ministry partner here in Chicago. This ministry was started by families at The Moody Church to help women and children thrive during and after an unplanned pregnancy. The fine folks at Caris provide wrap-around support services beginning during the pregnancy up through the child’s fifth year of life. With real support and tangible resourcing in place, women are empowered to make life-affirming choices, both for themselves and for their babies. Caris provides a model of how we can affirm the imago Dei in both women and their babies at once.
For followers of Jesus, abortion is more than a political issue, it is a matter of human sacredness. We believe both mother and preborn babies are human beings made in the image of God. We endeavor to care for both of these image bearers with compassion and sacrificial care. We hold that a society that honors the dignity, value, worth, and preciousness of all human life will flourish and enjoy the blessing of God. Until that day comes, we pray and advocate for a world where the imago Dei is treated with the sacredness it deserves. After all, our lives depend on it.