• The Explore the Bible lesson for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, Jan. 15, focuses on Proverbs 24:11-12 and Mark 10:46-49.
Recently, as I pulled up to a major urban intersection, behind about three cars stopped at a red light, a young man jumped off the curb and came walking down the line of stopped vehicles toward each car. I’d seen him before. He is sadness in the flesh, his harshly poor clothing seeming to express the way he must feel in the deepest recesses of his heart.
On occasion, I’d handed him a few dollars but always by asking his name first. Street people are always shocked when I ask their name. I wonder why.
He’s so young, younger than my two grown sons. I don’t know how or why people end up in such sad situations, and I’m not always either the right person or in the right place to help with what they need most.
“So, what?” I could almost hear the Spirit say. “You’ve got a few bucks in your pocket that I gave you. Slow down, roll down that window on that car I also gave you and share with your brother.”
Consider the consequences
When I first came across this lesson assignment, honestly, I cringed. The sanctity of human life, sadly, is a divisive issue in our nation and even among Baptists specifically. That upon which we should speak with a common voice too often has become a source of bitter vitriol toward one another, thereby muting our voice to our larger community of humanity.
So, when I first went to write the lesson, I looked at both texts and drew this conclusion. It’s clear that the writer of Proverbs is saying, on a very broad scale, what could be interpreted to mean, “What we send around comes back around.”
It’s true. We largely live in the world of our own making. In many ways that are certainly true globally, nationally, locally and personally, we sleep in the beds we made ourselves.
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I know it is so, personally, for a verifiable fact. Every single time I find myself in a twist, with rare exception, it’s because of choices I’ve made, and there is no one else to blame. Even if someone steps into my path and hurts me in some way, I’m still responsible for how I choose to respond. It’s not what others do to us or what happens to us that ultimately becomes our legacy but how we choose to respond to all of it.
So, the writer of Proverbs says that, even if we want to believe something is true for our own ends, we will live, or die, in the house of our own building. Mark Twain once said: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
Proverbs’ warning is simple and profound. We should not march through life treating others with disdain, taking advantage of the down and out, stepping over whoever we want to get what we want—definitions of true evil—without thinking of the long-terms consequences to both those folks and ourselves. God is watching, especially when these things are happening at church.
Every life is sacred
A second issue is found in the Mark text where Jesus preaches no sermon but lives one out that it plain as day. A man cries out to Jesus for “mercy.” Those around Jesus who apparently believed Jesus’ work was too important to stop ordered the man to be quiet.
Jesus, however, had and would continue to demonstrate that people who were hurting were his primary mission, even when, especially when, they interrupted his agenda. It’s worth noting some of the most remarkable things Jesus did and said happened on the way to somewhere else.
The healing of the blind man is important in its own right. Perhaps Mark also made certain this story made it into the Gospels to demonstrate one of Jesus’ core values: Every life is sacred, always.
Of course, that truth is given to us as early in the Ten Commandments, and Jesus reinforces it over and over in his teachings and actions. It’s also given to us in passages where Jesus heals someone, and we think the story was about the healing and nothing else.
It was impossible not to think of all those street people I pass every day on the way to somewhere else when I read Mark’s words. No matter what got them on that corner, no matter what, their life is as sacred to Jesus as any other life that ever drew a breath. Now, as Jesus’ followers, we must live our lives figuring out what that means for us.
Not all matters of life’ sacredness are settled in black-and-white scriptural teachings. The issue of the sacredness of human life is a broad, expansive matter. For example, if I vehemently oppose abortion but eagerly support war or capital punishment, is there a conflict in my beliefs that betrays an even deeper value that actually drives my decisions more than I’ve yet discovered?
What about the Syrian refugees? What about the increasing number of poor and hungry in our country, especially in our urban centers? What about still unchallenged injustices based on race, age, sex or other factors?
The discussion about the sacredness of human life centers on this question: How do we address the evil of devaluing any life that Jesus has proven, by his life and death and resurrection, is sacred?
That’s a question we’ll never completely answer but one we must not fail to ask.