A Culture of Life
God is love (1 John 4:8); in God is life indeed (John 1:4).
In love God created the heavens and the earth, and He created them to facilitate and cultivate life (Genesis 1:1-2:3). The anthropic constants which allow for life to exist are mind-boggling in their complexity and precision. Indeed, it requires far more faith to believe it all just happened to work out than it does to confess the existence of a Creator. Yet there is much more to this truth than mere apologetics: God has made the universe for life to flourish. Earth bears witness to God’s provisions for life: the diversity of life on Earth is astonishing, and every creature has its place and its niche.
God has not merely created all life; its continued existence is entirely dependent on His provision, will, and sustenance. All things consist in Jesus; in God we live, move, and have our being (cf. Acts 17:28, Colossians 1:17). God is not portrayed as some remote Architect who set things up and then left it alone. God created life and He remains deeply involved with the perpetuation of life.
In His refutation of the Sadducees Jesus set forth a profound truth: God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32). In God is life; God is about life; God’s purposes for us involve obtaining eternal life in Jesus (John 10:10).
It should therefore be no surprise to discover that God esteems life highly, and wishes for humanity made in His image, after His likeness, to value life highly as well. As the people of the living God who gives life, Christians ought to embody a culture of life.
The fundamental principle of a culture of life is the confession that life is a gift. God gives life to all things (1 Timothy 6:13); existence is a manifestation of God’s love and grace. We must receive life as a gift and treasure it as such. It is not our possession; we do not have complete control over it, demonstrated in our inability to choose when it starts, and, for most, when it will end. Life is a powerful force beyond our abilities to fully manipulate and control; life tends to find a way.
Life is not just any kind of gift; it is a gift of exceedingly great value. Life is precious; there can be no dollar amount given to establish the worth of a life. This is true about our lives, but it is therefore also true about the lives of others. The lives of all people are precious and valuable in the sight of God (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).
Since life is a gift, we must not trifle with it. If we honor and respect life as a gift, and seek to live in subjection to our Creator and the Giver of life, we will only take it when authorized to do so and it proves needful. God has authorized the taking of plant and animal life for food (Genesis 9:3). A reckoning exists for the taking of life: those who shed blood are to have their blood shed for the crime (Genesis 9:6). Provision is also made for the killing of beasts who threaten and endanger human life (cf. Exodus 21:28-29, 1 Samuel 17:34-37).
God did indeed give mankind dominion over the earth; life on Earth is in man’s hand (Genesis 1:28, 9:2). Yet it does not automatically follow that God intended for mankind to do whatever he wanted to life on earth! Life is a gift and a stewardship: since we will be held accountable for how we have lived our lives before God (Romans 14:10-12), we should not be surprised if our stewardship of life on earth will also be brought into judgment in some way or another. God has concern for the sparrow (cf. Matthew 10:29); should not man made in God’s image also have concern for the valuation of non-human life on earth?
And if we as Christians are to have some regard for non-human life on earth, how much more should we honor and uphold the integrity of all human life? We are not to take the life of our fellow man because he is made in God’s image (Genesis 9:6). God has sent the Lord Jesus to die for all mankind: no one is beyond the reach of forgiveness in Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:12-17). God has embodied love for everyone in Jesus; He therefore expects Christians to love everyone, even their enemies, and do good to all (Luke 6:30-36, Galatians 6:10). Christians therefore ought to uphold the value and integrity of all human lives, even those whom the world may find dispensable: the unborn, the chronically and terminally ill, the disabled, the elderly, those with mental difficulties or impairments, and many others. The Christian’s enemy is never his fellow man in flesh and blood; it is the powers and principalities over this present darkness who have deceived his fellow man (Ephesians 6:12). Christians must thus uphold the integrity of the lives of those who might stand against them, those who engage in criminal conduct, those who look and live differently than they do, and those of lesser means, and never give into the temptation of dehumanizing other people or thinking their lives are worth less in any way. In truth we are all worthy of condemnation; none of us deserve anything else; we only stand by the grace of God, and God would pour out His grace on the other as much as He does for us (Romans 5:6-11). The ways of the world thrive on divisiveness and tribalism; God’s manifold wisdom is made evident in His people when they are able to transcend all forms of worldly division to associate with one another and privilege one another in the faith, and all because Jesus’ death killed the hostility which existed among us (Ephesians 2:11-3:12).
Life, therefore, is not merely about the individual; no one person or even species exists within a vacuum. Jesus’ metaphor of the vine and the branches in John 15:1-11 is apt: life is perpetuated and sustained through connection with others. As Christians we have spiritual life through our connection with God in Christ; we are made in God’s image, and God is One in Three Persons, manifesting relational unity (Genesis 1:26-27, John 17:20-23). A culture of life therefore cannot privilege the individual over all things; in a culture of life we recognize not only the dignity but also the value of every other life and our need for shared connection and association to truly flourish.
Christians, therefore, ought to be champions of life, upholding the integrity of all and doing whatever they can to provide assistance and care (Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 10:25-37). It is not given for us to be the judge, accuser, or adversary of our fellow man; Satan makes accusations, and God will judge everyone in Christ (John 12:48, James 4:11-12). We must show them Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate, the light and life of mankind. We can only do that when we have decided to share in the love God has for mankind, and to value life as God values life.
In the process we will have to give up our lives in order to find it (Matthew 16:24-25). To take hold of that which is life indeed we will be called upon to suffer as our Lord did (Romans 8:17-18). We must build a culture of life, but we must never make an idol out of it. A life well lived is one of purpose, with the goal of glorifying God in Christ in all we do. A life well lived is good preparation for eternal life to come in the resurrection (1 Peter 1:3-12).
In this way we fully honor life as a gift from God: we did nothing to deserve it, but we prove thankful and honored to be able to enjoy it, acting as good stewards of this gift we have given, and willing to offer it back to the One who gave it so we can share in life eternal. A culture of life honors the life as a gift and does not arrogate to itself the presumption of being able to control and manipulate life. A culture of life respects the authority of the God who gives life, and seeks to live under that authority. A culture of life celebrates life everywhere it is found and seeks to facilitate its flourishing so as to honor its Creator. May we seek to embody and uphold a culture of life, glorify God as the Creator and Sustainer of life, and in Christ obtain eternal life in the resurrection!
Ethan R. Longhenry