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Thursday, 27 February 2020
How Death Reminds Us of the Sanctity of Human Life Lightstock image.

How Death Reminds Us of the Sanctity of Human Life

Despite the looming presence of the Nazi officer holding a stopwatch, the Jewish prisoner of war makes the widget in record time. He straightens up, pride on his face.

“It’s impressive that you can produce one of these so quickly,” the officer sneers, “but since you can, what is your excuse for not producing more per hour?”

The man’s face falls. He knows he is not a machine. He gets tired. He makes mistakes. The power-wielding officer has put him between a rock and a hard place.

Punishment or even death surely awaits his next failure.

That powerful scene from Schindler’s List has stayed with me over the years as the perfect metaphor for our Western love affair with efficiency.

What does this have to do with being pro-life?

As those who uphold the sanctity, dignity and inherent worth of every human life, we cannot buy into our culture’s paradigm that man’s worth equals what he produces, achieves and accomplishes.

Preborn children don’t have much to offer society in terms of what they have made or done or “given back” to the community. Neither do the elderly, or the disabled, or others who have limitations.

Oh, and by the way, that’s all of us.

The value of a human being, born or unborn, is not based on what we do. We are persons. We are image-bearers.

We simply are, and that is enough.

This truth was poignantly brought home to me with the recent passing of my father.

Papa was ninety-one and quite frail. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about ten years ago. He’d had a couple of mini-strokes and heart problems on top of the rheumatoid arthritis he’d suffered from since his late 30’s.

It’s been many years since Papa could work. Some time ago, even his beloved woodworking, the fine art he was trained for in Germany in his youth, became too dangerous for his weakened hands to manage.

It had become more difficult to converse with him due to his slurred speech and trouble with comprehension. He repeated himself often.  He needed help getting around.

In other words, Papa was not able to contribute to others nearly as much as he would have liked to in his latter years.

Did this make him somehow useless or expendable?

Not for a minute.

If you’ve lost a parent, you know the feeling. It’s like a meteor strikes your soul, leaving you tiptoeing around the black edges of the hole your loved one left behind.

You don’t miss what they could do for you or give you. You don’t find yourself wishing they could have climbed one more ladder or made one more widget.

You miss their presence.

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This is the amazing thing about human beings.

It’s the wonder we experience while gazing at the red, contorted, stunning face of a newborn.

It’s the loveliness of patting a wrinkled, spotted, trembling hand—the same hand that once held yours so you could safely cross the street.

They’re here. They’re part of us. They matter. Every single one.

During our trip to California for my father’s memorial, I was walking through a busy airport behind my husband, Scott, when he turned to me with a smile.

“I was just noticing,” he said, “how beautiful people are. All of them. They’re so beautiful.”

I looked around at the throng of fellow travelers. They were young and old, male and female, brunette and blonde, Caucasian, Latino, African American.

And I caught my breath.

I could see it. Their beauty. God’s image, in every face.

I could see this because the Holy Spirit gave me His eyes in that moment.

The tall, blonde man with the laptop. The petite, dark-haired woman with a slightly worried expression. The coltish young girl with bright leggings and boots. And about fifty others.

All so very lovely.

Something in me wanted to awaken the whole crowd to what I was experiencing. I found myself wishing we could all stop for a moment—stop and truly see one another.

Isn’t this why we recognize Sanctity of Human Life Sunday? Isn’t this why we fight so hard to rescue preborn lives?

Don’t we want to shout to the world, Look how beautiful we all are!

How valuable. How dignified. How precious.

My ninety-one year-old father, regardless of his health problems and limitations, was beautiful. His presence was a gift.

We cherished every moment with him, up to the last Christmas Eve he was able to celebrate. We take comfort in knowing he is with the Lord, and that we’ll see him again.

Tweet This: How death reminds us of the sanctity of life. @SusanneMaynes #prolife

Meanwhile, the void he leaves behind speaks volumes about the sanctity of human life.

Papa worked hard for his family. He served the church as deacon, elder, choir director, Sunday school teacher and mentor. (I’ve written about his legacy here.)

But Papa’s life didn’t matter because of those responsibilities. His life mattered because he was—and is—an image bearer of the Most High God.

No one quite like him has ever lived, and no one ever will.

This is my reflection as we recognize Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. That we’re all beautiful. That we all matter.

As we work to protect vulnerable preborn children, let’s continue to celebrate the value, dignity and beauty of all humanity.

Susanne Maynes

Susanne Maynes is an author, speaker, and biblical counselor who served at a pregnancy help center for ten years. She blogs about church and culture, spiritual growth, and Christian parenting at Her first book, Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion: 40 Reflections on Rescuing the Unborn, inspires and uplifts the pregnancy help community. Her latest book, Releasing Your Brave Love: Helping Kids to Change Their World, helps 8-12 year-olds embrace the truth of Imago Dei and develop a strong pro-life ethic. 


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