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Innocent Life and the Image of God

Wonder at life has been responsible for many of the questions humans have pondered throughout the ages.

We have, for generation after generation, reflected upon our own life and marvelled at its uniqueness, its beauty, its intricacy… we have pondered those things that accompany human life, such as rationality, logic, self-reflection, moral conscience, passion, and this thing we call love.

Always we are left to ask, what is it that makes human life so remarkable?

We find the answer at the beginning of the human story; in creation.

There, we see that there was one life in all the cosmos that was made in the image and likeness of God.

One life that was made to know God.

One life that was made to love God and be loved by God.

One life that was made uniquely to live forever with God.

One life that was made to image the author of life.

We were made with these great and noble purposes. Purposes that bestowed special honour on the human creature, above all other created things.

But of course, we know something that brings all these high and lofty notions crashing down.

It is true that men and women are on the one hand great and wondrous creations. They are capable of all the things listed above and more. Their ability to raise themselves to dignity, civility, and morality is singular. The ways in which they can apply their rational minds and emotional energies are endless, and powerful.

But at one and the same time, there is no creature like the human creature which is capable of such spectacular debasement, wickedness, and moral corruption. Capable of wilful and deliberate evil, but also a slave to accidental and ignorant evil. What people have done to people throughout the ages is staggering in its horror. The corruption and frailty that runs through the human soul is inescapable. My own capacity for sinfulness is worse than I dare imagine.

Man is a great contradiction. A collision of greatness and debasement the like of which we find nowhere else. One who ought to be endlessly capable, but is hopelessly corrupt.

The answer to that quandary also lies at the beginning of the human story.

The human creature was made great, but alas, we fell.

And yet, the image of God is not lost from the human story.

It resurfaces in One who came in the womb; who was born of a virgin.

Concerning Him, scripture holds no reservations: He is “the exact image of God’s person.” (Heb 1:3)

The Apostle Paul writes of, “the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4)

Christ, in His coming as the post-fall expression of the image of God, taught us that imago-dei-life begins in the womb.

That is the place, after all, where it is closest to and most aligned with that ideal of innocence, perfection and holiness.

How often we see that it is in our “growing up” that we are corrupted, perverted, and wearied by sin.

As Christ looked at the most innocent and vulnerable among us, He reminded us of that special beauty they have.

He reminded us that young life so innocent that the Lord Jesus would say to His disciples that the one who is like a little child is the greatest in the kingdom.

He reminded us that such life is so dignified that to receive a little child is to receive Him.

He reminded us that such life is so vulnerable, that it would be better for the one who causes it to stumble to be cast into the depths of the sea with a great millstone around his neck.

In the innocence of childhood, we see that which is to be greatest, highest and most valued among us. Both literally and figuratively.

But alas, we have grown up.

We have come out into the sunlight, and we have lost our innocence. We have forgotten God. We have embraced darkness rather than the light.

And in the throes of darkness and blindness we are destroying that which is most precious to God.

We have declared that we have “rights” and we have used them to destroy, with callous disregard, the pure lives of the innocent.

At first, to justify ourselves, we hid behind lies.

We said it was healthcare, knowing that killing is the precise opposite of care.

But we denied that it was killing, proclaiming instead that it is just a lump of tissue, a “product of conception.”

But science showed us what we already knew in our conscience, and what Christ had foreshadowed: this is a real, living, active, child.

We discovered a heartbeat at 4 weeks. We saw yawns, stretches, and facial expressions by the dawn of the second trimester. We discovered they feel pain by 16 weeks. We realised they were viable, living babies outside the womb as early as 22 weeks.

We heard the testimony of doctors who operate on unborn lives, telling us that they react to pain and respond to warmth and care.

But even as these realities came into stark relief, we became more brazen.

We have now admitted it is simply about bodily autonomy – my rights; what I want. It really is just choice. Yes, I want the power to choose death for beautiful and innocent life because… well, because me… I am the ultimate authority, regardless of the moral gravity of what I do.

We have taken the great truth that says that love lays down its life for others, and have instead said, “you will lay down your life for me.”

Congressman Henry Hyde has famously said, “When the time comes, as it surely will, when we face that awesome moment, the final judgment, I’ve often thought as Fulton Sheen wrote that it is a terrible moment of loneliness. You have no advocates. You are alone standing before God. And a terror could rip through your soul like nothing you can imagine. But I really think that those in the pro-life movement won’t be alone. There will be a chorus of voices that have never been heard in this world but will be heard beautifully and clearly in the next world and they will say to God, ‘spare him for he loved us.’”

I once thought that was mostly poetry, especially because of the great truth that Christ will be my advocate before the Father in judgment.

But now I believe there is a remarkable truth in those words.

In Luke 16 Jesus speaks of using our efforts and our earthly assets to make friends who will receive us into eternal dwellings.

I’ve heard it said of a rich man who gave his money away to the less fortunate that he had made such eternal friends.

Similarly, it may be in the pro-life cause that there will be many lives of whom this world was not worthy; innocent lives whose cries for mercy were never heard; innocent lives who were torn limb from limb in horrifying violence in the womb…

Innocent lives who will be heard and seen, bathing fully in the glory of the image of God alongside us, whose friendship greets us in that eternal life.

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