Restoring the Sanctity of Life
“Restoration Work” #4 - Psalm 116
Author Jefferson Bethke wrote, “[The digital age] breaks us up into tiny tribes, and then we yell at each other online. Since we’re not engaging with actual people but with technology, we don’t have to disagree in a thoughtful and relationship-keeping way. Because the relationship doesn’t matter, the disagreement can be toxic, mean, and harsh. It’s clear: it’s a gloves-off culture we are now living in, which is pretty much the opposite of empathy.”
This is, IMHO, an apt description of the state of American culture. We need the church to be an alternative to the toxicity of modern culture. We need to restore our shared convictions so that we have a foundation for positively and pleasantly resolving our differing convictions. Social media exacerbates the problem in a search for followers. Politicians exacerbate the problem in a search for voters and donors. Special interest groups exacerbate the problem in a search for donors. Can you think of any public institution where we might go to talk to one another, face to face, to dial down the drama and dial up the opportunity to compromise?
Such a place must put God on the throne. Only persons of faith, who have a “big picture” view of life, are going to be capable of having such conversations. The next block in the foundation is fundamental respect for human life. If someone cannot be trusted to respect all life, they cannot be trusted to respect any life. This is a basic civilizing instinct that makes civil dialogue possible.
If human life is not sacred, we have no faith nor civilization.
I. God’s love affirms the sanctity of life. (1-11, 15)
The psalmist’s affirmations of the sacredness of human life are given in the form of four declarations of his personal experience and beliefs. I have summarized and paraphrased the writer’s faith statements below.
The first is, “I know the LORD loves me because He hears my prayers.” (1-2) To begin with, “I LOVE T LORD” is significant. At its best, discipleship is based on personal experience of the love of God. A common experience of God is answered prayer. He made two references to answered prayer: “HE HEARS MY VOICE AND MY PRAYER FOR MERCY,” and “HE BENDS DOWN TO LISTEN.”
The second statement is “I know the LORD loves me because He rescued me.” (3-11) Life had become hard: DEATH and THE GRAVE had taken him captive. He has seen nothing but TROUBLE and SORROW. (3) These feelings of despair motivated him to call ON THE NAME OF THE LORD, to cry out, “PLEASE, LORD, SAVE ME!” (4) Verse seven sums up the immediate benefit of God’s salvation: peace. His SOUL is AT REST ONCE MORE.
When we rely on people or any other worldly things, we are not saved, we are disappointed. This statement of faith involves three discoveries the psalmist made as he considered God’s work in his life.
The first discovery was the fallen nature of all people. In verse eleven he testified, IN MY ANXIETY I CRIED OUT TO YOU, “THESE PEOPLE ARE ALL LIARS.” This discovery came in a moment of crisis that caused the psalmist some ANXIETY.
The second discovery was the character of God. He is KIND, GOOD, and MERCIFUL. (5) He knows our nature and sees our sin and is still tenderhearted toward us.
The third discovery was the salvation God has prepared for us. In verse six, THE LORD PROTECTS THOSE OF CHILDLIKE FAITH; HE saves us from destruction. In verse eight, He saves us from DEATH, TEARS, and STUMBLING. These are feelings we've all experienced.
The fourth declaration and the one most important to our study of this passage is, “I know the LORD loves me because my death is precious to Him.” (15) Be assured whatever God allows in your life is related to your preciousness to Him. Think of it; even though God knows death is a passage to eternal life, even though He knows everyone who will be saved, He still sees our death as something important, even precious to him. This reminds me of Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, even though Jesus knew in a few moments he would raise Lazarus back to life (John 11:35).
II. My love for God leads me to live for Him (2, 12-14, 16-19).
Living for God involves a lifestyle of prayer. In verse two, the psalmist vowed, I WILL PRAY AS LONG AS I HAVE BREATH. Since the LORD answers our prayers, we should continually turn to Him in prayer.
Having rejected all worldly options in verse eleven, the psalm-writer was determined to trust in God instead. (12-14) In verse twelve he asked a rhetorical question with this answer: there is no way to earn salvation; it is by grace. Therefore, there is no way to REPAY the LORD for it.
Rather than attempting repayment, we show our gratitude to God by worship and obedience. I will worship Him. Worship is our calling attention to God, giving Him glory, celebrating His saving actions. Here are examples of worship given by the psalmist:
V. 13= I WILL LIFT UP THE CUP OF SALVATION and PRAISE THE LORD’S NAME.
V. 17 = I WILL OFFER A SACRIFICE OF THANKSGIVING & CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD.
V. 19 = IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD, IN THE HEART OF JERUSALEM.
Living for God requires obedience to His commands. Here are some examples of the psalmist’s decision to obey God.
V. 14 = I WILL KEEP MY PROMISES TO THE LORD and verse eighteen = I WILL FULFILL MY VOWS TO THE LORD. In both cases, he will be obedient IN THE PRESENCE OF ALL HIS PEOPLE.
V. 16 = He vowed to serve the LORD. He described himself as a household slave who’d been given his freedom by his master and made part of the family: I AM YOUR SERVANT - the LORD has FREED [him] FROM [his] CHAINS - his servitude now is a voluntary one. He had been BORN INTO God’s HOUSEHOLD, now made part of God's family.
If human life is not sacred, we have no faith nor civilization.
Human life is sacred because we alone, in all of creation, were created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). Our understanding of human life must start there. Then go down to verse 28, where we read the very first command God gave: “BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY.” This makes human reproduction a sacred thing, one area of obedience to God. This is a belief we must recover in ourselves, our homes, and our churches and then make it plain in our public discourse on all topics related to the sanctity of life.
Without agreement on this point, there can be no discourse. There will only be one side monologuing at the other side.
What can we do in the political issues that surround this issue?
1) We can state our convictions in the most positive and compassionate way possible. We can tell personal stories of the good that has been achieved when life is chosen.
2) We can insist on the truth, part of which means we do not allow anyone to mislabel or mischaracterize our position.
3) We can listen to those who disagree, show them respect, and then insist on being respected in return.
4) When everyone has said their peace, we can seek a compromise that honors the lives of mothers and the lives of unborn children.
5) We can seek a compromise that honors justice without empowering the government to take lives.
6) We can quote the Bible if we live what the Bible says, honoring God with the proof of our commitment.
7) We love others out of the love God has given us. One way we demonstrate this love is by talking with people, not at them.
Bethke quoted on https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/contributor-article/what-is-the-most-compelling-defense-for-the-sanctity-of-life/, retrieved on 15 July 22.