Herbie Newell, President of Lifeline Children’s Services
Depending on which news report you follow or even in which state you live, the death toll of the tragic Sutherland Springs, Texas church massacre vary. By Texas law and, thus, its official count reflects 27 lives lost on Sunday, November 5th at the First Baptist Church. However, many news sources and states, including California, are only allowing their reporters to promote that 26 lives were lost.
Who is this person that was or was not killed at the church in Texas? This person was a baby nestled tightly within his mother’s womb. He lost his life at the same time as his mother.
This situation has left many people scratching their heads at how one nation, under God, indivisible could count so differently. The truth is the United States hasn’t lost its way in mathematics for this issue but has lost its moral fabric. In many states outside of Texas, a life that hasn’t yet thrived outside of the womb is not considered worthy of being counted; then—maybe worse—in some states, the life only counts if the mother “wants” the baby.
Oh, beloved Christ-follower, this kind of thinking stands in direct opposition to the precious Word of God, when Isaiah says in chapter 44 verse 24, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.’”
Later, in chapter 64 verse 8, Isaiah also says, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
We are the clay and God is the potter. He does not make pots or instruments that need to be thrown away. He is the author of life, and He is the only one who can determine the beginning and the end of life. This is not a gray matter that we take into our hands by medical technology. Life is not a choice—life is responsibility that has been given by God. Life is precious! We are formed in the image of God—we are the imago Dei! We bear the mark of God’s image in our lives, and life is precious.
John Piper, pastor and evangelist at desiringGod.org said that one erects “a statue of Stalin because you want to look at Stalin and think about Stalin. You put up a statue of George Washington to be reminded of the founding fathers. Images are made to image. What does this mean for flesh and blood? It means God created little images of himself so that they would talk and act and feel in a way that reveals the way God is.”
Life is utterly precious because it reflects the glory and image of our great God.
Late in the summer of 2017 an article was published by CBS news about the almost complete eradication of babies with Down syndrome in Iceland.[i] According to the article, through genetic testing and elective abortion, over 99% of babies with Down syndrome have been aborted. The article stated, “With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland. According to the most recent data available, the United States has an estimated termination rate for Down syndrome of 67%. In France, it’s 77%. In Denmark, 98%. The law in Iceland permits abortion after 16 weeks if the fetus has a deformity and Down syndrome is included in this category.”
Geneticist, Kari Stefansson, is quoted in the article. He is said to have a unique perspective on the advancement of medical technology. “My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society, that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children . . .”
From the same article, a woman who made the decision to abort her baby who had a gene deficiency said, “This is your life! You have the right to choose how your life will look. We don’t look at abortion as murder, we look at it like a thing we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had huge complications, preventing suffering for the child and for the family. I think that’s more of a right than seeing it as a murder. It’s not so black and white—life isn’t black and white. Life is gray.”
Let’s have grace for this woman, but let’s also hear how polluted our world, society, and culture have become. Life is no longer viewed as precious or sacred. Beloved, we are on a truly slippery slope when young women and culture is praised for saying that life is “gray.”
When we see the abortion rate for children with Down syndrome skyrocket to almost 100% in Iceland, we need to be reminded that we are not created by our own effort or by an accident. We are not created in the womb simply by a conjugal act of a mom and a dad. No, we are created in the womb by a loving Father who knits us together; who forms us like a potter; and who fashions us in His image—no matter the syndrome we may have.
When we see children or adults with Down syndrome, we must look upon them as precious because they are no less image bearers than those of us without Down syndrome. All life is precious and we must speak up.
I’ve been around the world, and in every country I’ve seen little babies, children, and teenagers with Down syndrome. They are some of the most precious children. It fills my heart to think of all the families, redeemed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, who are ready to adopt those children and bring them into their home.
At the church I attend in Birmingham, Alabama—The Church at Brook Hills—we had the great opportunity recently to watch a 40-year-old man with Turners syndrome walk through the baptism waters. While this syndrome has been debilitating to him both physically and cognitively, he gives his testimony that Jesus Christ is his Lord and Savior. I know men and women with Down syndrome who are confessing today that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. Beloved, we must speak up. We must wrap our lives around those who have syndromes and different abilities. We must wrap our lives around those that this world and this culture is calling “special needs.” We must love them with our lives and we must love them with the gospel.
Why should we advocate for the sanctity of life? Because, like in Texas, all lives COUNT to our God.
To not stand up and not speak up, at best, means that we are ashamed of the gospel. At the worst, it means we do not know the gospel. We must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Ultimately we are a life that Christ has valued all the way to the cross. Therefore, as believers, we are called to value all life—those with Down syndrome or Turner syndrome; those who are healthy; those who are differently-abled; and those who have special needs. We can fulfill this calling by advocating and acting: engage your church with free Sanctity of Human Life resources; engage your family in adoption; engage your finances in giving to change a life; engage others by sharing.
Advocate and act: show the world that all life counts.