This is the final of three teachings on humanity. You can replay or download our Sunday meetings on http://recordings.crownoflife.org.uk/ To get the full deal on this teaching, you also need to watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKyljukBE70
Atheistic naturalism says that everything we see and know can be explained without the supernatural or spiritual. Thus it cuts off mankind from any special place in creation. We’re just a fluky chance, sustained by an improbable set of causations based on laws of physics and biology. Our lives have value only according to the relationships, fulfillment, achievements and legacy we create. After that: nothing. This bleak view is different from the bible’s picture of us.
- The Genesis creation account says we’re uniquely made in the image of God. Asking the question, “What is man?” also ignites the question, “Who am I?”
- Although sin marred the image, and Christ became the source of new humanity (Colossians 1:15, etc), that first creation leaves us all being very special.
- The Old Testaments points to the mystery and value of unborn life and the enduring sanctity of human life.
- Where does our immaterial spirit or soul come from, and how does this connect with conception, gestation and birth? Do we owe our lives, including that which is unseen, simply to procreation? Or does God take a hand in each new person’s being?
- What’s the right way for believers to view and deal with death, including the death of loved ones? The long-held accepted definition is the separation of the soul/spirit from the body. Medically, it’s along the lines of loss of brain and metabolic function. But there are problems with the extent and permanence of this condition: the “vegetative state” or possibility of reversal.
So, what’s this about? In today’s challenging culture we must celebrate mystery, sanctity and revelation that touches eternity.
From Jesus Fellowship Church’s Statement of Faith and Practice, on our humanity: (38) We acknowledge that the physical bodies of all human beings are mortal and therefore subject to sickness, degeneracy and death; We hold that physical life must be safeguarded from conception to natural death.
Modelled on God. Our race was created with moral capacity steered by conscience and reason, not instinct; ability to think conceptually and communicate symbolically; and to contemplate our own destiny.
GENESIS 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
The wonder that is me. We’re sustained by God’s thoughts (Luke 12:30) not our own self-consideration.
PSALM 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Valuing the unborn and all fellow-men. The Old Testament made no distinction between foetal life and adult life in compensating for injury. Hebrews (6:6) uses this to warn not to treat Christ with guilty contempt.
EXODUS 21:22 "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
GENESIS 9:4 "But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. 6 "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. 7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it."
Where does my soul originate? Some say from sexual union, because men and women carry full body and soul/spirit reproductive capacity. Some say God invests each conception with His creative power. Both agree the ability to reproduce is a sacred trust. Subduing the earth (Genesis 1:28) starts with our own body.
1 CORINTHIANS 6:13 The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.
How should we meet death? This is one of many accounts of the Bruderhof community’s sensitivity to life’s sanctity. There would follow times of reflective wonder, meekness, reconciliation and praise to God.
They arrived home at Ashton Fields. Moni carried baby Emmy Maria up to Heiner and Annemarie’s room. Soon it was packed with people. Heiner said a prayer, asking God to let this child fulfill whatever purpose He had in mind for her. They sang late into the evening. Heiner and Annemarie stayed awake with the baby. For the next four days, they never separated. Heiner or Annemarie would doze while the other watched Emmy Maria. Moni sat up with them during the night. Others in the community came by with food, bouquets of wildflowers, or offers to help with the housework. Schoolchildren brought pictures they had drawn. One friend stood in the corridor all night, just in case she might be needed. An atmosphere of compassion and caring surrounded the baby. Not only that: it seemed to emanate from her and unite the whole community. Emmy Maria grew so weak that she sometimes did not react when her parents caressed her. Dr. Winter was amazed by her endurance, remarking, “She must have a powerful will to live.” She grew worse. Her face had grown terribly thin. The only sign of life was in her eyes. “The weaker her body gets, the more it expresses her soul,” Annemarie thought. Each breath was now laboured and rattling. She lost consciousness, and for the next eighteen hours only her lungs fought on. Her hands grew cold to Heiner’s touch. Annemarie picked her up and held her in her arms for a long time. In the evening, Emmy Maria suddenly woke from her coma and opened her eyes wide. Everyone who saw it said how extraordinary it was. She gazed without wavering first at her mother, who was holding her, and then at her father, and then at her mother again, back and forth. Her eyes, bright and unclouded, had no suffering or sorrow in them. They shone with an unearthly radiance — as if bearing a message of joy from another world. Then she raised her arms high and lifted her head, and the light in her eyes went out. Her breathing stopped a minute or two later, and Annemarie reached over to close her eyelids. (Abridged from “Homage to a Broken Man”)
Application Biology teaches us that repeated impact desensitizes. That applies in our moral make-up, too.
· Because we’ve all fallen and sinned, we count in the opposition to God; but does that make our value less?
· How do you see the condition of a growing embryo? Has you view changed with time? Do you say you’re special?
· Can you relate instances when heaven seemed closer than usual? Does God prepare us for death coming?
Scripture quotes from the New International Version.
1 GOD of my life, to Thee
My cheerful soul I raise!
Thy goodness bade me be,
And still prolongs my days;
I see my natal hour return,
And bless the day that I was born.
2 A clod of living earth,
I glorify Thy name,
From whom alone my birth,
And all my blessings, came,
Creating and preserving grace
Let all that is within me praise.
3 Long as I live beneath,
To Thee O let me live!
To Thee my every breath
In thanks and praises give.
Whate'er I have, whate'er I am,
Shall magnify my Maker's name.
4 My soul and all its powers
Thine, wholly Thine, shall be;
All, all my happy hours
I consecrate to Thee;
Me to Thine image now restore,
And I shall praise Thee evermore.
5 I wait Thy will to do,
As angels do in heaven;
In Christ a creature new,
Most graciously forgiven,
I wait Thy perfect will to prove,
All sanctified by spotless love.
6 Then, when the work is done,
The work of faith with power,
Receive Thy favoured son,
In death's triumphant hour;
Like Moses to Thyself convey,
And kiss my raptured soul away.
Charles Wesley (c) PD