THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE. What Does It Look Like in School?
A couple of weeks ago the weather here in Texas was unseasonably warm. The wind was mild, and the sun was shining. It was perfect conditions for some afternoon tennis! Our favorite courts happen to be right next to an elementary school. Since we play in the latter part of the day, we never see students. However, this day was different. For some reason, a group of about ten students was hanging out on one of the courts. They were just messing around being kids. Boys and girls chasing each other and being silly. We said hello and proceeded to the other court. We hadn’t been playing long when we noticed a couple of the boys sitting on the nets as if they were swinging. If you are a tennis player, you know this is a no-no. Can you guess what we did?
All I can say is once an educator, always an educator. We can’t seem to help ourselves when we see behavior that needs fixing! If you guessed we intervened, you would be correct. We were polite and simply explained that sitting on the nets could break them. We asked the boys to get off the nets, and they complied – for about two seconds. It was obvious one of them was not about to be obedient to these two adults he had never seen before. He proceeded to bounce on the net as if to say, “I don’t have to do what you say.” As my husband and I approached, the kids took off, but not before this young man got in a few more defiant bounces on the net.
This experience reminded me of the rebellious students I worked with over the years. Unfortunately, I sometimes let them push my buttons. It’s so easy to forget these students are just children trying to figure out how to be important, look cool in front of their peers, and navigate their growing-up years. As Christian educators, it is imperative we never forget every single life is sacred to God. We don’t always have to like or approve of our students’ actions, but as believers, we should value them. God does, and so should we.
This past week churches across the country observed National Sanctity of Human Life Day. While the emphasis is almost always on the issue of abortion, the sanctity of human life acknowledges that all life is sacred, and that extends beyond the unborn. Each person has been created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27); as a result, each life should be protected and respected. Educators have an opportunity every single day to uniquely value life through the day-in and day-out interactions we have with students. How can we ensure our words, actions, thoughts, and motives communicate the sanctity of life to those in our schools?
This may sound a bit odd, but I think to truly grasp what it means to value another person, we must first take hold of our own value. In Psalm 139:13-17 David is overwhelmed with gratitude as he describes the value each of us has in the eyes of God.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered.
Although these verses are familiar, I don’t want you to miss the hidden gems in David’s words. Do you know you are a work of art? We seem to live in a world today where everyone wants to change themselves to be more like someone else. Yet, no matter how hard we try, no two of us will ever be the same. Your personality, your body type, and your odd little quirks were purposefully designed by your Creator. As David proclaimed in his prayer, “Your workmanship is marvelous!” God did not haphazardly create you. Do you recognize your value? Do you relish in the fact that God is aware of every detail of your life and that you are continually on His mind? God values you, despite your failures and flaws. Your life is sacred to Him.
I don’t know about you, but I find this both humbling and challenging. I am humbled because I don’t often see my life as sacred, and I am challenged because I don’t always value others as I should. How important it is for us to embrace the fact that God values each of us individually and personally because He made us. We are His creation, and our purpose cannot be fulfilled apart from Him. All of us—students, parents, colleagues, friends—were uniquely created on purpose for a purpose. As educators, we can communicate the sanctity of life as we help others look past their problems and embrace their potential. We choose to demonstrate we truly value them as God does.
It breaks my heart to think there are children sitting in our classrooms every day who don’t feel valued. They don’t even understand what the sanctity of life means let alone know they were purposefully created by God. I have to wonder. Could there be adults in our buildings who feel the same way?
Let’s return to our question: How can we ensure our words, actions, thoughts, and motives communicate the sanctity of life to those in our schools? Here are just a few suggestions.
View each person as purposefully and uniquely designed by God. Honor differences despite one’s abilities.
Separate actions from value. We all make choices—some good and some bad. Sin is here to stay, but sin doesn’t negate the fact that all life is sacred and has value in the eyes of God.
Be mindful of our words. Words communicate our beliefs and our values. Do our words build up, guide, and encourage, or do our words tear down, diminish, and devalue?
Take the initiative to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Children are vulnerable, but some adults can be, too. Sometimes we need to step in the gap for them, and this means getting involved in other’s lives.
Examine your heart. When we look at others, especially those who can be a pain in our side, do we see their lives as sacred?
In Psalm 139:23-24 David acknowledges God already knows our thoughts and motives, but then David does something very brave. He asks God to examine His heart. May His petition be ours as well.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He doesn’t expect perfection. There will be days when students get under our skin and we let their behavior overshadow their value. There will be days when a student or colleague’s problems seem intolerable. It is during these times we can ask God to search our hearts, convict us of wrong motives, fill us with His love (Romans 5:5), and remind us all life is sacred.
This is my prayer for us. Feel free to take it with you as a reminder of how important you are in the fight for life.
Thank you for being our Creator, for knitting us perfectly together just as you pleased. We thank you for each child, colleague, and friend you have placed in our lives. Help us, Lord, to see them as you do – a masterpiece of great value. Your workmanship is marvelous! May our classrooms, schools, and workplaces be filled with opportunities to grow, learn, and be appreciated. May each child feel loved and valued as we look beyond their problems to their potential. Sprinkle our words with kindness as you help us communicate the sacredness of each and every life. Show us where students and colleagues need protection, and give us the boldness to take action. Examine our hearts, Lord, so we may love as you love.
In Jesus’ name,