The Sanctity of a Life (Mark 5:1–43)

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For several years we have joined with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of churches across the globe in recognition of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This began several decades ago in the United States, where congregations would set aside a particular Sunday nearest the anniversary of Roe v. Wade (22 January 1973) to both lament the ongoing slaughter of children in their mother’s wombs as well as to draw attention to this holocaust—a holocaust which must be brought to an end. Forty-two years later, the slaughter of the innocents continues, not only in the USA, but in our nation of South Africa as well.

Our dark, shameful and bloody day was 1 February 1997.

On that horrific day, then-president Nelson Mandela signed into law the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, which affords a mother legal protection to kill her unborn child. It was a brazen statement rejecting the sanctity of a life; the sanctity of an unborn human life.

It is for this reason that our congregation, for several years, has set aside a Sunday near that anniversary to address issues of sanctity of life. Being prolife is not only an anti-abortion worldview. In fact, it is a gospel issue.

A Gospel Issue

Being prolife is a gospel issue that informs our worldview on a wide range of sanctity of life issues, such as orphan care, caring for the marginalised, issues of human trafficking, racism and the like.

The gospel is a sanctity of life message. After all, God sent His Son into the world to save sinners; human beings made in the image of God. That fact alone has much to say about the issue of the sanctity of life.

Before moving on, we must note that we make a serious blunder when we separate the gospel of God from issues of sanctity of life. I am aware of those who have lost the gospel and who seem to be primarily politically or socially engaged in sanctify of life issues. I am aware that Muslims and Mormons and agnostics are often prolife. But for the Christian, the question of whether or not we should be committed to a prolife agenda is not an either-this-or-the-gospel issue. In fact, it is a matter that is both/and.

The gospel is very much prolife, to the core. It promises spiritual life so that sinners can live the life that God intended for them. It so transforms the mind that the life of another is valued. That is, the gospel empowers us to love our neighbour as ourselves—including neighbours who are different ethnically, demographically, physiologically and mentally. And it enables us love even those whom we cannot see because they have not yet been born.

I would go so far as to state that the attacks throughout history on the gospel are an indication of it being prolife. Throughout history, the promised Seed of Life (Genesis 3:15) was attacked (see Exodus 2; Matthew 2; Revelation 12).

In sum, if we are pro-gospel then, of necessity, we are prolife. We dare not embrace a sanctity of life (prolife) ethos merely because it is the current movement in vogue amongst conservative Christians. Rather, this prolife ethos develops to the degree that we appreciate the profundity of the gospel of the grace of God. The prolife ethos of BBC has developed as we have reformed more and more to a greater fidelity to the gospel.

In this study, we will examine some of these issues, and Mark 5 is the wonderful portion of God’s Word that will reveal this to us.

The Sanctity of Life Explained

The ethos of BBC is one that is increasingly prolife because it is increasingly appreciating the sanctity of human life—every human life. It is a practical outworking of the reality of loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, with the inseparable connection to loving our neighbours as ourselves—neighbours of all kinds; even the otherwise rejected, marginalised and/or vulnerable neighbours. Our text highlights this.

In this passage, we witness Jesus engaging those who are most often overlooked in society: the wounded (vv. 1–20), the marginalised (vv. 25–34) and the vulnerable (vv. 21–24, 35–43). In each of these pericopes there are some common threads.

In each case, Jesus comes to the rescue of those who were humanly hopeless.

In each case, Jesus comes to the rescue of those who are, in some way, devalued by society. That is, in each case we see the concern of Jesus—His compassion and His constructive engagement—with those who are excluded both by and from the wider society

In each case, Jesus acknowledges the dignity of these individuals; in each case, Jesus acknowledges the value of a life. In each case it is clear that Jesus sees the sanctity of each of these lives.

We can summarise by observing that, in each case, though circumstances were different, though problems were diverse, nevertheless Jesus recognised the dignity of human beings; He recognised each of these individuals as made in the image of God. He therefore engaged to rescue them (see Proverbs 24:11). He understood the sanctify of a life—every life.

But this begs the question, what do we mean when we speak of “the sanctity of life”? Let me explain.

The word “sanctity” refers to that which is set apart in a special way or for a special purpose. And the one setting it apart is God; it is set apart in a special way for a special purpose. So, can we speak properly of the sanctity of all life?

Man was not the first of God’s creations to receive life; animal life had already been formed by God (Genesis 1:20–25). Even before this, God had created plant life (Genesis 1:11–12). But when we speak of the sanctity of life we do not stretch the concept to include roses and Rottweilers. Rather we speak with reference to human life. So, what separates humans from the rest of creation?

Is human life sacred because man was formed by the hands of God from the dust (Genesis 2:7)? No, because according to Genesis 2:19 animals were likewise lovingly formed from the dust of the ground. Notably, the animals were brought to Adam to be named by him, which implies that Adam was distinct from them. He had authority over them—not merely positionally, but rather essentially. Adam was above them; there was a sanctity about his life.

Animal life is to be valued; it is not to be mistreated but respected (Deuteronomy 25:4; Proverbs 12:10). But animal life is not the equivalent of human life. The two are incomparable.

The reason that human life is sacred, the reason that we speak of the “sanctity” of human life, is because all of us are made in the image of God—the imago Deo. As Scripture tells us, “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26).

This proviso is absent from the previous order of creation. Though animals were created on the same day, prior to the creation of human beings, this matter of being in the image of God is what sets us apart from every other created thing, including angels.

But there is another thing that separates man from animal life in the creation scenario: the way that man received life.

Genesis 2:7 tells us that, “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

This is not merely an account of a biological or physiological phenomena, but is rather an ontological or metaphysical statement. That is, this highlights the essential nature of the existence of man, one that transcends mere “being.” Though Voltaire meant something much different, nevertheless there is some truth in his famed “I think, therefore I am.” Human beings think because they are uniquely created by the I AM; and therefore they are something like Him.

This means that we reflect the person of God in a way that nothing else in creation does. We think, reason, decide, love and relate. While we are, of course, in many ways not like God, yet we are also like God in the sense just spoken of.

It is because man became a living being (“living soul” in some translations) that man was God’s pinnacle of creation. Man was created to reflect the image and glory of God in a way that no other created thing or being ever could.

We know from Scripture (e.g. Psalm 19:1–6) that all of creation declares the glory of God. We see the hand of God in all that He has made; all of creation points to the Creator. But man does so in a unique way. Man was set apart at creation in a special way for a special purpose. This is why human beings—all of them, each of them—has sanctity of life. Every human being is to be viewed and treated from this standpoint. All lives really do matter. Steve Biko was perhaps saying more than he realised when he famously said, “In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift—a more human face.”

When we look into the face of another human being, we are looking into someone who reflects God’s image. Fallen and marred, yes, but one bearing the image of God nonetheless.

Marring the Sanctity of a Life as a Capital Crime

It is because humans are made in the image of God that He instituted capital punishment, for both humans and animals, in the unjust killing of a human being (Genesis 9:6). The timing of this announced sanction is important: after sin entered the world. This tells us a couple of things.

First, it informs us that, even though sin has marred the image of God in man, there is still a semblance of His image that remains in human beings—every one of them.

Second, it informs us that sin has resulted in a diminishing of the sanctity of human life. Even animal life has lost its proper esteem of the pinnacle of God’s creation.

Sin as a Threat to the Sanctity of a Life

The only way to explain the ugly, insidious and destructive plague of racism is by the entrance of sin into the world. And though I am aware that not all forms of ethnocentrism centre around skin colour, nevertheless it is ironic that our first parents were very probably very dark skinned! “For Whites Only” would have made absolutely no sense to Adam and Eve.

The only way to explain both the practice and the legal protection of abortion on demand is by the entrance of sin into God’s creation. If you listen closely, you will hear the slithering serpent motivating the abortion industry. Planned Parenthood is simply an innocuous name for what it really is: Satan worship.

The only way to explain the marginalising of the physically disabled and mentally impaired is by the entrance of sin into the world.

The only way to explain the manipulation of the economically vulnerable and the socially disadvantaged throughout our world is by the acknowledging that sin has entered God’s created world.

In all of this, sin has blinded human beings to the sanctity of a life. And the results are catastrophic.

As we have seen, every human life is sanctified from all other life. It is for this reason that every human life is to be treated with dignity. It is for this reason that Christians, particularly, need to respect the sanctify of life. It is for this reason that it is appropriate that we recognise Sanctity of Life Sunday.

And this brings us back to Mark 5. In this chapter, we witness Jesus recognising the sanctity of a life in three incidents.

The Sanctity of Life Exemplified

There are three examples in Mark 5 that highlight the sanctity of human life.

Overview

It is important to stress that this chapter is designed to exalt the person and power of the Lord Jesus Christ to save sinners. Mark desires to persuade his readers to believe the gospel of Christ (1:1). And throughout the book he writes to give credible testimony that Jesus is trustworthy.

So, after recording in chapter 4 Jesus’ power over nature (the stormy sea), in chapter 5 he highlights Jesus’ power over the devil and demons, over disease, and over death. Again, Mark’s purpose is gospel-oriented. And we who speak much about sanctity of life issues must never lose sight of the centrality of the gospel. We see this in this chapter. Jesus highlights His power to save sinners while at the same time demonstrating the sanctity of each of these lives; lives that, to most, were devalued.

The Sanctity of a Wounded Life

In the first narrative (vv. 1–20), we see the sanctity of a wounded life.

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshipped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.”

For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?”

And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.” And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.

So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened. Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine. Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.

And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marvelled.

(Mark 5:1–20)

Perhaps the story is a familiar one to you. If not, let me fill in the blanks.

Jesus had made a deliberate journey across the Sea of Galilee after a long and exhausting ministry near Capernaum (Mark 4). He was so tired (and so trusting in His Father!) that He slept during a storm. After He calmed the stormy sea, He disembarked at the shore of the Gadarenes, where immediately He faced another storm—a spiritual one.

A demonised man confronted Jesus. This man would have been very frightening to behold. He had been living among the tombs. (There was a belief in the ancient world that demons inhabited cemeteries.) He was a mess. He was known to himself with stones, and though he had often been bound with chains, with supernatural strength he had broken loose. No one could help him; and I seriously doubt that many tried to. In fact, it would seem that their major concern was to be protected from him, hence the chains. Those who passed by would hear him crying out as he inflicted wounds on himself, but evidently do nothing about it.

It needs to be made clear that this man was responsible for his condition. Demons do not possess people without those people’s (perhaps unknowing) assistance. Doors must be opened for demons to come in. This man was wounded by his own choices. So, what should be done with him? The general consensus was to isolate him. He was an outcast.

Now, that is not always wrong. But the point of this passage is that Jesus did not view the man as beyond redemption. And, in a marvellous demonstration of His compassion and power, the man was literally transformed. He was changed from being an outcast into an evangelist (vv. 18–20). The once wounded and despised outcast was now a productive member of society. All was forgiven and he could now live a fruitful life. Jesus treated this man as possessing sanctity of life; and by the Lord’s grace his life was doubly sanctified; set apart for salvation.

A couple of observations are in order.

First, Jesus apparently made this journey—a humanly perilous one—for the specific purpose of reaching this wounded man, for immediately after performing this work, He returned whence He had come. Whether the Father hid this purpose from Jesus, we don’t know. But we do know for sure that the Father was aware that this man was in need. And Jesus met that need.

The point is that God sent His Son to save this sinner, who would have been very much on the margins of society. God recognised this man’s dignity.

Note that Jesus asked this man his name. Why? Because He was treating this wounded, broken man—wounded and broken by his own sin—as an individual. Jesus recognised his personhood.

Christian friend, we need the same outlook on others. We need to treat those who are wounded—even those with self-inflicted wounds—with dignity. We need to recognise the sanctity of their life. This includes drunkards and drug addicts, criminals and homosexuals. It includes those who have ruined their lives through their own sin, those who are pregnant outside of marriage, and who are carrying the self-inflicted wounds of having had an abortion.

Second, and sadly, we see in this account that many value money and creation more than they value the pinnacle of God’s creation (see vv. 11–17). Their skewed value system placed greater value on swine than on a human soul; it placed greater value on money than on a man.

Does this sound familiar?

One woman recently tweeted, “I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.” Militant atheist Richard Dawkins replied to her, “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” To Dawkins, a baby in the womb is evidently little more than a commodity.

Or consider the attitude of Peter Singer, who suggested in 1993 that no newborn should be considered a person until thirty days after birth and that the attending physician should kill some disabled babies on the spot. While he acknowledges that babies in the womb are human (Homo Sapiens) from the earliest stage of development, he argued in 1979, “Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons.” Therefore, he claimed, “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”

Organisations like PETA likewise equate animal life with human life—if not actually placing greater value on animal life.

Consider, further, Planned Parenthood’s sale of the body parts of babies. For organisations like Planned Parenthood, abortion is about profit and little else.

Human trafficking—including the sale of children for adoption—is likewise driven by prospects of financial gain, with little, if any, concern given to the life of those being trafficked.

It is time for us to repent and renew our commitment to treat others recognising the sanctity of a life.

The Sanctity of a Marginalised Life

Second, in vv. 25–34, we learn about the sanctity of a marginalised life.

Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”

Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”

But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”

And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

(Mark 5:25–34)

This is one of the most touching scenes in the Gospels. It reveals the Lord’s power to deliver those who humble themselves to faithfully reach out to Him.

For twelve years, this woman had been on the margins of society due to continual haemorrhaging. In the light of levitical law, she was deemed to be unclean. For a Jewish woman, this meant being cut off from temple worship. If married, she was cut off from her husband, children and grandchildren. It is quite possible that due to this condition, she had never had the chance to be married. She therefore was seriously marginalised from the rest of her community and the wider society.

On top of this, regardless of how many doctors’ appointments, and in spite of spending her money on any number of tests and remedies, she was actually getting worse. Quite literally, she was the poorer for it (v. 26). She was humanly hopeless, and perhaps in some ways, even homeless. But enter Jesus!

This once-marginalised woman experienced healing from Jesus as “power flowed from Him” (v. 30).

At first blush, Jesus’ response appears rather insensitive: He draws her out from the crowd by asking, “Who touched My clothes?” (v. 30). She comes to Him and, trembling, confesses “the whole truth” (v. 33). This must have been humiliating. Or was it?

No doubt, she would have felt some shame at sharing her story, but most likely all knew of it anyway. Yet she needed this public confession because she needed public affirmation. Note how Jesus responded: “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (v. 34). You see, this woman was not being humiliated, she was actually being honoured. She who had been marginalised was now being restored to the community. She was being treated with dignity. She is to be treated with dignity. This once-marginalised woman was viewed as one who had sanctity of life.

What can we take away from this pericope?

First, Jesus was not ashamed to engage with the marginalised, with the rejected in society. This woman, who was considered “unclean” by society, was the object of Jesus’ compassion. Jesus openly identified with her by calling her out. He was risking being an outcast as well. But love drove Him to redeem her.

We too need to be willing to identify with the marginalised. Not in some politically correct way, but simply out of love. As we come to see all people as made in the image of God, we will be more open to being more open to them.

Second, to be specific, consider those who are marginalised, such as orphans, widows, younger and older singles, the economically disenfranchised, the elderly who are often shut in, and the disabled. We could add any number of marginalised people to this list. The list in our country and community is long. But if we truly see the sanctity of a life, then we will not shy away from them. In fact, we will do the opposite. Like Jesus, we will publicly identify with them in such a way to bring them from the margins to the centre; to the centre of love, which we call the community of faith.

The Sanctity of a Vulnerable Life

Third, in vv. 21–24, 35–43, we learn of the sanctity of a vulnerable life.

Now when Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a great multitude gathered to Him; and He was by the sea. And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him….

While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”

And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

(Mark 5:21–24, 35–43)

In the final pericope, we have the account of the raising of Jairus’ daughter from death.

The story opens in v. 21 but is interrupted in v. 25 with the account of the woman with the issue of blood. And, by the way, sanctity of life issues are like this: They run into each other and sometimes can even crowd in and around each other.

The issues of the sanctity of a life are varied and myriad, and therefore it can get crowded and messy at times. As a congregation, we need to guard against competition when it comes to resources, burden and attention.

Some will have a particular burden for abortion issue while others will carry one for the economically and/or academically disenfranchised. Others will carry a passion for orphans and others for the elderly. That is fine. It is not a competition.

At issue is that, fundamentally, we share the same biblical perspective concerning the sanctity of a life. How we demonstrate that will call for different emphasis. Like Jesus, when He was on earth, we cannot be bodily omnipresent. So do what you can do and don’t criticise those who are doing something else. Thankfully though, Jesus is glorified and is omnipresent! This means that He is with us in our various gospel-driven sanctity of life ministries.

The young girl in this account was twelve years of age (v. 42). Interestingly, that means that, at about the time that she was born, the woman in the previous episode began her infirmity.

At twelve, this girl was considered to be merely a child. I emphasise merely because, in the ancient world, contrary to Scripture, children were not highly esteemed—particularly in the Roman world. But certainly she was esteemed by her father, who begged Jesus to come and heal her. Yet she died before Jesus arrived.

Servants arrived and told Jairus not to trouble Jesus any longer; his daughter was dead (v. 35). Jesus heard this and comforted Jairus with words of hope. He went to his house, took her by the hand, and said, “Little girl, I say to you arise.” She obeyed.

Jesus loves the little children—all the children of the world. In other words, Jesus loves those who are among the most vulnerable of the world. And so should we.

The disciples had to learn this lesson (Luke 18:15) and they did (Acts 2:39).

The point that I want to drive home is that, in this story, Jesus reached out to engage someone who was among the most vulnerable. What can we take away?

First, we need to see the value of the life of every human being, regardless of size, location, or viability. This little girl was certainly not viable, yet to Jesus she had sanctity of life, and so He engaged her.

Children are among the most vulnerable on the planet. Millions live in famine and die of preventable disease; millions more are abused by human traffickers; many are killed in what should be the safest place from enemies: the womb. Millions are orphaned.

Second, others are vulnerable as well, such as those with disabilities.

Third, like Jesus, we must be willing to defy societal conventions and rather reach out to care for the vulnerable. And, like Jesus (v. 40), we must be willing to be ridiculed as we do so. Care for your neighbour.

But also note that Jesus was inconvenienced in order to care. He was tired and yet He served.

The point is that to practically respond to sanctity of life issues is not easy. It will disrupt your schedule, reduce your bank balance, and sap your energy. But it is the right thing to do. So do it. This brings us to the final point.

The Sanctity of Life Expected

As I bring this to a close, let me simply point out that what Jesus exemplified is what He expects of you and me—even though others may reject our belief about the sanctity of life. We see this in what follows in chapter six.

Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.

And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts—but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.

Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgement than for that city!”

So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.

(Mark 6:1–13)

When Jesus came back to His home town, He was rejected. They did not share His vision; they did not believe His teaching. Nevertheless, this did not detour Him from ministry. Rather, “He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching” (v. 6b).

We should learn from this: Don’t lose heart and give up on sanctity of life issues simply because those who should embrace what you are doing don’t. Keep proclaiming these truths—even among sceptical and cynical “Christians.”

But note further what takes place. In vv. 7–13, Jesus sends the disciples, two by two, to do precisely what He had just done: to preach and to practically minister (see vv. 12–13). Jesus expected them to have a worldview that was shaped by His worldview and to practice it, to express it practically in word and deed. So too with you and me.

Christian, God expects every one of us to appreciate the sanctity of a life—of every human life—and to prove our worldview by seeking to rescue the perishing. We are called to rescue their souls and to rescue their bodies as much as we can (Proverbs 24:11; 31:8–9).

Practically, what can we do?

First, do something. Get involved: Relieve suffering; adopt or foster children; speak out against abortion in your place of employment; care for the marginalised and the vulnerable. Be creative. Why should Gift of the Givers be the first to respond to the needy in South Africa’s drought-stricken areas? Where are the Christians?

Give so that others can care for the marginalised. Expect great things and attempt great things. Let’s stop being merely moved and start mercifully ministering; compassionately caring with a Christ-centred commitment. Step out in faith and be prepared to be both blessed and burdened.

Second, seek to change laws. Until minds and hearts are changed, human beings need protection by the government (and, in some cases, from the government).

South Africa has seen this before—for example, in the fall of Apartheid era laws—and we can surely see it again.

As you seek to change laws, refuse to vote for political parties that deny the sanctify of a life.

Third, seek to change minds. Speak up. Graciously yet boldly speak to the issue. Yes, express disgust at the abuse of people. Engage in thoughtful discussions concerning prolife issues.

Fourth, seek to change hearts. God’s mission is to bring about a new creation. His mission is to restore the world, not merely to what it was before the fall, but to an even more glorious condition. A huge part of this re-creation is God’s restoration of His image in those whom He saves (see Romans 8:28–30).

There is coming a day when all will be well again. There is coming a day when there will be complete respect for the sanctity of a life. Babies once aborted will then receive the dignity they deserve as God’s creation.

But until then, we are to proclaim the only message that will truly transform how people view one another. We are to proclaim the gospel of the grace of God.

The gospel transforms our worldview; it transforms how we view people (2 Corinthians 5:14–17). This is why Sanctity of Life Sunday is not a political statement. It is not merely some cultural critique, and it is certainly not some Christian tradition (at least not in a negative sense) that makes us hip and in-step with what is currently in vogue in the evangelical world. No—a thousand times no! It is part and parcel of what it means to have been saved by the gospel of Christ. It is to declare that the gospel indeed saves us—every part of us, including our worldview (see Romans 12:1–2).

Consider: How many Christians do you know who are strapping themselves with bombs to kill people in the name of God? How many Christians do you know who are abortion doctors, or who even counsel women to have an abortion? Not many, I’d venture to guess, if any.

Mark opens his Gospel telling us his theme: Jesus Christ, preaching the gospel of the kingdom (1:1–3, 14–15). It is the gospel that transforms lives and fills God’s kingdom with those who share His worldview, including the sanctity of a life. The gospel produces this. It saves sinners, those who have the sanctity of a life yet who need to be set apart from sin and its guilt and its punishment by the wrath of God. Therefore, when you think about it, the gospel is all about the sanctity of a life.

So, make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rescue the perishing from the wrath of God and these, in turn, will love and live in such a way that they will rescue others—in more ways than one.