It is very early on Tuesday morning, Oct. 3. I have just surrendered to a night of tossing and turning, my mind replaying the scenes and interviews I had witnessed the previous day on various news outlets covering the senseless tragedy at a country music festival in Las Vegas.
I probably had fallen into and out of light sleep but my heart had become so troubled that I woke up weeping, crying to the Lord. My burden this night was not so much struggling with the question of why things like this occur, though like many Christians, I do think on this question in times like these.
This night my burden is simply over the loss of at least 58 human lives, the suffering that nearly 500 others are enduring personally and the thousands of family and friends of those affected.
With a certain measure of guilt, I seriously question whether I have ever had such an overwhelming sense of the importance of human life to God. I am struggling to understand why I have not felt this level of grief in the multitude of terrorist attacks we have seen in our country and the world in the past two decades.
Further, every night that I turn on the local news I see a senseless act that has led to the death of one or more individuals.
Why hasn't the sum of these acts ever brought me to this level of sorrow over the loss of human life? Probably the biggest source of my measure of guilt from this new sense of the importance of human life comes in considering the estimated 40–50 million lives taken through the heinous act of abortion.
I have witnessed countless others give testimony to the grief they themselves have over the murder of children and certainly felt grief and sorrow. For me, though, this night was unlike any other.
As Christians, and especially as Southern Baptists, we regularly affirm the value of human life. We set aside one Sunday each year to do so and, in 2015, we passed a resolution on the issue in our annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
As evident in the wake of recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida, we have churches that consistently aid in disaster relief. We serve in variety of ways to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and serve our communities in ministry projects. An entity in our convention, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, aids churches in promoting the sanctity of human life to governmental officials in policy and legislation. We have professors in our seminaries who often produce sound biblical arguments on the importance of human life.
Still, in light of recent events, we must strengthen our resolve.
The church today cannot overemphasize the value of human life. Though we face a variety of issues in our culture today, it is this one that demands our constant attention. Further, this commonly held belief relates to many other issues we are facing regarding sexuality, race, bioethics, immigration, human suffering, political agendas, the threat of nuclear war and even questions about the long-term effects of certain forms of athletic competition.
I do not claim to have all of the answers to how we might do more as Christians and as churches, but I am convinced that our mission, our teaching and our ministries must manifest both a clear articulation and a visible representation of our commitment that human beings, who alone are created in the image of and show forth the attributes of the triune God, have immeasurable worth to that same God and to His church.
Foundational to this is the unwavering commitment that the same God who created humans in His image has sent His only Son -- who Himself is the image of the invisible God, the exact representation of His nature -- to be sin for us.
It is in the Gospel that we truly understand the inexplicable value of human life to God. Christ came so that man might have life and that abundantly. He came to gain victory over death. Therefore, as followers of Christ who possess assurance of these truths, we must grow to value life in everything we say, think and do as we carry the message to a world that feels the sting of death -- both physical and spiritual.
We take this Gospel to every human being, knowing that whosoever will can receive the gift of everlasting life. Ultimately, this investment in the lives of others grows in direct relation to the value we place on human life itself.
Steven L. James is assistant vice president for academic administration at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.