Jan. 22, 2023, is a very precious day birthed out of a horrible day. Sanctity of Life Sunday marks each anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that led to such catastrophic loss of life, made worse by the fact that they were and are the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable. But this day is precious because of how it has mobilized so many, small and great, to the defense of those innocents.
And, while Roe is now (thankfully) relegated to the dustbin of morbid history, the work of saving innocent lives still marches on. Removing that relic of judicial activism has not stopped abortion; it has merely shifted the battleground. And by that, I am not only referring to the state-by-state mission to provide legal protection to those who cannot speak for themselves, I am also thinking of the battle for the hearts and minds of humanity that desperately need to be opened to the truth.
And in that quest, the larger-than-life American hero who gave us Sanctity of Life Sunday still has words that are powerful and effective for today.
President Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, issued the first proclamation of Sanctity of Life Sunday on Jan. 13, 1984. Here were the words of his Proclamation 5147.
"The values and freedoms we cherish as Americans rest on our fundamental commitment to the sanctity of human life. The first of the 'unalienable rights' affirmed by our Declaration of Independence is the right to life itself, a right the Declaration states has been endowed by our Creator on all human beings -- whether young or old, weak or strong, healthy or handicapped.
"Since 1973, however, more than 15 million unborn children have died in legalized abortions -- a tragedy of stunning dimensions that stands in sad contrast to our belief that each life is sacred. These children, over tenfold the number of Americans lost in all our nation's wars, will never laugh, never sing, never experience the joy of human love; nor will they strive to heal the sick, or feed the poor, or make peace among nations. Abortion has denied them the first and most basic of human rights, and we are infinitely poorer for their loss.
"We are poorer not simply for lives not led and for contributions not made, but also for the erosion of our sense of the worth and dignity of every individual. To diminish the value of one category of human life is to diminish us all. Slavery, which treated Blacks as something less than human, to be bought and sold if convenient, cheapened human life and mocked our dedication to the freedom and equality of all men and women. Can we say that abortion -- which treats the unborn as something less than human, to be destroyed if convenient -- will be less corrosive to the values we hold dear?
"We have been given the precious gift of human life, made more precious still by our births in or pilgrimages to a land of freedom. It is fitting, then, on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that struck down state anti-abortion laws, that we reflect anew on these blessings, and on our corresponding responsibility to guard with care the lives and freedoms of even the weakest of our fellow human beings.
"Now, therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, president of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Sunday, Jan. 22, 1984, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon the citizens of this blessed land to gather on that day in homes and places of worship to give thanks for the gift of life and to reaffirm our commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of each human life.
"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 13th day of January, in the year of our Lord 1984, and of the Independence of the United States of America the 208th."
In those eloquent words, we are reminded that life comes from our Creator and is therefore of inestimable worth. We are reminded as well that the battle for the worth of every individual is multifaceted; it was manifested so long and horribly in the travesty of slavery and still uses the same flawed arguments in the travesty of abortion. And as he presciently observed in referencing the "young or old, weak or strong, healthy or handicapped," it is now moving into the societal debate as to whether the very aged and sick should be helped to live or pressured to die.
Remove the understanding of the value and dignity of every human life, and you eventually put everyone at risk.
My greatest hero, Jesus, would doubtless have approved of Reagan's words. He was the one who thought so highly of children that he said, "And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." He took little children up in his arms and blessed them. He gave himself for others rather than sacrificing others for himself.
Jesus knew nothing of "Do what is best for you"; he only knew, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
So on this Sanctity of Life Sunday, and every other day as well, lift your voice to speak up for the voiceless. A society that sacrifices its babies ultimately loses its soul.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.