Words Matter: Honoring the Sanctity of Life with our Words

STEPHANIE HUBACH|CONTRIBUTOR Words matter. Several years ago, when I was working for Mission to North America (MNA) as Special Needs Ministries Director, I was on my way out the door for a trip to Atlanta. With a glint in his eye, my younger son Tim (who has Down syndrome) looked at me and quipped, “Remember: MNA means ‘Mom’s Not Around!’” Whether that remark was shared in the spirit of “It’s boys’ weekend at the Hubach house” or, “You travel too much Mom,” I’m still not sure. If you are a Mom, however, you can guess how I heard it. Words matter. Their meaning matters. Their delivery matters. And all of that matters because the people to whom those words are directed matter. In January each year, many Christians celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. But what do we mean when we say “sanctity?” And how ought that to inform our not only our message, but our delivery? “Sanctity” is actually very close to the word holiness. In particular, it is akin to the “quality of being sacred, or by law (especially by natural or divine law) immune from violation.” When we speak of the sanctity of human life, we are often focused on calling out the violation of abortion and, instead, promoting the biblical warrant of protecting human life—from conception to natural death. As Christians who uphold the authority of Scripture, we ought to always protect the vulnerable—including the unborn—so that they might be “immune from violation,” the ultimate violation being the experience of intentional death. May we always remain faithful to this. At the same time, however, we need to carefully share our message of being pro-life—"for the life of my neighbor”—in a way that is immune from violation as well. Have you ever thought of your words as a weapon? Have you ever considered that good concepts can be presented in a way that actually “undoes the goodness” via the violence of language? In a world of tweets and texts, it is very easy for us to lose sight of this. Snark can creep in. Our words can suddenly become curt, sarcastic, cutting, demeaning, and brutal. Rather than focusing on private righteous action, we can find ourselves simply trying to illicit a public raging reaction—one that unquestioningly affirms the validity of our view, while harshly discrediting that of another...