February 23, 2018

Watching the news and reading the headlines, we may feel helpless seeing the heartbreaking lack of respect for human life. How do we respond when our efforts seem small in the face of the culture of death? 

To understand more fully how to defend and protect human life, we must first consider who we are, at the deepest level. God creates us in his image and likeness, which means we are made to be in loving relationship with him. Changing the culture is a process of conversion that begins in our own hearts.

The knowledge and realization of how deeply we are loved by God elicits a response of love that simultaneously draws us closer to Him and, at the same time, impels us to share his love with others. As Christians, our identity and our mission are two sides of the same coin; like the apostles, we are called to be missionary disciples. This doesn't necessarily mean quitting our jobs or moving to foreign countries. For most of us, our mission field is daily life.

We often measure ourselves by false standards: by what and how much we do, our successes or failures, how others treat us, the degree of our pleasure or independence, etc. And when these changeable substitutes prove to be insufficient, or when we are faced with challenges and suffering, we may feel helpless, alone, or abandoned; we may be tempted to think our lives have decreased value or worth. But God's love—personal, real, unchanging—is the true source of our worth, identity, and dignity. It really is not a question of who we are, but rather whose we are. 

When someone is facing great trials, we need to meet them where they are, walk with them on their journey, intercede for them, and be open to sharing Christ's love however he directs.

When a woman becomes pregnant, and her boyfriend threatens to leave if she continues the pregnancy, we need to lovingly walk with her. When parents of young children need a break, we need to consider how we can help and act on it. When family members or friends become seriously ill, we need to assure them that God still offers them something in this life, and they still have purpose. We need to consistently be with them every step of the way.

Our lives are often changed by the witness of others; so too, others' lives may be changed by our witness and authentic friendship with them. Sometimes our actions speak for themselves; other times, words are needed. Whatever the situation, Jesus knows how to speak to each person's heart; we simply need to follow where He leads.

Let us go, therefore, and not be afraid. God is always with us.

This issue of Life Issues Forum has been adapted and shortened from "How to Build a Culture of Life," originally published by the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities in the 2017-2018 Respect Life Program: www.usccb.org/culture-of-life.