Ahead of each January issue, our editorial team asks, “How will we report on ‘sanctity’ this year?” The Sunday before the anniversary of the 1973 decision legalizing abortion in the United States is observed as Sanctity of Human Life on the SBC calendar. This year it falls on January 17. For many Southern Baptists, that is the Sunday their churches will address the issue of abortion. Pro-life advocates are often invited to speak, baby bottles of change are collected, and leaders urge participation in upcoming Right to Life demonstrations.
For the Illinois Baptist staff, we seek out news stories of effective pro-life ministries in local churches. And we have the privilege to point to the excellent work of the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services. I have been moved by photos of BCHFS staff holding infants and stories of young mothers who chose not to end their unborn babies’ lives. The families who foster and adopt stir the heart as well as the tear ducts. And last year, we were delighted to report on the opening of GraceHaven pregnancy clinic in Mt. Vernon. There, volunteers show young women their unborn children on sonograms and help them make wise, godly, and life-preserving decisions. We hope BCHFS will have similar ministry opportunities in other parts of the state.
Our focus on saving the unborn is vital and must continue. A recent issue of the Illinois Times tabloid proved this with the headline “Abortion Haven.” Their report seemed to celebrate our state’s growing status as an abortion-provider destination, as neighboring states limited abortion availability. That same headline would produce lament and weeping among Southern Baptists.
All that said, it seems important to note a lesson from 2020. Under the banner “Sanctity of Human Life,” our concern for the unborn is the beginning point. Our concern that life begins at conception—that people are created by God in his own image— extends through the course of life, past the grave, and into eternity. That greatly expands our responsibility in the here and now.
In the year of COVID-19 with all its fallout, we have gratefully witnessed Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief minister to the cause of human life by delivering semi-trailer trucks full of food to local churches which then distribute groceries to people who have lost their income this year.
We have seen children’s mission groups reach out to nursing home residents with cards and encouragement, while they have been cut off from visits with family.
We have heard of pastors and chaplains ministering to many grieving. One Illinois nursing home comes to mind where 26 of its 75 residents have died from COVID-19. The doctor who shared the news choked up, because his colleagues were forging on through deep grief.
We have heard of nurses from our Southern Baptist ranks serving COVID patients in packed ICU wards. Early in the pandemic, one we met traveled to a distant hot spot where medical personnel were urgently needed. And she modestly declined to let her story be reported, not wanting to draw attention to herself.
And we could cite teachers and front-line workers of all kinds who daily prove their concern for the living in a season marked by disease and death. By their actions, they show that life in all its stages is truly sacred. If nothing else, COVID-19 has shown how deeply—and broadly—pro-life we really are.
Jesus said, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”
Eric Reed is editor of Illinois Baptist media.