Jesus isn't the benchmark for us, for we could never love as fiercely as he did. But we can follow him by admitting our inability to love well and our need for his life-affirming love to work through us. And we can look to other saints who have dignified the undignified in society.
Henri Nouwen was one of these life givers. Once a well-known scholar at universities like Notre Dame, Harvard, and Yale, Nouwen spent the later years of his life in obscurity, serving mentally handicapped people at a L'Arche community called Daybreak. To many, this choice was foolish. To Nouwen, it was a chance to follow Jesus by loving those our society ignores. He did this not through theology, but through a humble spirit that affirmed the significance of each life he touched.
Every Man a Father, Every Woman a Mother
All of us are called to build a culture of life. Some of us are called to be like Henri Nouwen, gentle servants who love and respect others simply through quiet humility. In this way, we dignify the existence of all persons, the little ones in our society. We can express, as philosopher Josef Pieper writes, that "it's good that you are here; it's wonderful that you exist!"
Others, however, are called to fight for issues of life, to heal the leprous limbs of society. We shouldn't fight through violence or force, but we certainly shouldn't be passive either. We desperately need Christians in politics and in conversations with society's leaders to bring Christ's light into the darkness of our world, to be a voice for the voiceless.
We are all called to foster this culture of life, whether or not we are parents who witness the miracle of new human life. My pastor has a phrase he often uses to illustrate a culture of life: "Every man a father, every woman a mother." We are all intrinsic life bearers, for we know the light of a life in Christ. The possibility for new birth and spiritual formation is all around us.
In the Nicene Creed, an ancient yet relevant profession of faith, God is referred to as "The Lord and Giver of Life." Only he is able to truly create the miracle of life, but we can share with him as he works, affirming it in others and fighting for life where we see death and decay in our hearts and in our world.
—Bonnie McMaken is a freelance writer and worship leader at Church of the Resurrection in Glen Ellyn, Illinois