ACSWP paper on human life misses the JOY!

Six years and several writing teams have not been enough. The Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy is still struggling to fulfill a mandate from the 212th GA (2002) to update the 1981 study paper, The Nature and Value of Human Life.

Some progress has been made by the committee since I first began following this writing effort in 2005. Ironically I am not permitted to talk about what is in the current draft—even reporting the strengths of the paper is off limits. New ACSWP 'protocols' (although not yet officially voted into their policy manual) prohibit reporters from quoting draft papers, or even discussing their content in blogs, news articles, or in emails (like this one, I suppose.) Under those limits, about all I am free to report is what is missing in the document—the joyous Good News that God places an outrageous market value on human life!

Human beings are more than the sum of our 'parts.' Our value is not derived from our usefulness to society, our position, our work, our income, or even how we treat other human beings. Though the things we do may inspire the admiration of others, our accomplishments do nothing to increase our intrinsic value. Conversely, nothing others do to us can make us less valuable! Scripture helps us put our worth into perspective when we are compared to grass or a flower of the field that is present for a short time and then it is gone (Psalm 103:15, I Peter 1:24). With each passing year I am more aware of the brevity and frailty of my own life and I wonder with the Psalmist, “What is humanity that God is mindful of us?”

To find the answer we must look outside ourselves. Our worth is not in what or who we are, but in whose we are. We are made in the image of God. We bear his stamp, his signature, his seal, and that makes us the genuine article. We are image-bearers. We look like the King of Kings! To be sure our sin obscures His image in us much of the time, but even then, God does not reject us but claims us as His own. More than that, he has purchased us with the very lifeblood of His only Son, Jesus Christ. The death penalty we deserve has been paid through the death of Jesus on the cross. The gift of eternal life which we do NOT deserve is ours through His resurrection. We have value because God loves us outrageously and is extraordinarily committed to us!

My husband and I own an old 1880 house which, according to my bank, has doubled in value in the 20 years I have lived in it. The bottom line is, however, my house is only worth its market value. It is really only worth the price that someone is willing to pay to purchase it. We could look at human life in the same way. Others might set a value on us that would be higher or lower than our own appraisal. Some place a very low value on life in the womb, or those at the end of life who require care that is costly. Others are devalued in our eyes because they are in prison or are uneducated or come from a culture we do not understand or have limited intelligence or ability. We are prone to value others for what they can do for us or because they make us feel good about ourselves. God sees human beings quite differently. He has already signed the check for our purchase! He sent Jesus into the world to die for our salvation.

What if the church said THAT about the value of human life! What if we tell the world that God loves them extravagantly and has paid more than anyone thought they were worth! What if our social witness policy flowed out of God’s view of the value of human life? That is the unique message the church has to offer. JOY! Sadly, that message is missing in ACSWP’s report.


  1. The struggles and accomplishments of human beings do nothing to enhance the intrinsic value of human beings? Our true value lies only in the fact that we are all only images of God? Then what would be the point of living if only to serve the ego of the supreme being.To only strive to qualify for some type of salvation we can't even comprehend seems like such a waste of life. If the only joy worth attaining is not of this earth, then all life has no real meaning, other than to serve the vanity of God. To live as he prescribes, worship as he commands and die in "His" grace being our one true mission on earth, what's the point of having an earth at all? The universe is a cold and unforgiving place where random events take place constantly that are completely beyond control, with seemingly no regard for justice, fairness or compassion. Only the joy and love that we humans inject into this cruel life is worth any long-lasting merit. You'll find the only heaven that exists on this earth in the intimate interaction with others who can truly love you without any conditions or rules of acceptance. Faith is a good thing if it helps you to be a better kind of person, but to discount others worth who don't subscribe to your beliefs is not what I would define as behavior in the image of "God".


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