Articles & Resources

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Sanctity of Human Life Day and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Jan 14, 2021 | By K.J. Hill

It’s interesting to me that in 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed into law the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. King was born on Jan. 15, but the holiday would be celebrated every year on the third Monday of January. The following year, 1984, President Reagan signed a proclamation to observe the Sanctity of Human Life Day on the third Sunday in January to coincide with the Jan. 22nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion. Ever since, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day have almost always been a single day apart.

As a Christian, I believe both of these days are important. In fact, I think that in many ways these days represent two sides of the same coin. Unfortunately, sometimes in the church, people who are only focused on one side of the coin can feel at odds over which is of greater importance and can feel like the other group doesn’t even acknowledge their fight for justice.

Over the last several years, it has become increasingly evident that we are living in a very divided United States. Yet, what is most troubling about the divisiveness is that it is not just between the unbelieving world and Christians, but the division also exists among Christians. 

Of course, that’s not really new to us in 2021. The United States has dealt with division among Christians for a long time—we just may finally be recognizing what has been boiling below the surface. In fact, Dr. King wrote his famous "Letter From Birmingham Jail" in 1963 in part to express his disappointment over the unwillingness of many majority culture Christians to unite with him in his fight for justice. (For further discussion on “Letter From Birmingham Jail” and the role of the church, check out Pastor J.D.’s reflections from last year: Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” Still Speaks to Us Today.) 

The civil rights movement represents a period of time when extreme division existed not just outside the church but within the church as well. Christians were divided over their views on race, economics, education, jobs, culture, and justice, and often these divisions were drawn along racial lines. 

In many ways, these are still some of the same divisive issues that the church is wrestling with today.

Which brings us to Sanctity of Human Life Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 

These two pivotal days, one day apart on the calendar, represent the tension that still exists within the church. For many Christians, celebrating Sanctity of Human Life Day primarily focuses on the protection of the unborn. And for many Christians, celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day primarily focuses on the rights of the marginalized. We may not say it, but it often seems like we need to choose between the two.

But rather than perpetuating one more either/or dichotomy within the church, we want to use this weekend to practice a little both/and. We want to celebrate the Sanctity of Human Life and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because Christians should be able to unite around the value and dignity of life that both groups care about. 

We believe that both days point us toward biblical justice, and, therefore, both are important. We don’t want to allow the enemy to set in opposition those things that Scripture clearly indicates are close to the heart of God. We want to proclaim that caring for the most vulnerable among us—from the unborn to the under-resourced—is important, because we are all made in the image of God and derive our value and worth from him.

We want to encourage you to pray for and serve the women, children, and families who are wrestling with unexpected pregnancies; to pray for those going through the guilt and pain of a past abortion; to pray for those facing the fear and uncertainty of adoption and fostering. For more information about ways to engage in this important cause, check out these resources or visit summitchurch.com/serverdu.

We also want God to produce in us a renewed commitment to racial reconciliation and justice for our neighbors. The unity and justice our world yearns for can only occur as God’s people walk the messy road of reconciliation together. Over the past year, we have learned a lot about what it means to become a truly reconciled church. By God’s grace, we have come a long way. And while we have a long way to go, I believe God’s work for justice and unity will succeed. For more information about ways to engage in this important cause, check out one of the upcoming Neighboring 101 trainings. If you have already attended one of these trainings, reach out to your campus mobilizer or visit summitchurch.com/serverdu.

We want everyone at The Summit Church to see the value and worth of every life, supporting every effort to obey the Lord’s command in Micah 6:8 to “do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.” We hope and pray that 2021 will mark a change in history where we see Christians uniting in loving and serving the unborn and those who have been marginalized, pursuing justice together and giving God the glory that he deserves.