Don't Drop Your Brother

Teaching children to value every life

Growing up, my brother, Chris, bore the brunt of being several years younger. He was dropped out of the backyard tree house, pushed off a bed and thrown from my shoulders — resulting in dislocated or broken collarbones. As embarrassing as it is, what I chalked up to sibling rivalry was a disregard for the value of my brother's life. A concept too refined for a 9-year-old to absorb? Perhaps not.

Teaching children about the sanctity of human life is not a one-time event. It takes a lifetime of examples — maybe including, "Don't drop your brother on his head because he bears God's image."

A disabled classmate. The death of a family pet. A nearby homeless shelter. These can be used as lessons to help a child understand and embrace the sacredness of all human life.

A disabled classmate. The death of a family pet. A nearby homeless shelter. These can be used as lessons to help a child understand and embrace the sacredness of all human life.

In Psalm 8:5, David writes that God made humans a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honor. Genesis 1:26-27 says that God's image and likeness are reflected in each of us. When you look around, do you value each life as sacred? And if so, how do you communicate this truth to your children and grandchildren?

As we see the weaker members of the community — the vulnerable, disenfranchised and outcast — the way in which we treat them shows our commitment to the sacred view of human life. Resisting the temptation to shove my brother honors his inherit dignity as an image-bearer of God. When we tie together the value of life and our behavior toward other humans, we create and nurture a culture of life.

When our children see the worth of human life through God's eyes, the moral boundaries we set as parents become values of the heart — and the consequences of violating God's design become heart-breaking.

Perhaps the best way to teach about the sacredness of human life is through example. Brad and Mocha Miller of Colorado Springs, Colo., look for ways to demonstrate a respect for life in their family's activities. In June, the Millers and their three sons participated in a two-mile walk to raise funds for a local pregnancy resource center. "The two older children understand that abortion kills a baby, so they were excited to help save lives," Mocha says. The Millers' vision for teaching their children in word and deed is one example of applying the sanctity of human life ethic in the real world. Here are some others:

Young children
The death of a family pet brings grief and loss. It also offers parents the chance to discuss the status of humans (who bear God's image) compared to animals. What's the difference between the family dog and a human family member? What does the Bible say about the value of human life? Do we have a biblical responsibility to care for animals?

Another scenario is when your child begins to recognize that another child in his classroom is different, perhaps someone who uses a wheelchair. How do you address physical or mental disability? The dignity of all human life, regardless of ability or performance, is an essential lesson to learn and one best taught at an early age.

Older children
Traditional family holidays like Christmas and Easter can take on added meaning when families reach out to others. Instead of eating the usual Easter meal at home, volunteer your family for a shift at the local soup kitchen. Before opening your Christmas presents, deliver packages to a family in need. Be sure to discuss why your family is engaged in these activities: We serve others and meet their needs because they bear God's likeness — whether they know it or not.

Teenagers
Pornography, prostitution, strip clubs. Your teenager is likely aware of these influences. A news story or passing comment may provide the opportunity to talk about why people are drawn to these evils and what makes each one a violation of the sanctity of human life. Exploiting and abusing humans — all of whom bear God's image — steals the individual's dignity and self-esteem. People are not to be used but respected.

When our children see the worth of human life through God's eyes, the moral boundaries we set as parents become values of the heart — and the consequences of violating God's design become heart-breaking.


Taken from Focus on the Family magazine, January 2006.
Article copyright © 2006, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Used by permission

Carrie Gordon Earll is the senior policy analyst for Bioethics at
Focus on the Family. She resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado.