Today is National Census Day. By today, every home in America should have received a census form. Citizens may respond by mail, by phone, or online.
The census is required by the US Constitution in order to apportion the House of Representatives according to the population of the states. Census data are also used to allocate some $1.5 trillion in federal funding to states and localities.
Population registers go back at least to the Han dynasty in China (206 BC–AD 220). Europeans used parish records of baptisms, marriages, and burials. Today, such registries are digitized.
One thing COVID-19 is teaching is us that every person matters. One infected person can infect others who infect others. As hospital systems debate ways to care for more patients than they have the capacity to serve, we are rediscovering the intrinsic value of every human being.
This value is known in Christian theology as the “sanctity of every life.”
Why your life matters unconditionally to your Father
This doctrine is grounded in the fact that every human being is uniquely created by God in his image (Genesis 1:27). We are all descendants of the same original parents.
As Peter was shocked to discover (Acts 10:9–16), “God shows no partiality” (v. 34). Paul agreed: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
As a result, our lives are sacred from conception to natural death. Such sanctity is not derived from us—we are all sinners who fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Rather, it is derived from our status as the creation of a God who loves us unconditionally (cf. John 17:23).
This love is especially proven in the events we will remember next week.
Henri Nouwen noted: “On the cross, Jesus has shown us how far God’s love goes. It’s a love that embraces even those who crucified him. When Jesus is hanging nailed to the cross, totally broken and stripped of everything, he still prays for his executioners: ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ Jesus’ love for his enemies knows no bounds. He prays even for those who are putting him to death.”
Now our Savior calls us to love others as he loves us. However, as Nouwen notes, “To forgive our enemies doesn’t lie within our power. That is a divine gift.” His love “empowers you to take the way that Jesus has taken before you: a narrow way, a painful way, but the way that gives you true joy and peace and enables you to make the non-violent love of God visible in this world.”
In your Father’s universal census, you are as valuable as Mother Teresa or Pope Francis. If you were the only person who had ever sinned, his Son would have died just for you.
Charles Spurgeon was out hiking one day and came across a windmill with the words “God Is Love” turning in the breeze. He asked the farmer, “Do you mean that God’s love is as shifting as the wind?”
The farmer smiled and explained, “Not at all. I mean that no matter how the wind blows, God is still love.”
What winds are blowing your windmill today?