On Sunday, Jan. 17, churches across the Southern Baptist Convention will observe a day called “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.” Where did this special Sunday emphasis come from and what is it all about?

On Jan. 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court handed down its infamous Roe v. Wade ruling, effectively mandating legalized abortion-on-demand in America. Eleven years after this deadly ruling, in 1984, then-President Ronald Reagan “issued a proclamation designating Sanctity of Human Life Day to be the third Sunday in January (which represents the closest Sunday to the original Jan. 22).”

Even as millions of abortions had taken place, churches and other leaders took up Reagan’s charge and have continued the special emphasis to this day, just as abortion-on-demand continues to this day.

Thus Sanctity of Human Life Sunday began and continues, first and foremost, focused on the value of unborn human life and to show its relation to the Gospel itself. You see, contrary to the promises of the abortion industry and groups like Planned Parenthood, abortion leaves one dead and one wounded, whereas the Gospel leads to “life and life abundantly” (John 10:10).

In the face of any such destruction, Christians always are to respond with love. To help in this emphasis, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma recently released brand-new Sanctity of Human Life Sunday materials, including sermon notes written by Oklahoma Baptist pastors and a video (viewable at www.bgco.org/shls), that pastors and churches may use to take part in the special Sunday.

Whether your church has never taken part in Sanctity of Human Life Sunday or does every year, Jan. 17, 2016, offers as important of opportunity as ever to protect unborn life.

Yet Sanctity of Human Life Sunday has flourished into even more than the original hope of making abortion illegal and unthinkable. It has also become a time in which churches highlight the foster care and adoption needs in their state and across the globe.

In Christianity, we do not stop caring for the child once he or she is born. We care about all human life, from womb to tomb. While the world often cares for only the strong and beautiful, Christ calls us to love all people, weak or strong.

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday also has become a chilling reminder that it is not only at the beginning point at which life is at risk, it is at risk at the ending point too. In America, the so-called assisted suicide movement is as active as ever. States like California recently legalized the practice, and groups calling for assisted suicide, once on the fringe of society, are selling their ideas publicly and without shame. The culture of death marches on.

The ultimate goal of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, of course, would be that someday, we will no longer need it. As Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said, “I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that, as I’m preaching, there are babies warmly nestled in wombs who won’t be there tomorrow.”

Moore went on to say, “But I also love Sanctity of Human Life Sunday when I think about the fact that I serve a congregation with ex-orphans all around, adopted into loving families. I love to reflect on the men and women who serve every week in pregnancy centers for women in crisis.”

He said, as Christians “we’ll always need Christmas. We’ll always need Easter. But I hope, please Lord, someday soon, that Sanctity of Human Life Day is unnecessary.”