A Manifesto for a Culture of Life
As we remain committed to defending the lives of the most vulnerable in our world, those developing in their mother’s wombs, we must do so seeking to think biblically about the entire project and not merely be driven by slogans or sentimentality. We have been given divine power to take every thought about “life” captive to Christ. As we come up on the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it is necessary that we not only continue to tell the truth about unborn life and speak up on their behalf, but we must also be asking God to enable us to think through the entire issue.
Since the Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, nearly 60 million abortions have been performed in America. An estimated 1.4 billion babies have been legally killed worldwide since 1980. Worldwide, there is more than one abortion performed every second. Almost 40,000 abortions have already been performed in America in 2017. Abortion, defined as the intentional termination of any human pregnancy, is considered murder by the Bible and has always been prohibited by God’s Word and the consensus of the Christian Church. In the law of Moses, God explicitly required his people to protect unborn life, punishing any harm done to an unborn child, even if it was accidental: “you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex. 21:22-24). Throughout Scripture, the fact that human beings are made in the image of God requires diligent protection (Gen. 1:26-27, 9:5-6). David declares that unborn infants belong to God, and His hand is upon them, knitting them together (Ps. 22:9-10, 139:13-16). Abortion is a violent crime committed against a precious work of God. The incarnation of our Lord Jesus is the supreme witness against the murder of unborn children: from the moment Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin by the Holy Spirit, His fully human, fully divine person was real and present with us. This was further demonstrated by His unborn cousin leaping in the womb of Elizabeth when Mary entered her house (Lk. 1:39-44).
In the Didache of the Apostles, one of the earliest extant post-apostolic writings, abortion is specifically listed among other sins/crimes prohibited. Likewise, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Basil, Ambrose, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Justinian, Gregory the Great may all be listed as witnesses testifying clearly that the taking of unborn life is without a doubt murder. In fact, throughout Scripture, this particularly heinous form of murder is associated with the worship of idols and false gods: “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Dt. 12:31, cf. 2 Kgs. 23:10, Jer. 7:31, 19:5).
The Abortion Industrial Complex
Unfortunately, one of the ways we do not think clearly about this issue is by failing to see how this atrocity is fed by a number of other sins and crimes. At the center of these sins and crimes is the “sex industry.” While some media claim that this industry grosses no more than $4-8 billion dollars every year (roughly equivalent to E-Bay and iTunes in 2012), other outlets report online pornography alone grossing $10-15 billion and prostitution grossing another 32 billion dollars a year. According to one non-profit organization dedicated to preventing the exploitation of girls worldwide: in America alone, somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 children are victimized by sex-trafficking every year. The biggest weekend for sex trafficking in America is the NFL Super Bowl. The driving force behind all of this is the objectification and commodification of human beings made in the image of God. The bodies of men, women, and children are being stolen, bought, traded, sold, used, and thrown away like so much disposable merchandise. Do not miss the fact that drugs and alcohol are the mind and soul-numbing chemicals that prop all of this up. The physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental agony, chaos, and destruction that attends these sins and crimes is muffled with chemicals of every sort. All of this entails a hatred of God and His image, and hatred is the seed of all murder (Mt. 5:21-22).
Add to all of this, the acceptance of a massively sexualized culture which simultaneously despises the high calling of motherhood and fatherhood. In other words, children are viewed as a massive intrusion on the demand for sexual pleasure now. Everything from clothing catalogues, to sex education, to birth control, to sporting events have been systematically programed to divorce sexual love from motherhood and fatherhood. To the extent that the Christian Church in America has accepted or participated in or condoned the commodification of sex and the rejection of children, we are necessarily complicit in the abortion industry. There is blood on our hands. While it seems hardly possible to completely avoid every single instance of sexual exploitation in the world around us, as Paul said, “we cannot go out of the world,” it must still be said that we in the conservative Church are still far too complicit. How can we say that we hate the shedding of innocent blood while we continue paying for movies and television shows that pay women to undress in front of cameras? How can we say that we hate the shedding of innocent blood while we play along with their casual dating culture – pretending that you can treat sex and marriage as completely unrelated to the gift of children?
The Gospel for Sexual Criminals
While we must stand unflinchingly against every form of human exploitation, we do so holding forth the good news of Jesus Christ for every form of exploitation: the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God… you are not your own, for you were bought with a price…” (1 Cor. 6:9-10, 19-20). And so we proclaim the infinite mercy of our God to every sex-trader, prostitute, pornographer, porn-user, sexual-abuser, and rape victim. We proclaim this mercy in Christ crucified to every abortionist, every mother who signed the death sentence for their children, every approving or pressuring boyfriend, husband, parent, and every cowardly lawmaker who cast a vote for its protection. Christ was betrayed for your betrayal; Christ was crushed for how you crushed innocent children with forceps; Christ was unjustly condemned and murdered for the injustice and murder on our hands.
But the gospel does more than forgive these sins. It is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. And this salvation is not merely something inside of you; it is a salvation for the world, life for the world. When God begins living inside someone, His life begins to permeate everything – and that fullness of life we call salvation. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). So there is a culture of death and culture of life, and these cultures are at war. And this is why we must by the grace of God examine our lives, our thoughts, our actions carefully to destroy those arguments and lofty opinions that are raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
Only the Cross is Strong Enough
So there is a culture of death and a culture of life. On the one hand, the cross of Christ confronts us in our sin and rebellion and exploitation of other human beings, our obsession with serving ourselves and using other people for what we can get out of them, and it reveals all of that to be the way of death, shame, humiliation, and all of that futility, all of that emptiness, that culture of death is condemned and killed in Christ on the cross. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). This happened so that all our sin and guilt and shame might die. So when Christ died, we died in Him. Our old slavery to sin and death died. He died so that we might die, and therefore, if we have died with Christ, we have also been raised with Him. If we will faithfully and consistently fight the culture of death, it must be done God’s way and not our way. And God’s way is with the cross front and center, condemning all sin, all bloodshed, all injustice in the flesh of Christ. We condemn abortion not merely because it makes us feel bad or because it isn’t traditional. We condemn abortion, all exploitation of human beings made in the image of God because God condemned it in the flesh of Christ. And this is exceedingly important: God says that the law could not do this. When we vote for laws to protect the unborn (as we should), when we write congressmen and sign petitions and attend demonstrations (as we should), we must understand fully and completely that only the cross of Christ is strong enough, powerful enough to end this plague in our land. And this is essential for a culture of life.
What is simultaneously revealed in the sacrifice of Christ is that He did this out of His great love. He laid His life down in order to give His life for the world. And in so doing, we set the pattern for the only way of life. There is no other way of life. There is only cruciform life, there is only the way of the cross, the way of sacrifice, the way of love. If you want to find your life, Jesus says, you must lose it. But if you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you lose your life for the sake of Christ, He promises that you will find it and much more besides.
A Culture for Life
So what does a culture of life, abundant life, life for the world – look like? Let’s look at two passages. First, in Ephesian 4, in the process of urging the Ephesians to put off the old self, the former ways of life and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God, he gives several examples of what that looks like: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28). This is one of the central elements of a culture of life. When Christ saves you by His grace, and gives you the gift of faith, and God takes up residence in your life, one of the central works of reprograming and remodeling He is determined to do in you is to transform you from a taker into a giver. He is determined to turn you from a user and abuser into a lover and a friend. Users and abusers treat other people as objects, as only a means to an end, to get what you need or want. But when Christ died and condemned all our sin as utterly inhumane, He simultaneously freed us to look outside of ourselves and to see other people as human beings, who bear God’s image just like us.
In the death and resurrection of Christ we see that life is actually found in laying your life down for others. Christ found life because He laid His life down. And you should not miss the enormous and wide-ranging repercussions of what this means for a society and a culture. Stealing is not only an act of supreme selfishness and greed, but it implicitly dehumanizes your victims. Stealing does not think of those you are stealing from as human beings, made in the image of God, it treats them as objects, as things to be used and exploited. And in cultures where stealing and taking is normal, that society is seriously hampered and bogged down by all the selfishness, all the deceit, all the double-crossing, all the corruption and bribes. But when men and women become Christians, and they are turned from being self-centered and begin telling the truth and repent of their stealing, they work with their own hands and provide for themselves.
Of course there’s a way of working hard that’s only self-serving, but Christian work goes beyond that, and is for the sake of others, particularly being prepared to give to those in need. And the thing I want to note here in connection to building a pro-life culture is that all honest labor builds a pro-life culture. When you do honest work before the Lord, no matter how humble, you are contributing to this world. You are giving the gift of your labor, your creativity, your life, and that makes the world a better place, a safer place, a more beautiful place, and as you do that, you make a world that is more welcoming to those in need, to the most vulnerable members of our society: the unborn, the disabled, the elderly, the immigrants, the single moms, the widows. If you go to work computer programming or running an office or selling useful products or teaching or running a home full of little children – you need to get up in the morning and see that work before you as fighting for the little ones. When you do any honest labor, when you do it heartily unto the Lord, you are sacrificing, you are laying your life down, and when you do that in faith for the good of others, God promises to bless it and multiply it.
Often we don’t see how it’s all connected. We want to do the great things for God, but we often forget that God usually calls us to do the good things. And we can grow weary in doing good. We can grow weary in a career that isn’t as fulfilling as perhaps we had imagined, or grow weary changing diapers and doing dishes and wonder what we’re doing. Why am I here again? You’re here because you believe in the gift of life. You believe that life is found in sacrifice, laying your life down for others because that’s how Christ saved you.
Ministries of Mercy
In 1 Timothy 5, Paul gives Timothy instructions for caring for the widows in the Church, and he says, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). Biblically speaking the family is the first line of defense for providing for those in need. A man who works hard, pays the bills, keeping food in the pantry, a roof over head, and clothes in the closets is building a world where the needs of widows and orphans can be met. And a man who does not provide for his family is functionally widowing his wife and orphaning his own children – and this is why Paul says that guy is denying the faith and worse than an unbeliever. Providing for your family means providing them love, friendship, and providing for their physical needs.
But the point I want you to see is how your day to day decisions are part of making a world in which abortion is not only illegal but completely unnecessary. Everywhere we are honest, keep our word, work hard, and practice Christian love and generosity, we are making a world that has room for every child, every human being. This is because when we give our lives away, when we lay our lives down, we always get raised up. When you freely give, God always sees it, and there is always resurrection – there is always surplus. If you refuse to give freely and demand and scrutinize, you will never have enough. But if you work honestly you will have more than you need, and that means you will always have at least a little to share. That is the core of a pro-life culture.
There are many ways to share, many ways to give, and we are not all called to give and share in the same ways. This is the glory of the body of Christ. Many of you are sharing and giving primarily in the care of the little ones God has already given you. You are investing in them, and what you are investing in them will grow and multiply 30, 60, and 100 fold. Do not despise the powerful work you are doing clothing, feeding, loving, disciplining, teaching, laughing, playing as you do this, you are honoring the image of God. And that image is an eternal soul that will live forever. Your house will collapse. Your clothes will wear out. Your car will die. But your children have souls that will live forever. And people are the greatest resource in the universe. People build and plant and discover and create. The kind of love and care you pour into the people God has put into your home will overflow in great surplus.
But as you do this, do not miss the fact that you are also practicing mercy and hospitality and friendship constantly in your family. As you practice this well, like other things you practice, you can get good at it. And then you will be in a position to share that care with others. Maybe it will be the gift of sharing meals; maybe it will be the gift of assisting other moms with their children; maybe it will be teaching; maybe it will be sharing clothing; or maybe it will be opening your home to those without one. The point is that the Lord leads all of us in the way we should go, and that primarily happens by opening your heart to Him. When you open your heart to Him, He multiplies your small acts of obedience far beyond what you imagine. The point of the feeding of the five thousand with that little boy’s five loaves and two fish is that God always does that.
What I want you to see and understand this morning is that this is what makes a world in which abortion comes to an end. We are building a community, a culture of honest labor and loving homes where there will always be a spare room, extra food in the cupboard, extra to share with those in need. And as we build this community together, sharing what God has given us, and giving to those in need, we are building a community where orphans are welcomed and loved, where all children are welcomed and loved, where widows are loved and cared for, where the disabled are welcomed and loved, where refugees from the world will flee for safety and help, where the immigrants and the strangers find families and friendship, where the image of God is honored and protected.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.