On March 6, 1857 the Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford that a black man whose ancestors were imported into the US and sold as slaves, could not be an American citizen and therefore had no standing to sue for his freedom in a federal court. Many historians and scholars believe that the Dred Scott decision was the high court’s worst decision ever.
I agree that it was a bad decision, but everything rides on the question why? Why was it a bad decision? Was it against the constitution? If you read the majority opinion written by the Chief Justice, you’ll find that he actually appealed to the Declaration of Independence, arguing that when it says that “all men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights… among them is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – that those words, the Chief Justice argued, could not have been thought to apply to the African race. He said that the authors could not have been thinking of slaves. And what if he was right? What if the authors of the Declaration weren’t thinking of slaves? How do we know the Dred Scott decision was still wrong?
The reason the Dred Scott decision was wrong is because it defied the Creator. On one level it doesn’t matter what the signers of the Declaration of Independence had mind. It doesn’t matter what they thought. Everything depends on what the Creator had in mind. Who did the Creator give those unalienable rights to? You can’t appeal to the Creator and then exclude His opinion from the discussion.
And we don’t have to speculate about what the Creator thinks. Scripture says that God created all men in His own image, male and female in His likeness, and from one blood, He has made all the nations of the earth. The reason the Dred Scott decision was wrong and is wrong is because it ignored and defied the opinion of God our Creator.
But as bad a decision as it was, the Dred Scott decision will not go down in history as the worst Supreme Court decision ever. At this point, that infamy is reserved for Roe v. Wade.
Since the Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973, forty-four years ago tomorrow, the law of our land has likewise defied the Creator God, denying to the unborn the right to life . Since that time, 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. Over 60,000 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 give additional protections for women carrying unborn children (Ex. 21:22-24). Because human beings are made in the image of God, life is to be diligently protected (Gen. 9:5-6). David declares that unborn infants belong to God, and His hand is upon them, knitting them together in their mother’s wombs (Ps. 22:9-10, 139:13-16). 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, John, 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.
But we cannot stand here today testifying against the brutal desecration of the image of God in little ones, if we do not connect the dots to the desecration and exploitation of God’s image in other ways. The abortion industry is propped up on the demand for sexual exploitation of every kind. Pornography and prostitution gross in the tens of billions of dollars every year. And these industries in turn drive an underground sex trade in which some estimates suggest that between 300,000 and 400,000 girls are victimized in America 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 discarded like so much disposable merchandise. And lifestyles of exploitation – using other people for what we can get out of them – demand abortion.
Therefore, we cannot stand here asking God to end abortion in our land and throughout the world while giving any room for any exploitation in our lives or in our hearts. We cannot ask God to end abortion while we continue to dishonor marriage, treating sexual love like a swap meet. We cannot ask God to end abortion while we continue to buy movies and television shows that pay women to undress in front of cameras – as though their bodies can be bought and sold. We cannot ask God to end abortion while we continue to speak to our wives or our husbands without respect or kindness. How can we ask God to end abortion in our land while we yell and lose our tempers with our own children? Jesus says that all murder begins in the heart with anger.
This means that the situation is pretty dire because we are all implicated. But listen to the glorious words of the apostle Paul: “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). So while we stand here today, asking God to end abortion and praying that laws will be passed that protect all unborn life, we must do so recognizing that the problem goes down deep and therefore the law will not ultimately be able to take care of this problem. But what the law could not do, God has done by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, and he condemned sin in the flesh. At the center of our resistance against all human exploitation, must be the cross of Jesus. Because in the Cross, God not only condemned the unjust taking of unborn life, He also condemned all our hatred, our bitterness, our lust, our theft – every form of human exploitation, and he condemned it in the flesh of Jesus so that it all might be forgiven. There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
So while we must stand unflinchingly against every form of human exploitation, we do so holding forth this 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.
And so we lift up the cross of Jesus as the only sign, the only thing strong enough, powerful enough to take away this scourge, this plague, this blood-guilt from our land.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!