Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not associate with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Well, here we are living as Christians in a country whose Supreme Court – not THE Supreme Court, which is Jesus Christ alone (2 Timothy 4:1) – decreed on January 22, 1973 that the taking of unborn human life is constitutionally protected up until the moment of birth. In 1982 the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee concluded in an official report, "No significant legal barriers of any kind whatsoever exist today in the United States for a woman to obtain an abortion for any reason during any stage of her pregnancy." (John Ensor, Answering the Call [Colorado Springs: Focus on the Family, 2003], p. 141)
Since then about forty million abortions have been performed in America. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention about 43% of all American women will have at least one abortion by the age of 45 (pp. 18). 20% of these are performed on teenagers (pp.28). 50% are performed on women who have had at least one abortion already (pp. 31). Every third baby conceived and viable in this country is killed by abortion (pp. 35). The vast majority of abortions are performed between the seventh and tenth week when the baby is already sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking,responding to sound. All his organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells,the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. His genetic code is uniquely and unquestionably human. And, if we are willing, he can be seen by ultrasound.
In his new book from Focus on the Family, Answering the Call (2003), John Ensor points out that one in six abortions are done on women identifying themselves as "born again"Christians: and 31% are done on women who say they are Catholic.When he was a pastor in Boston in 1989 he was shocked, he said, to discover that 30% of the women in his church had had an abortion(pp. 21-22). Ensor concludes, "Indeed, the abortion industry could not survive financially without paying customers drawn from the church (pp. 21)."
Which puts me, as always, in the position of needing, on the one hand, to declare forgiveness and hope to dozens of men and women in this church who have had and have approved abortions, and, on the other hand, to declare the outrage of abortion as something we should oppose with all the wisdom and courage and perseverance and sacrifice that God will give us.
Powerful Gospel Hope
So let me speak a word of powerful gospel hope into this congregation concerning the sin of abortion – even multiple abortions. Hear the great climactic words of the apostle Paul heralded to sinners in Antioch of Pisidia in Acts 13:38-39: "Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man [Jesus Christ] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and in him everyone who believes is justified from everything from which you could not be justified in the law of Moses" (my translation).
There is forgiveness – all sins wiped away, even abortion,and there is justification, the declaration of righteousness, over against every kind of sin you have ever done. How can this be? The life and death of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, pardons all debts and provides all righteousness for everyone who believes. Those who have been forgiven much, Jesus said, will love much (Luke 7:47). Oh, how sweetly the post-aborted women and men in this church should love Jesus Christ!
And now, to supplement that gospel declaration – and I pray with your heartfelt support – I want to go on record again, as I have each January for the last 17 years, thatI believe abortion is morally outrageous:
fatal for children,
damaging to women,
corrupting to men,
debasing to culture,
mangling to human reason and language,
and an assault on Jesus Christ, through whom all things are made.
Judge Blackmun’s Supposed Suspension of Judgment
When the editors at the Minneapolis Star Tribune this past Wednesday celebrated the abortion rights decreed by Roe v.Wade (January 22, 2003, p. A14) they raised the question when"incipient life becomes ‘protectably human,’" and said that no better answer has been given than Justice Harry Blackmun’s when he wrote:
We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine,philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate.
What’s the flaw here? The flaw is that, while claiming to withhold judgment, the judiciary not only speculated but authoritatively decreed on the issue: namely, it is not murder or manslaughter to destroy the unborn. That is not a suspension of judgment. That is a decisive judgment: namely, in the womb there is nothing worth protecting by law. To portray this as a sensitive suspension of judgment about the status of unborn life is false and deceptive.
How do you get from, "We do not know whether this is protectable human life," to "Therefore, we will not protect it"? Wouldn’t the logic just as likely (some would say far more likely) be,"Since we do not know whether this is protectable human life,therefore we will protect it." Why does the judicial uncertainty about the humanity of the unborn lead to unbridled license to destroy it?
The Dissenting Opinion: Convenience vs. Protection of Life
This is what stunned Justice White and Justice Rhenquist in the majority report of the Court. They gave the answer in their dissenting opinion in 1973:
The Court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life which she carries. . . . I [Justice White is writing] can in no event join the Court’s judgment because I find no constitutional warrant for imposing such an order of priorities on the people and legislature of the States. (Roe v. Wade, 410 US 113 )
There it is. To say, "We don’t know if this is protectable human life, therefore we will not protect it and you may destroy it," is the "imposing of an order of priorities on the people." The convenience of the mother shall have priority over the existence of the unborn. This is not a thoughtful, delicate suspending of judgment. This is judgment against the unborn – call that life what you will, it has been condemned.
Obeying Ephesians 5
Now, I am a Christian pastor who wants to be Biblical, and gives not a rip for being Republican or Democrat. Such things mean almost nothing to me. But the glory and will and the rights of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Judge of all men, mean everything tome. Why then have I begun the way I have? Why start with the newspaper?
Answer: we didn’t start with the newspaper. We started by reading the word of God, Ephesians 5:1-16. And I have taken my cue from verses 10-11: "Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." That is what I have tried to do in quoting the Star Tribune – expose the fruitless works of darkness. Abortion is one of most clearly fruitless works of darkness there is. And it is sustained and supported by the darkening of reason and language that runs though this editorial,and most pro-choice literature.
From verse 8 to verse 14 in Ephesians 5 the emphasis is on the important role of Christians as light in a dark world.
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
Christians Are Salt
This should remind us of something Jesus said about his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:13:
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste,how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The true followers of Jesus – not just those who are Christians in name only – are salt and light in their culture. We often puzzle over whether our saltiness is our the flavor or radical love or the preservative of moral stability. I suspect mainly radical love, because of the context, but not excluding the preserving influences. But do we as often ponder the function of light?
Christians Are Light
Jesus says, in Matthew 5:14, "You are the light of the world."And in Ephesians 5:8, "At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord." So both of them say, Christians are light.Not only that, they both agree that, "The fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true." The shining of your light as a Christian is bearing practical fruit in "good deeds" –"what is good and right and true." But Paul stresses a function of light that Jesus does not mention here – although he is really good at doing it in many other places: light exposes the dark. When light gets near a dark thing truth happens. Things are seen for what they are. The deceptions and half-truths are blown away.
Abortion is one of the darkest works of the human race –it is child sacrifice. And the only way it can survive is for darkness to survive. Wherever the light of truth and love comes,darkness flies away. Therefore it is one of the great callings of the followers of Jesus to let their light shine in both ways: to do good deeds and to expose darkness. The aim is partly negative:reveal the error hidden in the darkness, but mainly positive: to bring people to love the light and be made light in the Lord Jesus.
This gives us some clear guidance in the Christian church. Let there be both the light of good deeds – like all the manifold ministries of crisis pregnancy centers and adoption and sidewalk counseling and education and political engagement. And let there be the light of loving analysis and critique and exposure – in reading and thinking and conversing and writing. And of course the two cannot be separated. The doing of truth in loving acts of sacrifice for the sake of life will in the end expose the darkness as much as all talking and writing.
If there were time I would love to ponder with you at least three other parts of this text relevant for the prolife cause. Let me mention them.
1. Ephesians 5:1. "Be imitators of God, as beloved children." You are a child of God. God loves his children and cares for them. Now be imitators of God. One way: love your children the way he loves his children. God loves them before they exist. God loves them in the making – and even calls them in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5; Galatians 1:15). God loves them on the earth. And he will love them eternally in the kingdom of God. Not one has ever been an inconvenience. So let us love children: the idea of children, children in the making, and children on the earth.
2. Ephesians 5:2. "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." The way God loved us as his children was through the sacrificial love of his Son. Christ died that we might live. This is the opposite of abortion. Abortion kills that someone might live differently. In Romans 5:6 Paul says, "While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." We were weak – like the unborn are weak. Oh, how we Christians should stand up for the weak! Since this was our plight when we were rescued. And Oh, how ready we should be to sacrifice, since the sacrifice paid for us was infinite.
3. Ephesians 5:3. "But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints." If sexual immorality and covetousness – these two massive powers in our culture – were conquered, abortion would almost entirely vanish. It isn’t sex by itself that makes abortion. It is sex plus covetousness: desiring things that God does not will for us to have because we are not willing to find our satisfaction in him. Illicit sex and unencumbered freedom without children: for these we covet, and abortion is the result.
How To Shine Your Life into the Darkness of Abortion
But I leave those three points for another time. I want to close by making four or five suggestions for your action – the shining of your light into the darkness of abortion.
1. Consider adoption. God has overwhelmingly blessed our church in this regard. It is normal to adopt at Bethlehem. Two ministries have emerged in this regard. The MICAH Fund (Minority Infant Child Adoption Help) has helped fund the adoption of 211 children in its 12 years of existence. The much younger LYDIA Fund (Let Youths Be Delivered from Institutions by Adoption) has helped fund the adoption of 37 children internationally. Pray about this and get information. I spoke at a fund-raising banquet of an adoption agency in Macon, Georgia last fall, and that night they held up two brand new beautiful babies ready for adoption. If I were not 57 years old, I am almost sure Noel and I would have brought them home.
2. Be a regular giver of your money to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. One example of how crucial this can be: When John Ensor’s ministry, A Woman’s Concern, added an ultrasound unit to its crisis pregnancy counseling, the rate of women choosing life jumped from 35% to 76%. 329 women chose against abortion in the first 18 months. This cost the abortion industry$148,000. The point is: whoever funded that ultrasound unit is having a significant impact for life and against abortion. And there are many ways that these frontline ministries need our help.When you leave today give to the Helping Hand Offering which will go to New Life Family Services U. of M. branch. And take a baby bottle bank and fill it and bring it back at the end of February.
3. Be involved in spreading truth with good literature. We are giving away samples today of a paper from the Human Life Alliance called The Silent Epidemic. It is not explicitly Christian, and so may have a pre-evangelism effect of awakening people to aspects of the truth with its remarkable variety of approaches to the issue. Noel and I both read it and found it very helpful. Take one and then my suggestion is: buy a bundle from the St. Paul address and distribute them in some systematic way. In other words, think and act about how the light of this much truth might shine.
4. The other thing I would mention is more or less direct involvement: making your presence know at the abortion clinics in town; writing or phoning or visiting and talking, if you can, with those who work there, volunteering in a Crisis Pregnancy Center, participating in Bethlehem’s Sanctity of Life Task Force. Dream a new kind of ministry!
5. And always pray.And to keep you praying about abortion, keep abortion before you. Read. Read John Ensor’s new book from Focus on the Family, Answering the Call. It’s the only book I think that I read in one day. And look at the websites that we will list for you.
Remember: "At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light . . . . Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them."
And remember also: "Through Jesus Christ forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and in him everyone who believes is justified from everything from which you could not be justified in the law of Moses.