Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness,
but instead expose them.
I begin this morning by making sure that we understand the difference between a Christian call to pro-life action and a non-Christian call to pro-life action. I am glad that non-Christians are calling for an end to abortion. I am glad that there are "atheists for life." One of the things that makes America work is that what Christians see as right behavior because of Christ non-Christians see as right for other reasons.
This is not surprising. Some of the truth that is rooted in Jesus as the Son of God is also revealed partially in creation. The law written on the heart of all men and women (Romans 2:14), no matter how marred by sin, is still God's law. So there is always hope that in the gracious providence of God believers and non-believers in a pluralistic society might come to agree that certain behaviors are right and certain behaviors are wrong.
But I am a Christian pastor, not a politician. My main job is not to unite believers and unbelievers behind worthwhile causes. Somebody should do this. But that is not my job. Some of you ought to be doing that with a deep sense of Christian calling. My job is to glorify Jesus Christ by calling his people to be distinctively Christian in the way they live their lives.
Therefore I begin by showing you from Scripture (not from natural law, as crucial as that is for social survival) what is distinctively Christian in my call to pro-life action.
A Call to Be What You Are in Christ: Four Examples
A Christian call to pro-life action is a call to the children of light to be what you are in Christ. This is utterly crucial to grasp if you want to act as a Christian. Let me give you four instances of what I mean from this text.
- Let's start in the verse just before our text—the last verse of Ephesians 4 (v. 32), "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." A Christian call to forgive does not say: forgive in order to earn the forgiveness of God. It says forgive because you have been forgiven by God. Look at the last half of verse 32: "Forgive one another as God in Christ forgave you." Christian living moves from what God has freely done for us in Christ to what we should freely do for others. It is not the other way around.
- A second example is in verse 1 of chapter 5: "Be imitators of God as beloved children." It does not say, "Be imitators of God in order to get adopted." It begins with your standing in Christ as "loved children." "To as many as received Christ to them God gave authority to be children of God" (John 1:12). So the Christian call to imitate God in the world is not a call to earn a standing with him, but a call to be what you are—chips off the old block, loved children of God. Loved children love to be like their father.
- A third example is verse 2: "Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us." It does not say, "Walk in love so that Christ will start loving us and give himself up for us." It says Christ loved us and gave himself for us, therefore walk in love. Be what he has died to make you, and secured for you.
- A fourth example is in verse 8: "Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of the light." It does not say, "Be the light of the world so that you can become children of the light." It says, "You ARE light in the Lord. You ARE no longer darkness. You are children of the light. Walk as what you are."
This is the difference between a Christian call to pro-life action and a non-Christian call. The call to forgive, the call to imitate God, the call to walk in love, the call to walk as children of the light—these are calls rooted in something that God in Christ has done for us. They are rooted in what God has already made us in Christ. They are calls to be what we are because of God's forgiveness, God's adoption, Christ's sacrificial love, and God's putting his light within us.
First a Call to Conversion, Then to Light-Shining
All of that happens to you when you become a Christian by putting your trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life. The rest of the story is: become what you are! Forgive—out of your forgivenness. Love—out of your being loved. Shine—with the light that Christ is in you. So the call to Christian pro-life action is first a call to conversion—to new birth—to repentance and faith in Jesus. Then it is a call to let your light shine in the darkness—to walk as children of the light.
This is why in verse 9 Paul says, "For the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true." Paul calls goodness and justice and truth the FRUIT of light because it grows naturally out of light. Fruit comes out of a tree because of what the tree is. That is the Christian life: becoming what you are—bearing fruit.
The opposite of the "fruit of light" is "the works of darkness." Look at verse 11: "Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness." The opposite of "light" is "darkness" and the opposite of "fruit" is "works." This is just like Galatians 5 where Paul contrasts the "fruit of the Spirit" and the "works of the flesh." And the point is the same: true Christian living is essentially fruit-bearing, not essentially working. It is essentially letting the fruit show what the tree is like. It is not working to become a tree.
We become a tree and stay a sound tree by trusting in the free mercy of God and all that he is for us in Jesus. The Christian life—with all its pro-life action and everything else that is good—is being what we are, God-forgiven, God-adopted, Christ-loved, fruit-bearing trees.
A Distinctively Christian Call to Pro-Life Action
Now on that basis consider the distinctively Christian call to pro-life action. Verse 8b says, "Walk as children of the light." Verse 11 gives a negative and a positive way to do that. Negatively: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather [this is the positive part:] expose them." Walking in the light means not doing works of darkness and it means exposing the works of darkness that others do.
Therefore we learn from this text that Christians who walk in the light should be involved in exposing the dark and fruitless work of abortion. It is a dark and barren work, and we are called to expose it.
The word "expose" is used again in verse 13 where you get a clear idea of what's involved: "When anything is exposed by the light it becomes visible." The idea is that when we "walk as children of the light," we will shine into places of darkness and cause the darkness to become visible, or to become light. Or to use the words of Jesus, when we let our light shine before men, the dark works of men become shown for what they really are: fruitless and shameful. That's part of our calling.
In John 3:20 we see this word again. Jesus says, "Every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." So the point behind this word is that Christians are called to shine the light of truth and justice and love into the darkness and bring evil to light for what it really is.
A Call to Be the Conscience of the Culture
Another way to say this is that God calls his people to be the conscience of the culture. Our individual conscience probes into our behavior and either approves or disapproves what we do. So the children of light are to probe into the life of their culture and approve or disapprove what it does.
I hope you hear the force of this. It is radically different from the passivity and moral withdrawal of many Christians. Many believers have a passive avoidance ethic and that is all. In other words they think: if I avoid the works of darkness, and don't do them myself, then I am doing my Christian duty. I'm clean. I'm in the light. But that is not what verse 11 says. It says you are only doing half your duty. "Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness"—that's an avoidance ethic. That's half your duty. But it goes on, and in fact puts stress on the next phrase because it is easily overlooked and because it can be very costly: "Rather even expose them!" Don't just avoid the works of darkness, EXPOSE them. This is not avoidance. This is action.
Expose the Dark and Fruitless Work of Abortion
Do you hear a call to action in this verse? Do you hear a call to do something in 1992 to expose the darkness and the fruitlessness (the barrenness!) of abortion? God is calling us in this verse—he is calling all Christians—to expose the dark and fruitless work of abortion . . .
- To expose the fact that there are 1.5 million abortions in America every year—27 million since the Supreme Court overturned the public conscience of 48 states 19 years ago.
- To expose the fact that 30% of all babies conceived in America are killed by abortion.
- To expose the fact that medically women are told not to have abortions before the seventh week of pregnancy (see the Yes/Neon booklet), and yet by the eighth week the heart of the baby has been beating for a month, there are measurable brain waves, there is response to touch, there's thumb-sucking, grasping with the hands, swimming with the arms in the amniotic fluid, distinct arms and legs and sexual organs. This much must—not may, must—be present before most abortion centers will cut the baby to pieces with a suction machine 4,000 times a day.
- To expose the fact that 9,000 babies were killed after the 21st week of pregnancy in 1987, fully formed and on the brink of being able to breathe for themselves—killed, legally!
- To expose the fact that in Minnesota we have a fetal homicide law that makes it "murder to kill an embryo or fetus intentionally, except in cases of abortion"—in other words, it's unlawful to kill the unborn child unless the mother chooses to have it killed. And that is a strange and dark criterion for lawful killing.
- To expose the fact that "There is inescapable schizophrenia in aborting a perfectly normal 22 week fetus while at the same hospital, performing intra-uterine surgery on its cousin" (Steve Calvin).
- To expose the fact that viability outside the womb is not a criterion of personhood and right to life, because we ourselves don't want to give up our personhood and our right to life if we must be sustained on a respirator or dialysis machine the way a baby has to be sustained by a placenta.
- To expose the fact that the size and reasoning power of a tiny person is irrelevant to human personhood because if it were, we might allow tiny and unthinking newborns to be killed.
- To expose the fact that genetically human embryos and fetuses are utterly different from all other animal life; if they are just left alone, with nothing added but nourishment, they will grow up.
- To expose the fact that if it is unlawful to crush the egg of a bald eagle, it is not excessively restrictive to make it unlawful to crush the egg of a human.
- To expose the fact that when two legitimate rights conflict—the right not to be pregnant and the right not to be killed—justice demands that we give place to the greater right, the right that does the least harm—the one that does not willfully kill.
- To expose the fact that there are thousands of crisis pregnancy centers in this country ready to help, and almost all of them are free—unlike the abortion mills that charge plenty of money—and the older the baby, the more they charge.
- To expose the fact that there are no unwanted babies in Minnesota. Mary Ann Kuharsky (President of ProLife Minnesota) said in the Tribune she would take any baby whose life depended on it, and there are hundreds like her.
- To expose the fact that it is hypocritical to speak as though choice were the untouchable absolute in this matter and then turn around and oppose choice in matters of gun-control and welfare support and affirmative action and minimum wage and dozens of other issues where so-called pro-choice people join the demand that people's choices be limited to protect others. It's a sham argument. All choices are limited by life.
- To expose the fact that trespassing to save life is not a crime and that it does not undermine our legal system, but on the contrary endorses the one foundation stone without which that legal system in this land will fall, namely, the inalienable right to life. There will be no law but the law of individual choice (=anarchy) if the foundation stone of life's value is destroyed. And abortion is destroying it.
God is calling passive, inactive Christians today to engage our minds and hearts and hands in exposing the barren works of darkness. To be the conscience of our culture. To be the light of the world. To live in the great reality of being loved by God and adopted by God and forgiven by Christ (yes—for all the abortions that dozens of you have had), and be to made children of the light. I call you this morning to walk as children of light.