And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two Denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
God has commanded us in his word, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). And he told us why. He said in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” In other words, when you murder a human, you attack God who makes every human in his image. This is the fundamental mistake that Princeton professor Peter Singer makes when he argues that (quoting Richard John Neuhaus, who debated Singer) “the life of an adult pig deserves protection more than that of a new born human baby, and . . . the parents should be free to kill their young children already born if they deem them unacceptably disabled.”1 The reason he is wrong is that the human baby is created in the image of God, and the pig isn’t.
The psalmist describes how God is personally and meticulously involved in the creation of each person in the womb: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14). And lest we think that somehow the children in the womb are not children—not human, not persons—God lets us read the words of the angel in Luke 1:15 to Zechariah concerning John the Baptist, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb,” so that a few verses later his pregnant mother said to Mary, “Behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44).
And when we have heard all these things, God says to us in America in the 21st century stained with the blood of millions of unborn babies, these words from Proverbs 24:11-12, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”
What work? The work of mercy, the work of justice, the work of caring for the oppressed and defending the unborn. The good work of loving the unborn. Why after all did Jesus Christ come to redeem us from our sin and guilt? Paul tells us in Titus 2:14, “He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Among which is the glorious work of laboring and defending our unborn neighbor.
January 22 is the 33rd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision called Roe vs. Wade. That decree that made abortion legal in our country all the way up to birth, if the health of the mother is at stake; and the health of the mother has been construed to mean any discomfort that would come from an unwanted pregnancy. So what we have had for 33 years is virtually abortion on demand. In that time, the lives of 46 million unborn children have been ended by abortion in the United States. Women’s Issues web site estimates that worldwide that same number of abortions happen each year.
Abortion Closer to Home
The parable of the Good Samaritan, among other things, presses us from the global to the local. So let’s take a step closer to home. Since 1973 in our state, Minnesota, the lives of 490,000 unborn children have been ended by abortion. In 2004 there were 13,788 abortions in this state. (As tragic and as horrifying as that is, there is an encouraging side because this is the lowest number since 1975.)
But the parable of the Good Samaritan would press us still closer to home. Almost all the abortions in Minnesota are done here in the Twin Cities in five local clinics. I want to give you a glimpse into these clinics and then turn to the parable of the Good Samaritan and then come back to them at the end with a dream.
1. Midwest Health Center for Women is located downtown Minneapolis at 33 South Fifth Street, 4th Floor, Minneapolis, Minn., 55402. On their web site they state openly that they provide about 3,000 of those abortions each year and advocate for the sexual freedom that makes many of them feel so necessary.
Midwest Health Center for Women provides quality health care and advocates and promotes reproductive freedom and healthy sexuality. . . . Annually, Midwest provides abortion services for 3,000 patients. . . . We also seek to expand public awareness and gather support for reproductive rights and health care.
As an abortion provider we are prepared for a long political battle over reproductive rights. Continued attacks from the anti-choice minority threaten access to this legal and safe procedure through legislative action and regulatory burdens. For example, the so-called “Women’s Right to Know” which became Minnesota law in 2003 added $80,000 annually to the clinic’s operating budget.
2. Meadowbrook Women’s Clinic is located four blocks from our downtown campus at 825 South 8th Street, Suite 1018, Minneapolis, Minn., 55404. Here are a couple glimpses into their work. Question from their FAQ section: “Q: How long will the abortion take? A: If you are less than 14 weeks, the abortion will take approximately 5 to 10 minutes. If you are 14 to 21.6 weeks, the length of time will be somewhat longer (20 to 30 minutes).”
Twenty-one and a half weeks? Do you know what that baby looks like and experiences? He or she is about 11 inches long and weighs about a pound and is within two or three weeks of being able to live outside the womb. Steve Calvin, who works in the neonatal unit at Abbott hospital wrote in the Minneapolis StarTribune
Recently, I performed an amniocentesis on a patient at 21 weeks gestation because of a possible infection. On ultrasound, the fetus pulled away from the needle when it grazed her arm. It is clear to me that this fetus felt discomfort, and that she would feel horrible pain if she were dismembered in the exercise of an unjust constitutional right.2
The dismembering of a human being routinely in 30 minutes on an outpatient bases—or any other way—is barbaric. Four blocks from our church all year long—like churches within smelling distance of Auschwitz or Dachau or Buchenwald.
3. Robbinsdale Clinic, 3819 West Broadway, Robbinsdale, Minn., 55422. They strike a defensive political posture at their web site:
It is the responsibility of all American women and their families to work to keep abortion safe and legal by voting for Pro-Choice officials, and working with various organizations to ensure this basic fundamental right of reproductive freedom. Please remember, while over 70% of Americans believe in the right to choose, a small but vocal minority of narrow-minded anti-abortion forces, could make a major impact on the threat to women’s rights.
4. Mildred S. Hanson, M.D, 710 East 24th Street, Suite 403, Minneapolis, Minn., 55404. The web site calls her a “Late Abortion Specialist” and then boasts in this distinction: “First and second trimester abortions by a woman gynecologist, the first physician in Minnesota to perform the second trimester D&E procedure.” The business side is clear and simple at her site:
Fees for Office Abortions Through 20 Weeks
5-6 weeks $475 7-10.5 weeks $420 11-12 weeks $515 13-14 weeks $615 15th week $820 16th week $920 17-18 weeks $1,070 18-19.4 weeks $1,320 19-20 weeks $1,520
5. Planned Parenthood, Highland Park Clinic, 1965 Ford Parkway, St. Paul, Minn., 55116. Out of the 13,000+ abortions done in Minnesota each year about 23% are done at Planned Parenthood. Their web site describes how caring this is: “With many years of experience, our physicians and staff provide caring, confidential, and affordable abortion services.”
That’s the reality of abortion fairly close to home. Of course even closer are the abortions you have experienced personally: your girlfriend, your wife, your daughter, your granddaughter, yourself. Jesus hates abortion and he loves you. When you feel both of these truths the way he wants you to, you will weep with brokenhearted joy. I know women in this church who have walked through it, been broken by it, and emerged strong in the Lord and in the cause of life. Be patient with your healing. Your time for courage in the cause of life will come.
Who is my Neighbor?
O how many things we could observe from the parable of the Good Samaritan! But I have one main observation to make and apply to our situation. The parable begins with a lawyer trying to justify himself by asking the question “Who is my neighbor” (in verse 29), and ends with Jesus’ question in verse 36, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor?” Ten sermons could be preached on ten different issues raised by this parable. But I want you to see this one crucial thing: Jesus tells a story that changes the question from What kind of person is my neighbor? to What kind of person am I? He changes the question from What status of people are worthy of my love? to How can I become the kind of person whose compassion disregards status?
Let’s make sure we see this and then apply it. A lawyer asks in verse 25 about how to inherit eternal life. He is not sincere. It says he is testing Jesus. Jesus puts the question back to him in verse 26 to reveal the duplicity. What does the Law say? He answers in verse 27 that we should love God will all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus exposes him by saying in effect: So you already know the answer. He sees that he has been exposed and needs to cover up his hypocrisy and so verse 29 says, “Desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” In other words, it’s not so easy, Jesus. Life is complicated—like, which kind of people do we have to love? Who qualifies for being a neighbor in the command, “Love your neighbor”? Every race? Every age. The unborn?
Now how will Jesus answer? He does not like this question. Carving humanity up into groups some of whom are worthy of our love and others are not. Jesus does not answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” He tells a parable that changes the question.
Jesus Shifts the Focus
Between Jerusalem and Jericho a man falls among robbers and verse 30 says they “stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” The first two people to pass by are a priest and a Levite—the most religious folks—and they both pass by on the other side (vv. 31, 32). Then came a Samaritan, not even a Jew, and the key phrase about this man is at the end of verse 33: “he had compassion.”
You see how the focus has shifted. The question about what kind of man is dying is not even in the story any more. The whole focus is now on the kind of people who are walking by. The first two felt no compassion. The Samaritan was a different kind of person. So when you get to the end, what’s the question Jesus asks? Was it, “So was the wounded man a neighbor?” No. That is not the question. Jesus asked the lawyer (v. 36), “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer said in verse 37, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
No answer to his question: Who is my neighbor? Instead: Go become a new kind of person. Go get a compassionate heart. This is exactly what Jesus died for. This is the promise of the new covenant in Ezekiel 36:26, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” And Jesus said at the last supper, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). Those who follow Jesus all the way to the cross will see him there paying for their new heart.
What Kind of Person Am I?
So the point I believe I should make about abortion is this: When all the arguments are said and done about the status of pre-born human life and whether the unborn qualify for our compassion along with mommy and daddy and grandma and granddaddy—when we are done trying to establish, “Is this my neighbor?”—the decisive issue of love remains: What kind of person am I? Does compassion rise in my heart for both mommy and daddy and grandma and granddaddy and this unborn baby? Or do I just get another coke and change the channel?
Look at the practical compassion—the concrete, hands-on, get-messy compassion of verses 34-35. This is a huge part of the parable. Jesus belabors this to drive something home about the kind of person who follows him. Here it is (vv.34-35):
He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two Denarii [two days wages, maybe $300] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.”
That is amazing!
A Heart of Compassion
My prayer for us in response to this message is that we become like that. A heart of compassion leading to hands-on, messy, sacrificial, time-consuming, stressful action. I believe there is something everyone can do in the cause of defending and protecting and loving everyone involved in abortion.
Which takes us back to Midwest Health Center for Women, and Meadowbrook Women’s Clinic, and Robbinsdale Clinic, and Mildred Hanson, and Planned Parenthood. The people who own and operate and work there are real people. Above all, they need Christ. What might God be pleased to do if 4,000 concerned Christians committed ourselves to pray daily that Christ would manifest his saving grace in those places? What divine encounters of compassionate involvement might God create? Let there be no violence from our side. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. If the owners and administrators and employees of these five clinics met the living Christ and were saved, would abortion be offered in Minnesota any longer? There is more that you can do. But this much I ask you to do. Pray regularly that the owners, administrators, and employees of Midwest Health Center for Women, Meadowbrook Women’s Clinic, Robbinsdale Clinic, Mildred Hanson, and Planned Parenthood would be saved.
1 Richard John Neuhaus, “While We’re at It” in First Things (January, 2006, Issue 159), 74.
2 Steve Calvin, “Think Fetuses Can’t Feel Pain? Try Telling Them That” (Minneapolis StarTribune, August 30, 2005).