Life and death, blessing and cursing

The Bible is a pretty absolutist book. All through it you have uncompromising contrasts between the God who is and gods who aren’t, obedience and sin, life and death, blessing and cursing, light and darkness, faith and works, flesh and spirit, belief and unbelief … heaven and hell. To our modern ears, it sounds harsh to offer no third way to blessing and life. But those who find a third way to respond to God must torture the Scriptures to do so. It was not God’s intention to offer a third option. 

So yes, pro-life Christians are pretty hard to understand in the context of modern ways of thinking. FBC Jacksonville, Fla., pastor Mac Brunson recently quoted Proverbs 8:36, “But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death,” applying the verse to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and others who profit from abortion. Those who believe the Bible have a hard time quarrelling with the application, understanding that love and hate, regard and disregard, are two more biblical absolute contrasts. If you prefer the death of some or profit from death in some way, “love” is the proper word in this verse; if you disregard God, “hate” is the proper word. Pastor Brunson may be accused of intemperate language by some gentle souls, but I think “prophetic” is a better understanding of what he said. 

But it’s not nearly an exclusively Planned Parenthood problem. We have created a whole culture that has stumbled into hate (disregard, disobedience) for God and love for death. Abortion would not have taken hold in a culture that loved life. Neither would physician-assisted suicide have been thinkable or legalized in any U.S. state if we loved the God who is himself the source and Lord of life, the one who ascribes value to each individual. Biblical precepts regarding sexual purity are considered quaint by many. Many women and girls are thus pregnant too early, too often and at inconvenient times. We do not honor our elderly as the Bible instructs and rather consider them to be a drain on limited medical resources. We do not consider God to be the Lord of all our days and hours and prefer an early departure than an undignified and dreadful terminal illness. What we believe is seen by what we tolerate, encourage and do.  

There is also a culture of life in America. Thousands of churches and millions of Christians do understand that their neighbors, even the inconvenient ones, bear the image of our Creator. For that reason, we support adoption services, foster care for needy children, hunger relief, ministry to refugees, taking the gospel to the lost of every tribe, support for those facing a pregnancy they cannot handle alone and a host of institutions and ministries aimed at keeping our neighbors alive while making them whole. 

These things we do are counter-cultural, certainly in their motive, but flow from characteristics against which “there is no law,” as in Galatians 5:23. That means that we’ll always find acceptable ways to help the helpless even in a society that scorns our motives and even hates our God. 

Part of that acceptable means in our day is that we can still affect the decision-making process of our communities and nation. Our service to the God of life means that we should do so. You are likely reading this as we turn the corner into an unusually complex election year. Upon what values will you base your political involvement for 2016? 

I guess first you’ll have to determine that you will be involved, registered to vote, informed and fortified with convictions worthy of your heavenly citizenship. This last point matters, friends. I have more than once seen pundits wondering at how middle-class heartland voters vote “against their best interests,” meaning of course that we don’t always fall for promises to give us free money and instead try to vote with values both political parties find relatively trivial. Most opinion makers do not understand my “best interests.” A candidate who believes that some people have less worth than others or who panders to those who love death will not be my candidate for any office. And yes, the presidential race is starting to paint me into a corner as the leading candidates in both parties (there are only two) seem to spectacularly fail this test. 

But I do not have the option of sitting this one out. I continue to work alongside those who love life and will try to be one of that earnest number, but such work takes place in an amazing variety of contexts. As I said, there is a culture of life in our world, and it operates openly in America. We don’t need popular acclaim or even permission to live out the life that has been born in us by the Spirit of God. It’s as urgent as it’s ever been in our world, and our enemies remain the same as in past generations—paganism, idolatry, our old fleshy selves, and the father lies and death himself. 

We must not be timid to reflect the light and life and truth of our Creator. Some will be saved from darkness and death as we do so.  

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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