Life: What a Beautiful Choice
Sermon 11 of 12 from the Street Smarts series
January 1995 – Proverbs 24:11-12 says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”
This is Sanctity of Life Sunday. We join this morning with hundreds and thousands of churches across America in upholding the value of all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of death. This Sunday was not picked at random. Sanctity of Life Sunday is always observed on the Sunday closest to January 23, the day in 1973 when the Supreme Court handed down its infamous Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion on demand in America. Since that terrible decision was handed down some 22 years ago, over 30 million unborn babies have died legally in America.
We, as an evangelical church, join today not just to celebrate the value of life, but we join today to protest against the killing. We join today to raise our voices in one great call from ocean to ocean, from every corner of this nation, that enough blood has been shed, that enough babies have been killed, that it is time for the killing to end.
So this is Sanctity of Life Sunday. But all is not well in the pro-life movement. For our cause, this year is troubled. Our critics are many. People who were with us last year are not so sure they want to be with us this year. For it was about 18 or 19 months ago that a defrocked Presbyterian minister by the name of Paul Hill took a shotgun and outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida he shot Dr. David Gunn in cold blood, killing him and killing another person. Then, just a few weeks ago, a man by the name of John Salvey, or so the police say, entered two abortion clinics in Brookline, Massachussetts and opened fire, indiscriminately shooting at people. He didn’t kill any abortion doctors, but he got a receptionist and another person and wounded many more.
Since that time there has been an avalanche—and that’s the only word for it—an outpouring of negative publicity, the likes of which I do not think we have seen since the pro-life movement really came to its strength some 22 years ago. We have seen our point of view ridiculed, vilified, hated, mocked. We have been painted in the media as if everyone who is pro-life is a gun-toting fanatic who is ready to shoot to kill.
Though we are against abortion with all of our heart and all of our soul, and we as a church stand against it with all that we have, there is something else we need to say today. We really need to answer the questions: What does it mean to be pro-life? What is the true pro-life position and what is a false pro-life position? What should we do in light of the continued carnage inside the abortion clinics? And what should we do and how should we feel in light of the shootings that are being carried on now in the name of God and of Jesus Christ?
I have done my share of abortion protesting. From the time that I really understood abortion, which was about 1979, I have always regarded abortion as an abiding evil. And I agree with those people who say that abortion really is the sin of America. At this point, it is the sin. There are many sins, but it is the preeminent sin of our society, because it is the official, sanctioned destruction of innocent human life.
You probably don’t know this, but I have done my share of protesting outside abortuariums. When I was in Dallas, I spoke at a rally and I walked on the picket line outside the Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas protesting their policy of elective abortions. One of my good friends was arrested in an Operation Rescue protest in Dallas. The man who is now the head of Operation Rescue all across America, Flip Benham, back in the 80s when I pastored the Northeast Bible Church in Garland, Texas. Flip was the pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Garland, Texas and we were good friends. He has since gone on to head the Operation Rescue organization and I have spoken out publicly and in print in favor of the concept of non-violent protest to stop the killing of the unborn.
But that is really not what we are talking about right now. We are really talking about the case of the shooting of people who happen to work at abortion clinics. How should we feel about that, and how should our pro-life position be expressed? I’m going to give you four answers very briefly to that question.
I. We must continue, no matter what, to affirm the value and dignity of all life, born and unborn.The Bible says that men and women are all created in the image of God. The Bible says in Psalm 139:13-16 that God himself takes responsibility for the formation of the unborn. He is the one who knits the babies together in their mother’s womb. He is the one who sees their yet unformed substance. He is the one who takes note of them while they are still inside the womb.
Who is it that gives life? It is God Almighty. Who is it that causes that unborn baby to survive inside the womb? It is God Almighty. Who is it that gives life and brings life? Who is it that takes the little hands and feet and eyes and nose and lips and assembles them together, literally knits the bond together? It is God Almighty.
So if we believe the Bible, and we must, then I think we have to reaffirm our belief in the sanctity of all life, born and unborn. We have to say once again in clear tones that from the moment of conception there is a distinct individual who has come into being—an individual made in the image of God; an individual with a human soul; an individual for whom Christ died. We must say that; we must hold it up. We must continue to insist that when a baby is aborted it is not simply the termination of a pregnancy, it is not simply the expulsion of fetal material, but it is the killing of an innocent human being who is made in God’s image.
But we live in a schizophrenic society. We live in a society where just last Sunday there could be this article in the Chicago Tribune—"Unborn child may give gift of life to sister with leukemia.” A five year old girl in Detroit with leukemia needed a bone marrow transplant and couldn’t find a match. She had a little sister who was about to be born. The baby was born this week and they took the blood from the placenta and transplanted it into the little girl in hopes of curing her of leukemia. So far she is doing fine. But notice what they called it —they called it an unborn child. But if that mother had decided to abort that baby, they would have said it was another fetus, the termination of another pregnancy. It’s the moral schizophrenia of America that when we want to get rid of a baby we call it a fetus, but when we want to get blood from a placenta to give life to a sister with leukemia we call that child an unborn child.
Brothers and sisters, something has gone wrong. We’ve gone mad in America. We’ve sanctioned this kind of thing. You can say whatever you want to about that eighteen year old girl who had the baby a couple of weeks ago and then in a moment of fear and desperation threw the baby out the window, fracturing its skull. You can condemn her all you want to, and truly that was an awful thing to do, but when they put that girl in jail and put a $500,000 bond on her, what they were basically doing was punishing her for not having an abortion four months earlier. If she had had an abortion four or five months earlier she wouldn’t be in jail because that’s not illegal.
There is a kind of moral schizophrenia that is shocked at what Susan Smith did, but is not shocked at the fact that she could have done it legally if only she had done it while the children were still in the womb.
So what I am saying is that we as a church must reaffirm the high value of all human life and go against the moral schizophrenia of this age. We must say that unborn children are just as valuable in the sight of God as those who happen to make it out of the womb. I will tell you the truth—the most dangerous place to be in America today is inside your mother’s womb. You have a one in four chance of not making it out alive.
II. Though it may be unpopular, we must continue to speak out.That’s were Proverbs 24 comes in, rescuing those being led away to slaughter. One of the most nauseating things that has happened in the last few weeks is how these self-righteous, pro-choicers have tried to tell those of us who believe in the value of the unborn how we should speak. They’ve told us we shouldn’t use words like “murder” anymore, we shouldn’t use words like “killing” anymore, because it just inflames people like Paul Hill and John Salvey. Understand, I am totally against what those men did. It was foolish, it was un-Christian, and it was wrong. But God forbid that the church of Jesus Christ, we who uphold life, should ever take our cues from the people who are on the side of the killing of the unborn.
Listen to what Joe Soberin says in his column, “The uproar surpasses the decent limits of hypocrisy.” Horrors, killing in an abortion clinic! In all places! What do those lofty liberals think is going on in abortion clinics all day? Nurturing? These are killing centers. If you’ve got an unborn kid you don’t want you can just walk in and have it killed like a cockroach, except when we kill roaches or bacteria, or even weeds, we call it killing, whereas killing a human embryo is swabbed in euphemisms like “terminating a pregnancy.”
Note that the media has adopted the whole vocabulary of the pro-abortion side: terminate, fetus, choice, and abortion provided. Examine this last phrase. Joseph Mendela, Hitler’s surgeon general, spent his last years in Argentina making ends meet by doing abortions. Would he qualify as an abortion provider? After all, he was an accredited physician.
Brothers and sisters, we must tell the truth to a generation who doesn’t want to hear it. We must say that when you kill an unborn child, you have violated the sixth commandment which teaches us “Thou shalt not kill” or, in the newer translations, “You shall not murder.” I know it is not politically correct to say that these days, and I know that those from the left have said, “No, you have to back off. If you’re going to be pro-life you can’t use words like kill or murder.”
But brothers and sisters, when the Bible speaks, we must speak. And when the blood of the unborn has stained this nation to the tune of 30 million dead in 22 years, isn’t it high time for us to stand up and start telling the truth? Please understand something. We are not in a popularity contest, we are in a truth contest. And we are on the side of truth, because we are on the side of life.
I know there are some people who say to me, “Pastor Ray, why don’t you kind of slow down now? Back off and take it a little easier.” No, no! In the name of God, I’m not going to slow down! I am not going to back off. In the name of God, I’m not going to say less than the truth. Somebody will say, “But you will offend the visitors.” Maybe the visitors need to be offended. Maybe they need to know when they come to Calvary Memorial Church that we are different from the other churches on Lake Street. If they want to hear something else, let them go someplace else. But when they come here, they are going to hear the absolute truth about life and death and what God has to say. So we are not going to back down and I encourage you, when you go back to your schools, your place of work, your home, your streets, kindly, but honestly, please tell people the truth.
III. We must reject violence and violent people.Let me tell you four things which are bad about the shooting of the abortion doctors.
A. It just turns thoughtful people against us. That great unconvinced, middle of the road crowd, sees the pictures of people who have been shot being carried out of the abortion clinic. They think, “It’s just a bunch of rifle-toting fanatics.” They don’t want to listen to us anymore.
B. It is really questionable how many babies you can save that way. Maybe you cancel an abortion for a day, or another day, but really, if a person is going to have an abortion it is pretty easy in America to get one. You’ll have to shoot a lot more doctors than have been shot so far to really make a difference. And you won’t get away with it anyway, you’ll just end up in prison. So, it’s not really helping the cause.
C. But I’ll tell you what is really wrong with it. It violates the spirit of Jesus Christ. You remember that on the night that Jesus was betrayed, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and out from the walled city of Jerusalem came the men with torches to arrest him. Remember how Peter was there? Peter was fired up and when he saw the bad guys coming to get his Lord, he grabbed that sword and whacked off the ear of the high priest’s servant. He thought he was doing Jesus a favor. He thought he would use a little violence to help the cause along. What did Jesus say? He put the man’s ear back on and healed him. He told Peter to put down his sword and said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” Remember what else he said? Jesus said, “Why did you do that, Peter? If I had wanted to I could have called 10,000 angels down from heaven to rescue me. All of heaven is at my disposal. I don’t need your puny help to do my work.”
D. When you shoot those doctors what you are really saying is you no longer believe in God. You don’t believe that God is sovereign and on the throne. You think maybe he has gone to sleep and now he needs your help. And the help you want to give him is a double-barreled shot gun. God does not need that kind of help.
Brothers and sisters, let’s understand it again. We are to hate the sinning and love the sinner. If your hatred of the sin has also caused you to hate the sinner, you’ve missed the love of God. You’ve missed the example of Jesus Christ, because when our Lord Jesus hung on the cross, the just for the unjust, looking at the very people who crucified him, what did he say? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
When will we understand that violence only leads to violence, which leads to violence? But somebody says, “Pastor, it’s an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Well, I like what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said. He said, “Well, if I poke out your eye, then you’re going to poke out mine. So I’m going to poke out your other one and then you’ll poke out my other one. And after a while, we’re all going to be blind.” Violence just leads to violence, which leads to violence, which leads to violence. Somewhere the people of God just have to stop and say “enough is enough.”
The real violence is being done inside the abortion clinics. Every time we shoot somebody outside we take the focus away from where it ought to be—what’s really going on inside.
IV. There is only one way we are going to win this battle. It is not through killing our enemies. Through gentle persuasion and sincere prayer we must win this battle one heart at a time.God has given us one weapon that the unbeliever does not have—the weapon of prayer. He’s given us a weapon which is the mightiest, most powerful weapon in the world. It is the weapon which can change the world. Instead of getting angry, cursing, throwing things, and for goodness sake, instead of shooting people, we should be on our knees in tears and deep repentance praying for our nation and for those who are killing the unborn. Instead of shooting and killing them, we should be praying for them.
Slowly, but surely, we are winning the battle. Today there are 3000 crisis pregnancy centers in America and there were none 22 years ago. Every day hundreds of women are choosing life because somebody is out there gently persuading them not to have an abortion. Most women really don’t want to do it. The studies show that most women have an abortion because they are backed into a corner by some awful circumstance of life and can see no other alternative or way out. We can win this battle, but it is going to take some spiritual weapons, not carnal ones.
Let me wrap up my message with seven steps we can take if we really want to be pro-life.
1. It is time we begin to fast and pray for America. After we get through being angry and bitter, it is time for the church to begin to fast and pray for President Clinton and his Cabinet, for Newt Gingrich and Congress, for the Supreme Court.
2. We need to speak out in the name of Jesus Christ
3. We need to reach out with the message of love to the women who have had abortions. I am very much aware that there are women here this morning who have had abortions. I know some of you, but most of you I don’t know. You are under no obligation to divulge that information. I do know that abortion is not good, and most likely you know that, too. That may be why you are here. There may be a lot of pain in your heart. We are not angry at you. We’re not mad at you. We love you in the name of Jesus Christ. You may have felt trapped or pressured into it, maybe you had a boyfriend who got you into trouble and then he walked away. Maybe you knew what you were doing but now you feel the moral ramifications of it. We do not condemn you. We love you and if we can we want to bring you to the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Abortion is bad, but it is not the unforgivable sin. We as a church have to reach out to women who have had abortions, put our arms around them and say, “We love you in Jesus’ name.”
4. We need to take our pro-life convictions into the voting booth. If we would do that, America would change.
5. We need to support all those people who are on the right side of this issue. For example, the crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, foster parents, people who are taking in unwed mothers, people who through gentle persuasion are helping in this area. We need to support the good guys instead of shooting the bad guys. Find the good guys and give them some help.
6. We need to get down to the root of the problem. We need to practice sexual purity and we have to teach it to our teenagers and children. That’s where abortions are coming from. Because our young people don’t know right from wrong, they are making foolish moral and sexual choices.
7. We must never give up. Turn off Phil Donahue. Turn off Larry King. Don’t pay any attention to those guys. They have been wrong more than they have been right. Don’t look to PBS or Gallup Polls to get your truth. God’s truth is indeed marching on.
I remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, when he argued for non-violence in the civil rights movement against those who said, “Let’s go shoot them. Let’s go kill them. Let the blood run in the streets.” Martin Luther King said it would never come that way. He said, “Our only hope is the way of love, the way of Jesus. What’s wrong with violence is you can murder a murderer but you can’t murder murder. It will remain.”
After you’ve killed all the abortion doctors in America, murder will still remain in the human heart. You’re going to have to change hearts if you want to see this country changed. So brothers and sisters, let’s have done with violence and anger, and with grateful hearts let’s keep following our Lord and keep believing in Jesus and keep lifting up his name. For Jesus is the one who said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Let’s hold up Jesus and in his name bring life back to our dying nation. Amen.
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