Category Archives: Morality

The Jig is Up, Ms. Williams: If It’s Human, It’s Murder

If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you’ll know that there’s been quite a stir regarding abortion in the last few weeks. Having just passed the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion has been the hot topic lately–even more so than usual. One particular TV commercial celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade seems to unashamedly declare what many pro-life advocates have said all along–“women’s rights” is nothing more than a clever catch phrase to afford the right of abortion to those who are sexually promiscuous. (To their credit, however, many abortion advocates are equally disgusted with the commercial’s blatant chauvinism and callousness towards the subject of abortion. Kudos to those of you who find it repulsive.) But one article seems to have broken out of the traditional arguments for abortion and, at least in my opinion, finally revealed what some abortion advocates have secretly believed this whole time and have, for good reason, kept secret.

The article I’m referring to is the one by Mary Elizabeth Williams entitled, “So What if Abortion Ends a Life?” In case you don’t have time to read her article in full, I’ve highlighted some of the important parts for you.

Let’s address a few quotes from Williams’ article:

…Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice…

Well, I suppose at least Williams has finally conceded that an unborn child is, in fact, a human life. On the other hand, how in the world does Williams concede that a fetus is a human life and still justify abortion?

…All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always…

Here’s the thrust of her argument: Women’s rights trump baby’s rights. Williams’ is willing to concede that a fetus is a human life but yet also willing to deny said life its “inalienable rights…to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I’m not sure the constitution affords you the privilege to deny the basic right of life to another human being solely on the undemonstrated basis that they have less rights than you. That’s circular reasoning: “I can deny my baby its right to life because my rights are more important than his.” Really? On what basis does another human being have less rights than you? Sounds eerily similar to the kind of logic that fueled slavery in the 1800’s and genocidal maniacs like Hitler and Stalin. (And we thought that kind of racist, genocidal thinking was confined to slave traders and Nazis…hmmm) Yet somehow abortion is championed as the path to the future and those of us who believe that “all life is created equal” are labeled as “backward” and “stuck-in-the-past,” or to use Williams’ words, “bullies, archconservatives, and wingnuts.” As a matter of fact, that’s the purpose of laws–to ensure that my rights don’t infringe upon yours. How ironic that pro-life advocates are labeled as “anti-women’s rights.” Perhaps I’m forgetting, but I don’t recall the right to an abortion in the list of inalienable rights.* I do, however, recall the right to life. And if Williams’ concedes that a fetus has life, I don’t see how she can logically deny the most basic right–the right to continue living–from her baby. Defending her belief that a fetus is a human life, Williams says:

When we on the pro-choice side get cagey around the life question, it makes us illogically contradictory. I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born…When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?

Agreed. Bravo, Ms. Williams. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Ironically, in this much Williams’ opinion seems to be perfectly in line with God’s. (See this former post of mine regarding what the Bible has to say about the life of an unborn child.) In an attempt to justify her decision to deny the right of life to her unborn child, Williams states:

…[We] make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise. It seems absurd to suggest that the only thing that makes us fully human is the short ride out of some lady’s vagina. That distinction may apply neatly legally, but philosophically, surely we can do better.

I will assume that by “men and women in other nations” Williams’ is referring to victims of war. I will start by pointing out that only under certain circumstances are any of the people on this list denied their right to life and only then under careful deliberation. Not all murderers are executed, not all enemy combatants are killed, and we don’t pull the plug on every terminally ill patient. We don’t have time to discuss the intricacies of all these situations. So, conceding that there are some situations in which people of other nations (i.e.–enemy combatants, terrorists, etc.), criminals, and patients with terminal illnesses might be justifiably killed (or allowed to die), let’s think about this: enemy combatants, death row inmates, patients with terminal illnesses, babies…Which one of these is not like the others?!?! Seriously? Are we really at the point where we can compare the execution of an unborn child with that of a death row inmate? An unborn child has not “attacked” your nation, murdered anyone, and–in most cases–is not terminally ill. Mind you, Williams’ is not merely arguing for the right of a mother to abort in situations in which the life of the mother or baby is at risk–she wants unrestricted access to abortions under any circumstances–including mere inconvenience to the mother. We don’t even do that to murderers! Even murderers are given a trial first, and relatively few of them are executed. Usually, only those committing certain types of murder that are considered especially heinous are executed, and even then, many states have outlawed executions outright or rarely ever practice them. Why should it be ok to kill an innocent baby–which Williams has admitted is a human life–with less restrictions than convicted murderers? And why are we even comparing the two?!?!
But, Ms. Williams, let’s apply your reasoning further. If 1) an unborn child is, indeed, a human life every bit as much as two-year old toddler (and Williams concedes this point), and 2) I have demonstrated that the law does not afford the privilege to one human to infringe upon the inalienable rights of another human (except under the circumstances of war, executions of murders, etc.), and 3) we can reasonably say that an unborn child is not in the same category as murderers and enemy combatants, then what is the difference between the abortion of an unborn child and the killing of a toddler who is inconveniencing his mother with a temper tantrum, except, to use Ms. Williams’ words, “a short ride out of some lady’s vagina?” (Please pardon the crudeness–I would not have used that terminology except to demonstrate a fatal flaw in her argumentation.) Williams has already conceded that the unborn child is a human life, so as far as I can tell, if Williams wants to include fetuses in the exception to the right of life along with criminals and enemy combatants, why not include a toddler as well? Or your rebellious teenager? If you’re willing to grant the status of “living human being” to an unborn child, you MUST also give that human being its inalienable right to life. Rather, you don’t grant that right–it’s already there. You may not infringe upon it.

I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated from the moment she peed on those sticks, and is also now well over 40 and in an experimental drug trial. If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your *** I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion….And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

I imagine that a great many abortion advocates will cringe at Ms. Williams’ article almost as much as I. I don’t think that Williams represents the vast majority of pro-choicers when it comes to her conviction that an unborn child is a living human being. And that’s somewhat of a relief. Williams’ brazen disrespect for life sends chills up my spine. That a mother could so callously disregard what she knows to be life inside of her on the mere basis of inconvenience is just disgusting. It make me want to puke. I can understand the argument against granting an unborn child the status of “life.” I disagree with it, but I can at least understand it on a rational level. But to acknowledge that life and blatantly argue for its extermination? Unthinkable.

Humans were created in the image of God. And if that unborn baby is human and has not committed a sin worthy of death, YOU SHALL NOT KILL. Period. You may argue against the “humanity” of an unborn fetus, but if you agree that an unborn child is a living human being created in the image of God, then yes, Ms. Williams, “the jig is up.”

*Some may argue that the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness gives the basis for the right to an abortion. I’m not convinced for two reasons: 1) the law never affords you the privilege of exercising your pursuit of happiness at the expense of another’s rights and, 2) the inconvenience to your “happiness” that is caused by pregnancy is the direct result of your pursuit of another kind of happiness. You can get yourself locked into prison for joyriding and then whine about the police taking away your rights. Similarly, you can go around having sex whenever and with whomever and then whine about getting pregnant. (I am NOT talking about rape or incest–I’m merely talking about the vast majority of pregnancies, which are caused through consensual sex.)

Audio Sermon Files

Below are some links to audio files of the sermons I have preached recently. Feel free to download, copy, and distribute them freely, but please do not alter the content of any of these messages.

“Father’s Day Sermon” 6/17/12

“Don’t Waste Your Life,” Father’s Day Sermon, 6/9/2013

“The Good News of the Gospel,” 6/9/13

Mini-Series on the Book of Ephesians:

“The Spiritual Blessings of Salvation,” Ephesians 1-3

“Living as a Gospel Centered Church,” Ephesians 4

“The Gospel on Display in Marriage,” Ephesians 5

“The Gospel and Spiritual Warfare,” Ephesians 6

The Hidden Meaning of Marriage

You can hardly turn on the TV without seeing something about the debate over marriage. As we speak, there is a culture war going on over the very definition of marriage. Is marriage only between one man and one woman, or is that just an outdated notion based upon stereotypes and bigotry? And even if it is between one man and woman, the questions don’t end there. What are the roles of a husband and wife in marriage? Are they different? Should the be flexible? Finally, why even bother with marriage nowadays? What is the purpose for getting married, anyhow? Many Christians have fought hard for their concept of marriage, but have often fought with little understanding of what the Bible even has to say on the subject. Before we can answer these difficult questions, we must first lay a foundation of the biblical concept of marriage.

In this three part series, we will seek to answer the question of the purpose of marriage from a biblical perspective. What does the Bible have to say about marriage? What is marriage, and what is its purpose? After answering these questions, we can then turn to the practical applications of these truths to our everyday lives.

Click here to begin the series : Part 1–Marriage: The Gospel on Display

Women’s Rights and Election 2012

Being a pastor, I usually try to give a wide berth to the topic of politics. I have seen far too many pastors ruin their reputation with their congregations and with outsiders by spewing uninformed political bias from the pulpit. Ironically, there is probably no more controversial a “political” topic which I could have chosen to engage! Nonetheless, this is an issue on which I simply cannot remain silent, for it is not merely “political.” No, this debate–regarding abortion–is far more spiritual than political, and it is an issue on which the Church cannot afford to remain silent.

I try to keep up with the news online, especially the news surrounding the upcoming election. One of the biggest issues that keeps reappearing is the issue of “women’s rights.” Now, let me begin by saying that I’m all for women’s rights. I have no intentions or desires to see women’s suffrage repealed nor do I think that women ought to be paid less for their work. I’m not against women. I like women (one woman in particular!). But, I think that–as usually happens in politics–this issue has been posed in such a way that it disguises the truth. Should we really base our vote this election on who is most supportive of women’s rights? Or, a better question might be this: “Is the issue of abortion best described as an issue of women’s rights?”

Let’s rewind history about 150 years for a moment. You are an African American slave on a Southern Plantation. You work hard for 12-14 hours a day picking cotton in the hot summer sun while men with bullwhips stand over you ready to come down on you at the slightest demonstration of weakness. Day in, day out, this is your life. An election comes around in which you, of course, are unable to vote. You are not human, after all, you’re just a slave. All around, you see political banners from the opposing parties. One party says, “End slavery!” The other, much to your dismay, says “Support farmer’s rights!”

(History lesson over) “Wait a minute!” you say, “He’s not really comparing abortion to slavery in the 1800s, is he?!?! They’re not even comparable!” I agree. Abortion is worse. Much worse.

The issue in this election is simply NOT women’s rights. In the story above, after reading the last political sign which read, “Support farmer’s rights!” you were probably shocked and outraged. How in the world could people be so blinded as to think that the issue of slavery was fundamentally an issue of a farmer’s right to grow crops, be free of the burden of paying employees, and pursue unbridled success in his career? The issue of slavery was not “Farmer’s rights” but “African Americans’ rights!”

Here is my fundamental presupposition: If an unborn child is a living human being in the eyes of God, then abortion is murder.

That first “If” phrase deserves attention, which I will give in a moment. But first, lets examine this argument from this side for a change. Obama is championed as a proponent for “Women’s rights.” Romney is (as are other pro-life advocates) degraded as a “Woman hater” who desires to move society backwards into the fundamentalist 1950s. If, indeed, unborn children are human, then how ridiculous and insulting would it be to label pro-life advocates “Women haters” and champion pro-choice advocates as proponents of “Women’s rights?” “But,” you say, “Not everyone agrees that unborn children are fully human, while everyone agrees that African Americans are fully human.” That is (mostly) true–in today’s society. But, it was not true in the 1800s. In the 1800s, it was not uncommon to find people who believed that people with black skin were “subhuman.” They were wrong, but that notion was common. Thus, I propose to you that it is ever bit as absurd and offensive to label abortion an issue of “Women’s rights” as it is to label slavery in the 1800s as an issue of “Farmer’s rights.” This is not an issue of rights, but an issue of personhood. I have heard it said that “Your right to swing your arm ends at my face.” How true. Our rights are not absolute. They extend only so far as they do not cause harm to another. Thus, I conclude, that if an unborn child is a living human being in the eyes of God, then abortion is murder.

Some may be troubled by the phrase “in the eyes of God.” But, imagine trying to reconcile the two groups in the 1800s over the moral status of African Americans! It took a civil war and thousands of dead bodies to reconcile the two parties, and the job wasn’t even complete for another 100+ years! Some would say it is still not complete. Thus, I don’t see how we can ever solve this issue objectively on our own. Science can’t solve it. The scientific method is not capable of answering questions of morality. It can determine that the baby’s heart is beating by 18 days and that it has fingerprints by 3 months, but it cannot determine that the baby ought to receive the same moral status of a human being. Politicians can’t determine that, either. They can pass laws declaring abortion “legal” or “illegal,” but their laws don’t change the morality of the action. Furthermore, politicians seem incapable of producing legislation that is even morally consistent, much less morally acceptable! How ironic it is that many who are “pro-choice” will call it a “baby” when it is a desired pregnancy and be willing to prosecute any who would cause it harm and then turn around and call it a “fetus” when it is undesired and toss it in the garbage.

Take a look, for example, at the laws regarding the unborn child in my state, Kentucky:

Ky. Rev. Stat. § 507A.010 et seq. (2004) define “unborn child” as a member of the species Homo sapiens in utero from conception onward, without regard to age, health or condition of dependency. The laws define fetal homicide in the first, second, third, and fourth degrees. These laws do not apply to acts performed during any abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman has been obtained or for which the consent is implied by law in a medical emergency. (2004 HB 108)

(To see your own state’s laws, click here)

Interesting. So, in Kentucky, an unborn child is usually considered human. But, it suddenly becomes less than human when its mother decides she no longer wants it. And she is free of any fear of legal prosecution.

So, clearly neither science nor the legislature is qualified to answer this question. The question of the moral status of the unborn is a question only philosophy and religion can answer. I do not intend to deal here with the philosophical arguments (though it should be noted that many secular philosophers have made persuasive arguments against abortion), but the religious ones since they are more important to me (and incorporate some philosophy, anyhow). Further, in my personal experience, philosophy tends to create more questions than answers and is often a frustrating and fruitless endeavor if one seeks a solid answer! Thus, because science, law, and–to an extent–philosophy, cannot determine the moral status of the unborn, we need an outside, objective source to determine it. God must answer it. “But,” you may object, “Americans do not share the same religious affiliations, so how can religion help us?” That is true enough, but for every religion you find that deems abortion morally acceptable, I bet I can find ten that don’t. It doesn’t really matter which one you pick, most of them conclude the same on this issue. Furthermore, we are a democracy, so why not examine first what has been the clear teaching of the religion with which the majority of Americans identify themselves?

The clear teaching on this issue which the majority of Christians through history have accepted is that only God, the One who gives life and creates the baby, has the authority to give the final say on when life begins. If God says life begins at birth, then abortion is wholly acceptable. But if not, then it is morally contemptible. We don’t get to decide when life begins based upon what is convenient or politically acceptable, we must use the objective truth God has given us. So, let’s look to see if/what God has to say about the moral status of an unborn child.

“And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”” (Genesis 25:23 ESV)

“Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”…Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” (Genesis 30:2, 22 ESV)

“You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.” (Job 10:11, 12 ESV)

“Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:15 ESV)

“Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.” (Psalm 71:4-6 ESV)

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3 ESV)

“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. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:13-18 ESV)

“As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5 ESV)

“Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.” (Isaiah 44:2 ESV)

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself…” (Isaiah 44:24 ESV)

“”Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”” (Isaiah 49:1-3 ESV)

“And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him…” (Isaiah 49:5 ESV)

“”Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15 ESV)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5 ESV)

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”” (Luke 1:26, 27, 31-33, 35-37 ESV)

“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”” (Luke 1:39-45 ESV)

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Exodus 21:22-25 ESV)

Children are a gift (“heritage”) from The Lord. Children are “knit together” in their mother’s womb. A child’s destiny is prepared for him/her by God while they are still in the womb. God determines whether or not a child is conceived. God grants life and “spirit” to a child while in the womb. It is assumed that a mother could not–or should not–“forget” her child or lack compassion toward him/her. The example of the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist demonstrate that God’s Holy Spirit is actively working even in an unborn child. And, lastly, Old Testament Law treated unborn children as “persons” who could be avenged in the case of an assault on their mother which caused their death. Such assault was punished as murder.

Of course, I understand that some may still be hesitant to accept a “life at conception” view, for the Bible does not tell us explicitly that life begins at conception. But it doesn’t tell us that life doesn’t begin at conception, either. When there is a possible life at stake, should we not err on the side of caution?

Lastly, there are a couple common objections. First, what about rape/incest? First of all, these are horrendous crimes. I cannot imagine the emotional, physical, and mental trauma which these crimes cause in their victims. They are crimes and they ought to be punished. But if someone is to die, why is it the child? Let’s execute the rapist! I understand the objection that a woman doesn’t want to have a living, breathing reminder of the tragedy, but if an unborn child is human, then killing that child only worsens the situation. To quote the old adage, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Added to the tragedy of the rape, this woman now has to deal with the emotional and spiritual guilt of having taken a life. That can’t be the solution. It’s a horrible, unfathomable situation, but killing the child only makes it worse.

Second, what about instances where the mother’s life is in jeopardy? First, let me say that as a husband and father, I take this issue very seriously. To be honest, I’m not at all sure how I would handle this particular situation. But let’s be clear on one thing–if faced with this decision, my choice is not between the life of my wife and a “fetus” or some cancerous growth in her uterus. My decision is between the life of my son or daughter and the life of my wife. I view this particular situation differently than an abortion of convenience and of rape/incest because in this situation, another’s very life is threatened by the life of the child. In the vast majority of abortions, the mother’s life is not at stake. Perhaps her career, her emotional stability, and her finances are threatened, but not her life. In the case of a life threatening pregnancy, it is literally a choice between two lives. That is a choice I hope I never have to make. So, because I feel this to be a separate circumstance, I will reserve judgment on its morality and simply say, “I don’t know.” Thus, I am neither for nor against abortion in this particular circumstance.

In conclusion, let me challenge you to vote this year based upon your convictions on this subject. For those who accept that an unborn child is a human, this is not an issue of “women’s rights” but of the rights of the unborn. Much like African Americans in the 1800s, unborn children can’t vote for themselves. But even worse, they can’t stand up for themselves at all. They can’t flee their persecution or plea for help. I have heard some say, “I don’t believe in abortion, but I’m not going to force that belief on someone else.” Let me ask those who would take this stance, “Do you also not believe in murder? Are you still willing to force that belief on those who have murdered?” If an unborn child is a human being in the eyes of God who formed him/her, ordained their future, and loves them, then abortion is murder. In fact, it is the worst genocide that has ever taken place on this planet. To those who would say, “I don’t believe in abortion but there are other issues we must consider when we vote,” I would say, “Would you have said the same thing regarding slavery if you were voting in the 1800s, or regarding civil rights in the 1960s? Would you really vote based on economics and your financial stability while the same candidate for which you voted advocated the mass murder of an entire generation?” As Christians we have a duty to defend the cause of the oppressed, of the fatherless, and of the widows. I propose that if we are willing to champion the cause of the civil rights movement of the 1960s–and as Christians, we should–then we ought to also champion the cause of the unborn, who cannot defend themselves. This is our Christian duty. I hope you will consider that when you vote tomorrow.

What’s your epitaph?

As a youth pastor, I am keenly aware that my actions have a significant effect on those to whom I minister. But, oftentimes, I am tempted to think that I can isolate areas of my private life with no affect on my ministry. As a leader, minister, or parent it is tempting to think that our private sins (either of commission or omission) can be effectively isolated from our ministry or realm of influence, since “what they don’t know can’t hurt them.” But this path of thinking is not only dangerous, but flat out wrong. Having just finished reading the books of the Chronicles, i was struck by the repetitive epitaphs given for each of the kings. Of course, these epitaphs are no theological secret, but what struck me most was the close, inevitable parallel between the kings’ epitaphs and those of their people. For example, take II Chronicles 33:2-6:

And [Manasseh] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asherahs, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord…And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger…

But the effects of Manasseh’s evil were not confined to himself, or even just his family:

Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel. The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. (II Chronicles 33:9-10)

Again, in Manasseh’s life we see a parallel between his actions and the peoples; this time, however, it is a somewhat more positive one:

And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. Nevertheless, the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to the Lord their God. (2 Chronicles 33:12, 13, 17 ESV)

The people continued to sacrifice unlawfully outside of Jerusalem, but when Manasseh repented of his idolatry, they did as well. A final example will sufficiently make the point, I think:

And [Josiah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them…Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up to the house of the Lord, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 34:2-4, 29-33 ESV)

Of course, there are many more similar examples throughout Kings and Chronicles, and even throughout the rest of the Bible, for that matter. I chose these examples, though, because they closely mirror three positions that I see many churches and families in. Few churches that I know of would willingly classify themselves in the first category–as “Manessehites.” After all, “we don’t practice idol worship or child sacrifice! We worship God!” However, far more churches and families fall in this category than would admit. These churches and families, led by pastors and parents with only a thin veneer of religiosity, are headed down a one-way path to destruction. These pastors and parents, while not openly condoning idolatry or paganism, secretly endorse such through their lifestyles. Addicted to a career, money, cars, and success (or worse, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.), they unwittingly sacrifice their children and church on the altars of their addictions. They may attend church, pray, and even tithe, but “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:19 ESV)” They fall prey to the lie that their private actions can be separated from their sphere of influence. It is easy to see how sins of commission (drugs, alcohol, sex addictions, etc.) could negatively affect those who know they exist (be it church members or children), but what about secret sins and sins of omission? Could a pastor’s secret and unknown addiction to pornography, or his lack of daily devotion or prayer really cause his entire congregation to fall into the same sins? The connection is less explicit, but it is there, nonetheless. A pastor whose affections are stolen away from God for his addictions is less passionate in his preaching, less convicting and bold in his proclamations against sin, since every condemnation he issues against such is inevitably directed toward himself. These pastors tend to skirt around these delicate issues with less conviction, much like David after his sin with Bathsheeba could not find the moral conviction within himself to put his son Amnon to death for his rape of Tamar or Absolom for his murder of Amnon, since in doing so he would have to condemn his own sins of adultery and murder. Pastors who fail to maintain their prayer life experience less answers to prayer, thus decreasing their convictions on the necessity of prayer. Pastors who fail to maintain their daily Bible reading find fewer new observations in God’s word, and as a result, their preaching is weak and feels recycled. Failing to find anything new and instructive in the text, they resort to substituting clever stories and illustrations for the meat of the word. A church can only survive so long before it begins to feel the effects of its pastor’s private sins. Children whose parents fail to maintain their prayer and Bible reading will not have that model of daily devotion. Children whose parents tell them “do what I say, not what I do” will quickly recognize the hypocrisy for what it is. The truth is, half-hearted devotion to God will always spill over into one’s sphere of influence, be it a church or a family. You can’t isolate your personal life. So the question is, what kind of influence do you have over your family or church? Are you sacrificing your children on the altars of your career or addictions? Are you imitating half-hearted devotion to God, such that your children will be half-hearted Christians, worshipping God, but in a manner he forbids? Or, are you, like Josiah, modeling heartfelt humility and repentance over sin, demonstrating a passion for God’s Word and serving God with all your heart and soul? Your kids and your church will show the fruits of your affections. After you are gone, will the legacy that you leave behind prompt your kids and your church to be completely devoted to God? What will your epitaph be?

“They hated me first…”

The title of a USA Today article caught my attention today: “Gays, lesbians call for Salvation Army boycott.”   I hope that reading that title shocks you as much as it did me.  Who could possibly justify boycotting the Salvation Army?!?!  That’s worse that slamming the door on a girl scout!  So what’s all the fuss about?  Here’s a snippet of the relevant portions of SA’s stance on homosexuality:

sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage…Apart from marriage, the scriptural standard is celibacy.

Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.

What is the response of the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) community?  As stated on the Boycott the Salvation Army Facebook Page:

‎”There are many organizations that also do good things, but it doesn’t make them justified in holding prejudiced beliefs or fighting to keep gay people from being treated equally.  And there are plenty of charities that are willing to do good for people without supporting needless intolerance. The Salvation Army is not alone in providing help to those in need. But it is set apart by its choice to endorse bigotry.”

Note several important key phrases/concepts that this LGBT group uses of the SA: “prejudiced,” supporting unequal treatment of LGBT’s, intolerant, and bigoted.  But are these really accurate descriptions of the SA?  Perhaps a lesson from Dictionary.com will help.  A bigot is “a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.  [To be a bigot] is to be so emotionally or subjectively attached to one’s own belief as to be hostile to all others.” Intolerant: “not tolerating or respecting beliefs, opinions, usages,manners, etc., different from one’s own, as in political or religious matters; bigoted.”

So, do we find in the SA an organization that is “utterly intolerant,” “hostile,” or disrespectful of LGBT’s?  Is the SA guilty of treating LGBT’s as inferior or sub-human?  Continue reading the SA statement on homosexuality:

Likewise, there is no scriptural support for demeaning or mistreating anyone for reason of his or her sexual orientation. The Salvation Army opposes any such abuse.  In keeping with these convictions, the services of The Salvation Army are available to all who qualify, without regard to sexual orientation.  The fellowship of Salvation Army worship is open to all sincere seekers of faith in Christ, and membership in The Salvation Army church body is open to all who confess Christ as Savior and who accept and abide by The Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline.

That doesn’t sound like an organization I would label “bigoted” or “intolerant.”  In fact, one might well accuse those who–because of their difference in beliefs–would withhold donations to such a charitable organization!  Many churches, unfortunately, we might aptly describe as “bigoted” and “intolerant.”  Such bigoted churches refuse to allow LGBT’s (or those living in any type of sinful lifestyle) to attend worship service or, at least, make them feel unwelcome or inferior.  However, what we find in this case is not that the church is being intolerant toward the LGBT’s, but that the LGBT’s are intolerant of any organization that disagrees with their chosen lifestyle.  It is truly ironic when people point fingers and say “You’re a bigot because you disagree with my beliefs.”

The fact is, we are all intolerant bigots to some degree.  Only those who hold absolutely no moral convictions, whatsoever, can claim to be unbiased.  But even these are likely biased against those who do have moral convictions!  The underlying issue here is truth.  If, as pop-culture asserts, truth is relative and there is no absolute moral standard, then it is wrong to assert that the beliefs of others are wrong.  But one can see the obvious fault in this argumentation–“Because there is no absolute right or wrong, it is wrong to condemn others’ beliefs.”  Hmm…

This should simply remind us that there is an ultimate standard of right and wrong.  Even those who argue otherwise are condemned by the fallacy of their own argument.  As Christians, we should not shy away from this sense of right and wrong just because our culture asserts that truth is relative and labels us bigots.  Remember the words of Christ in John 15:18-25:

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates Me hates My Father also.  If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.  But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’ (NASB)

The fact is that there is an ultimate standard of truth: God.  As sinful, rebellious human beings, we despise higher authority.  We, in our sinful human natures, are God-haters.  We despise the God that tells us what is right and what is wrong, even though his laws are for our own good.  We should not be surprised, therefore, when unbelievers scorn this law and condemn it as narrow-minded.  After all, Jesus said that there was only one way to God, and it was through him (John 14:6).  After all, they hated Jesus first.

I do not agree with all of the SA’s beliefs (namely, that you can lose your salvation), but I do agree with most of their beliefs, and I think they’ve nailed this one.  We, as Christians, should openly condemn homosexuality for what it is–sin. But, we should never endorse the mistreatment of those living in sin (nor should we endorse “homophobic” behavior), but should openly demonstrate the love that God demonstrated to us, “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).  The SA does this.  They “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”  They discriminate between the right and wrong ways to live but don’t discriminate against who they show Christ’s love to.  This is the attitude every Christian should have.  So, this Christmas, let’s boycott the boycott and show the world that Christ loves the poor and needy.