These are my teaching notes for Pro-Life 101, presented at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, January 27, 2018.
INTRODUCTION: GOD KNOWS
Jeremiah's prophecy (Jeremiah 22:1-5) reveals two aspects of God's character to us:
1. God knows what's going on - verses 1-2.
(Jeremiah 22:1-2) This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: 2 ‘Hear the word of the Lord to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David's throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates.
God is not absent. He's very involved in the world. He knows what's going on. This is why he sends messengers to nations - to the king, the officials (government), the people. He sees what's happening and he intervenes through prophets.
(Hebrews 4:13) Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Because God knows what's going on, he also knows what's going wrong.
2. God knows what's going wrong - verses 3-5.
In 1980, my home church showed a film series on Sunday nights called Whatever Happened to the Human Race? That series about the consequences of adopting a secular humanist, mechanistic, concept of human beings changed my life. It was based on a book by Francis Schaeffer and Everett Koop and it opens with these words:
"Cultures can be judged in many ways, but eventually every nation in every age must be judged by this test: How did it treat people? ... The final measure of mankind's humanity is how humanely people treat one another" (p. 15).
This is exactly what the Lord said to the nation of Israel: You will be judged based on how you treat the most vulnerable people in your land:
(Jeremiah 22:3) This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
In those days in Judah, human life was cheap. The rich oppressed the poor. The courts were corrupt. Racism was rampant. The powerless were abused, and killed for profit. So, God sent messengers to warn them: I know what you're doing. Clean up your act or I'll make your nation a ruin (Jeremiah 22:5). Ruin translates a Hebrew noun (horbah) that almost always refers to an area ruined by the judgment of God. (CWSB Dictionary)
Jeremiah 22 makes it clear that every human life is precious to God. There are no disposable humans. Therefore, every person should be protected from abuse and treated with respect and dignity.
Sadly, today in our nation, some human lives are treated as disposable; innocent blood is shed every day. Unborn children are the most vulnerable and at-risk group in America. In 2017, almost 900,000 unborn children were aborted and nearly all of these were elective or therapeutic abortions, not to preserve the mother's life.
God does not favor nations that kill a million children a year. As citizens and as followers of Jesus Christ, we should do what we can to end this injustice and advocate for the protection of every child.
Today, I want to teach you how to be a pro-life advocate.
PRO-LIFE 101: HOW TO ADVOCATE FOR VULNERABLE CHILDREN
A pro-life advocate will work on three areas:
1. FOCUS ON YOUR ATTITUDE
Show love and respect to everyone. This is what every human deserves. And it increases the credibility of our arguments when we are pro-EVERY-life; not just unborn babies, but all kinds of people, of all kinds of backgrounds. Every human is formed by God, in the image of God:
(Psalms 139:13-14) you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful ...
(Genesis 1:26) God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness ..
The simplest way to understand the concept of image is: God makes us like himself so we can represent him in the world. Because of this, every human possesses massive value and dignity.
It's very important to show respect to those who oppose us in the abortion debate. Remember pro-choice people are people too, fearfully and wonderfully made in God's image. It's just common sense to show love and respect to them, since no one was every won over by insults and name calling. Paul teaches us how to disagree agreeably:
(Colossians 3:12) Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
In other words, we'll take time to listen to and understand our opponents. We'll not get angry, but we'll be kind and patient when we disagree. We'll use gentle words, not attack words, not hyperbole to win the argument. This is how Jesus treated his opponents. It's a good model for us to follow.
2. BROADEN YOUR ADVOCACY
Seek a just world in general. Abortion is not the only justice issue worthy of our attention. God's vision of justice is universal and inclusive. The artwork on our wall represents God's vision:
(Micah 6:8) He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
(Amos 5:23-24) Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
The evangelical church is sometimes criticized for focusing on abortion and ignoring the many other ways that people suffer injustice. This is sometimes a fair criticism. While it is not the mission of the church to make this a just world (our mission is to share the gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ), it is the calling of every Christian to love our neighbors.
At the very least, we should NOT perpetrate injustice; for example, followers of Jesus should never align with racist groups or racist policies or racist rhetoric of any sort (including telling Scottish jokes:)). We should speak out against hatred in any form and combat it with selfless acts of love. We haven't always done that very well.
As God leads, and as much as you are able, work to make this community and the wider world a better place for people. There are many ways to do this, such as public service, elected office, writing blogs and books, community organizing, offering low and no cost services to the poor and powerless, speaking up and standing against injustice when it raises its ugly head, supporting and volunteering in organizations whose mission is to bring positive change to our communities.
3. TAKE ACTION
Speak up for the unborn using clear pro-life arguments. The simplest is this: 1). Unborn babies are human beings from the moment of conception. 2). Human beings should not be unjustly killed. 3). Therapeutic/elective abortion is unjust killing. 4). Therefore, therapeutic abortion is wrong and should not be done in a just nation.
Today, on the book table, there are copies of Pro-Life 101. These books are helpful guides to pro-life arguments. There are also some free pamphlets, such as John Piper's Ten Reasons Why It Is Wrong to Take the Life of Unborn Children. Also, be sure to take a copy of The Five Minute Pro-lifer.
Step up to foster or adopt children or to support those who do. If the Lord leads you, do it, don't let fear and 'overwhelm' stop you. God's grace is sufficient. He makes a way where there is no way. Great deeds are always hard to do, but nothing is too hard for the Lord. God's heart is for vulnerable kids. For example:
(James 1:27) Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
(Exodus 22:22-24) Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
(Psalms 68:5-6) A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing;
If you'd like to talk to some families that have stepped up to foster and adopt, just ask me and I can point you in the right direction.
Another action: Volunteer at Blue Water Pregnancy Care.
Share the Gospel with everyone who will listen. This is the priority because it is the best way to change people's hearts and behaviors and, thus, to make a more just world. Saved people live new lives, with greater concern for others:
(Titus 2:11-14) The grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Adam Hamilton is the pastor of a megachurch near Kansas City. A woman in his church wrote him a letter describing her unexpected teenage pregnancy, being thrown out by her parents when she refused to abort the baby, the difficulties of single-motherhood, and the struggles of living in poverty while raising a child. She concluded with these poignant words:
Yes, my life changed dramatically due to the pregnancy prior to marriage, but to this day, that child has been the greatest blessing to me and thousands of others ... God has blessed me more with this son than I can ever imagine being blessed. I am so proud of the husband and father he has become.
So many times when I look at him, I think that this incredibly kind-spirited person could have ended up aborted but instead, due to classes in Sunday school week after week That taught me as a child, I knew that even from the moment he was conceived, he was a gift from God. I look back sometimes at the college that I missed, the experiences that 'could have been,' and thank God that I chose God's way. My life us different than it could have been, but I wouldn't change it for anything.
Thank you, Adam, for being my 'gift from God.' There can be no greater gift than that of a child that God wants to be born. I never dreamed thirty-six years ago while I was carrying you that you would have the impact on God's people-and me- that you do. You are my pastor, my confidant, and my best friend.
Then, Adam Hamilton writes ...
This is my story, and this letter was written by my mother. And what it reminds me of is a powerful gospel truth: God takes what we think of as mistakes, accidents, and blunders, and redeems them. This is God's specialty. God knits us together in our mother's wombs and has plans for each child. God can work - sometimes through birth parents, sometimes through wonderful adoptive parents who could never have a child of their own. But those children have potential. They grow up. I am one of those children.
Excerpted from Adam Hamilton's book, Confronting the Controversies (Abingdon Press, 2001, pp. 106-107).
CONCLUSION: JESUS HEALS AND FORGIVES
Before we finish today, I want to speak kindly and gently to those who regret having an abortion. The emotional scars can run deep and last a long time. There are men and women in every church who feel guilt and shame, but they don't feel able to share with anyone.
Based on what I know of God, I can say that he weeps with you. He is willing and able to heal and restore you. And he's proven it by sending his own Son into the world to die for you, to cleanse your guilt and forgive your sins.
(John 3:16-18) God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned ...
Jesus came into the world for broken and imperfect people like all of us. He doesn't expect us to measure up and then turn to him. No, he invites us to come just as we are, with all of our sins, mistakes, regrets, guilt, and hurt. He will heal and forgive anyone who asks him to. He loves you so much he died for you. Turn to him now and receive his gift of forgiveness and new life.
RESPONDING TO COUNTER-ARGUMENTS
There are two counter-arguments usually given to justify elective abortions:
Counter-Argument One: Abortion relieves the intense suffering of an unwanted pregnancy. We need to help women who will suffer humiliation, stress, economic hardship, or suicidal thoughts due to the birth of an unwanted child. In this kind of circumstance, abortion is the lesser of two evils.
Answer: Since we want to treat all people with dignity and respect, we must listen to these arguments and sympathize with women who are going through hard times. However, it is very difficult to understand how killing a human being in the womb is an acceptable solution to the problem. It inevitably leads to a callous disregard for other human lives.
Counter-Argument Two: The embryo or fetus is not human and is merely tissue belonging to the mother who has an absolute right to privacy and to decide what to do with her body. Therefore, abortion is not morally wrong.
Answer: Until the mid-twentieth century, the medical community acknowledged the human status of the embryo from the moment of conception. For example, many medical schools used an oath modeled on the Hippocratic oath. It's called the Declaration of Geneva (adopted in 1948 by the General Assembly of the World Medical Organization). It read in part, "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception ..." Only since the 1970's has that phrase has been eliminated from most medical school oaths.
Today, the science of embryology is very helpful to the pro-life argument. Here are two quotes from leading embryology textbooks:
William J. Larsen, Human Embryology (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1997), pp. 4, 8, 11: "... [W]e begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual."
Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998). p. 2: "Zygote: This cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo). The expression fertilized ovum refers to a secondary oocyte that is impregnated by a sperm; when fertilization is complete, the oocyte becomes a zygote."