By Jim Collier
Pastor in Memphis
My initial response when contemplating this article was anger. To consider that the most heinous of crimes, the murder of the unborn innocent, is being supported by our culture enraged me. To compound that evil, their bodies are being desecrated and dismembered for profit. My only response could be anger. But, because I belong to Jesus, I’m not permitted to be angry in my flesh. Paul’s admonition carries the day: “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26, ESV).
Our culture has armed itself against human life, purging the land of human beings who are inconvenient and unwanted. Over the past several weeks, two issues have resurfaced, drawing our attention back to this war on life. Planned Parenthood, the constant representation of the prenatal genocide called abortion, has confessed to “tissue trafficking” and defended its practice. Unless you have been on vacation from any media, you are aware of the two undercover videos of senior members of Planned Parenthood discussing with disgusting openness the destruction and dismemberment of human babies.
At the same moment, Tennessean John Jay Hooker has sued our state for his right to die with dignity at the hands of his physician. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, Hooker desires to determine the day and the hour of his death, believing that it’s his guaranteed right to seek happiness even in death. While his lawsuit works its way through Tennessee courts, politicians have introduced so-called “Death with Dignity” legislation to allow for assisted suicide.
Each of these issues flows from a worldview that believes there is no God responsible for the creation of life. Because life “just happens” from this perspective, no value can be attributed in its existence. The ultimate worth for life is for it to be as happy and as fun as possible, without many complications or suffering. For the woman that finds herself pregnant against her plan or wishes, the murder of her child in utero negates a complication in her life. For the terminally ill or terminally bored, physician-assisted suicide promises a pain-free exit without consequence.
In contrast, the worldview of the Christ-follower must be completely different. We believe in the God who created life. God “formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7, ESV). He created humankind in His own image, thus emphasizing the significance and sanctity of life. When man rebelled against God, God provided eternal life through the sacrifice of His only Son on the cross. Jesus’ resurrection — from death to life — promises our victory through Him over death and a life spent forever with Him.
Because of this biblical worldview, we should have three responses to our current culture. First, we must remember that life is more than quality or quantity. Life is a gift from God and only He retains the right to end it. Paul reminded his readers in Romans that “if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8, ESV). Our lives are not our own. Natural life, just like eternal life, is a precious blessing bestowed on us by our Creator, and not just our parents.
Second, we must repent over our sometimes misguided and cavalier attitude toward this gift of life. Even Christ-followers have embraced the concept of “quality of life,” as if in the absence of this quality a person really should die. We eschew any concept of suffering, even when Scripture plainly tells us that there will be suffering. These sub-Christian thoughts about life are ultimately sins against God. We must confess and forsake them, guarding our words and our thoughts when dealing with life.
Third, we must renew our engagement of the culture with the life-giving gospel of Jesus. Only in a restored relationship with God through Jesus will life be viewed as a sacred gift. We must denounce the sinfulness of murder, be it abortion or suicide. We must also declare the promise of rescue from our sin in the work of Jesus Christ. In Him we have life, and life more abundantly.
These three responses will invigorate our activities in the public square, not through politics, but through serving others in Jesus’ name. As we persuade others to see life through the lens of Scripture, we open their eyes to the world as God meant it to be. All of creation becomes the gift, teeming with life.
Our choice is simple. We can choose to close our eyes to the evil around us, thus closing our lips to a world that needs to hear our message. Or, we speak out against that evil, pointing to the hope-filled and life-giving gospel of Christ as our foundation for life. In the words of Bonhoeffer, “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”