Friday, May 24, 2013

A Watery Gospel

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post outlining 6 ways Christians should deal with the topic of abortion.  A good friend, whose thoughtful insight I respect, responded to my social media wall, in part:

“One problem is that we have watered down the gospel message to make it palatable to the non-believer as opposed to letting the Holy Spirit change the hearts of people. Jesus called for repentance of sin (Go and Sin no More), yet our churches talk about love being sufficient…Though there is no need for hate speech, preaching the true gospel as Jesus did, is not hate speech and unfortunately it seems to be labeled by the world AND A LARGE PORTION OF THE CHURCH as such.” – Jason Laurie, of School of Fish {}

I then read this post by Rachel Held Evans, and have been ruminating on the pendulous views of these two believers; for I see therein the scope of contemporary Christianity regarding abortion.  Thus I return again to the topic, for clarification, for those who may not yet have the courage or ability to speak, and for those who simply aren’t sure what to say.

There is no price for which I would kill my only son.  There is no price for which I would sacrifice my only daughter.  Frankly, should you all be damned, I will never sacrifice my children on your behalf. 

                Thank God I’m not Him.   

But God, in His love, sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you and for me.  Yet before Christ was sentenced to death, He sought out people who were ravaged by sin, so mired in it, so broken by it that the religious people of their day would have nothing to do with them.  And He saved the lost.  He healed the broken.  He restored the sinners.  Jesus, Divinity incarnate, sought out these people not to demand repentance of them so that He could heal them; Jesus healed them so that they could repent.  And when Jesus admonished the adulteress woman to “go and sin no more,” it is only after her accusers have dispersed (John 8:2-11).  It was a moment shared between only God’s Son and this sinner.  Meant for her heart – not for public consumption.  Meant to work out her salvation in her, meant to form her spirit, meant to protect her from the further evils of which each human being drawing breath is capable.  Repentance is not a clarion call the religious folk are told to make prior to offering God’s Grace – it is Christ’s, it is the Holy Spirit’s, it is God’s.  For each one of us is filthy and decrepit and worthless.  Each one of us is a condemned sinner.

                                                BUT FOR THE BLOOD OF JESUS.

  Of the 75 times the Bible calls for repentance, 48 are in the books of the prophets.  These men issued the call for repentance to the Nation of Israel because she had abandoned her primary role of caring for the “least of these” (Jeremiah, Daniel, Matthew 24).  Effectively, most Israelites were leaving those who had no standing in the patriarchal society that was bent on keeping the outcast, foreigner, single woman, and orphan from the promised blessings of Yahweh (land, generational proliferation, relation to the messianic kingdom) to fend for themselves.  Abandoning those who, without assistance, would never be able to be free from their poverty, station,  or un-cleanness.  Forsaking these people so that they were without hope, without protection, without help.  Yes, the call to repent was a call to return to Yahweh; but that return required behaving as Yahweh had instructed: to care for these who could not care for themselves and who were just as loved by the Almighty as those who brought fellowship offerings out of their abundance.

In the contemporary context, one must admit that the unborn must be among “least of these.”    

But what about the women, pregnant and frightened, who feel they have nowhere else to turn – that they have no one other than the friendly folks down at Planned Parenthood to trust?

 If women in crisis feel their only hope lies with the Kermit Gosnells of this world, what would God say to His church in light of this?

Dearest one, let me be perfectly clear: Love is not accepting or tolerating or enabling sinful behavior.  Love is recognizing that not a single person is free from sin – save JESUS CHRIST, Himself.  Love is the truth that every person ever is guilty of sin unto death.  Be it murder of the unborn or self-focused pride.  Every single one of us deserves death.  I, beloved, deserve to die.  As do you. 

                                                BUT FOR JESUS. 

Jesus first healed, restored, and saved people from their illnesses, demons, and sins, because no person can come to the Lord righteous and clean without this work of Christ first.  Jesus didn’t require public repentance, didn’t first demand righteousness from those in need of Him.  He knew that He was their only hope.  As His followers, should we not emulate Jesus and seek these people out where they are – to find them in their hurt, to minister to them in their confusion and brokenness, to go ourselves into the sinful places so that we might bring this hope and light with us?  

One wonders – How many Christians have sat in the waiting rooms of Planned Parenthood – ready only to hold the hands or catch the frightened tears of those in line to exterminate their babies?  How many Christ-followers are there now, wanting only to show love to these lost and broken women? 

Yes, that is an extreme thought, but dial it back a bit: HOW MANY CHRISTIANS HAVE EVER EVEN CROSSED THAT THRESHOLD?  Or stood outside, not in angry picket lines, but with a tender smile and the offer of a cup of coffee over which to talk and a listening ear, not to preach, but to know – to witness – the hurt and fear of the woman struggling with this life-ending choice?   

It’s safer to sit behind our computer screens and pass judgment, to meet in our coffee shops and blast the lost for being deceived, to smugly pat ourselves on the back for not being one of those.  Or, worse, to posit such ambiguity and confusion regarding the topic of abortion under the guise of I-don’t-know-what-to-do that we are left impotent and useless on a national stage. *

I’m going to suggest, dear one, that until we as a church can say that we have done this, until we’ve taken a deep breath and ventured into a Planned Parenthood Clinic {dear, God – WHY are they most prolific in the poorest neighborhoods?!  What does this say about whom we as a society value—the richest, the whitest, the most suburban of all children?}, we cannot sit self-righteously in condemnation.  For the propensity of this evil lives in each one of us: we are all capable of murder.  Jesus said thus in his Olivet Discourse.  We are all guilty of murder in our hearts.  And only God is righteous to judge. 

Friends, we must remember that it is not our place to accept anyone into the kingdom – that honor rests solely with Almighty God, for it is His Kingdom, and His alone.  We are the adopted children, filthy sinners, who have been invited in and covered in His Son’s clothes of bloody righteousness.  We are not the arbiters of who’s in and who’s out.  And the moment we forget this, we become the Pharisees.  We have been given the distinct privilege and honor of sharing the Gospel, and of rejoicing with the angels when this truth is rooted into another life.     

Because, as capable of evil as every human is, Christ followers -- empowered by the Holy Spirit are capable of the most beautiful light.  We have the power and ability, through the resurrected Christ and the Holy Spirit indwelling us, to alter this world for good.  To change one life at a time.  To save one baby.  To rescue one mother.  To restore one father.  To advance the glorious kingdom of Almighty God, for the good of all humanity and creation, by the power of Grace within us.    

May we ever be amazed by the Lord’s Grace.  May it never cease to be as magnificent as when we first received it.  May we, like a fount, overflow it into the darkest places in our fallen world.  For the coming of Christ and the Kingdom of God. 



*{This article by Rachel Held Evans and all the comments thereto are a tragic example of what contemporary “progressive” Christians think about abortion.  I am compelled to clarify that I generally admire Ms. Held Evan’s work on behalf of women, and advocate for her views thus.  But as this article and its comments show, an entire generation of Christians (and non) have absorbed the lies spouted by the abortion industry, yet try to hold this view in conjunction with their faith and end up with a discordant struggle because the two are necessarily, mutually exclusive.  Confusion of the issue, as Ms. Held Evans presents here, is exactly why we are a nation in desperate need of truth – both in their realm of science (no self-respecting embryologist would claim that life begins at any point other than at conception) and in our churches.}