Even though Presidents’ Day is not until February, it is worth a side trip to Abraham Lincoln before I share a few thoughts on sanctity of life.
Lincoln was a profound person. He was a man of character, wisdom, and spiritual sensitivity. It has been long debated as to how “orthodox” Lincoln’s faith was. If you are interested in that, you can read the short and very readable Abraham Lincoln: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership by Elton Trueblood.
Whatever you conclude on his orthodoxy, Lincoln had a theological-spiritual sense of the just anger of a holy God who was displeased with slavery in the United States. That is the sense of this agonizing thought from Lincoln in his second inaugural address:
The Almighty has his own purposes. Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh…
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
You can read the entire speech, and it is well worth reading, here: Lincoln, 2nd inaugural speech.
END OF SIDE TRIP to 1865
and back to our future in 2021,
and sanctify of life.
In the United States there have been 61.8 million+ abortions from 1973-2018.
That is a staggering number!
The 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision made abortion legal.
As a pastor, I am profoundly concerned for the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of women who have had abortions. In fact, one of the reasons we are often slow to discuss this issue, is the extreme angst felt by so many. And I would immediately want to point all of us toward the mercy and grace, forgiveness and love, of God for all sins.
The Christian church (and many others) have been opposed then and now to abortion. The reason is simple, even though contested. We believe life begins at conception. Every abortion is the ending of a life. That is the belief of most conservative Christians. Please allow me not to get into various nuances of pregnancy by rape, incest, or those situations where the life of the mother is at stake. Those are real issues, and deserve thoughtful dialogue, but they are only a very small percentage of the actual abortions.
* In York, Living Word Community Church was at the forefront of getting Human Life Services, Inc. (HLS) started. It was a crisis pregnancy center that we financed and actually housed for a short time in our building on Ogontz Street. We had a number of LWCC people as board members and the director of HLS. I was the first Chairman of the Board for HLS.
* In the 1980s, area Christians engaged in peaceful demonstrations when a local abortion center opened. I was always struck by how many conservative churches weren’t involved with either HLS or protesting the local abortion clinic. Through HLS we wanted to provide a meaningful alternative for women who struggled with being pregnant, and educate the public about the sanctity of life.
* We were under no illusion about the difficulty of an unplanned pregnancy.
* Nor were we naive to the great hardship of poverty that many children would experience if carried to term. It is one thing to be anti-abortion; it is quite another to be pro-life. True pro-life people know that help and support is needed during pregnancy, delivery, and then in childhood. Too many anti-abortion people seem to feel that as soon as the baby is not aborted and is born, their work is done. It is not done; it is just beginning.
* So, we worked with adoption agencies as well, as an important part of being pro-life. I am very grateful for the local Young Lives ministry, which is working to help young, inner city moms get the resources they need.
I could go on for a very long time on the immense challenges of being fully and consistently pro-life. I have great admiration for friends who are leading the way on this and making great personal commitments of energy and resources to be truly pro-life.
Living Word will always be supportive of the sanctity of human life and encourage everyone to make life choices that honor and respect the sanctity of every life.
Revisiting Lincoln’s Insight
Cal Thomas is a very conservative columnist, author, and Christian. I certainly don’t agree with everything he says, but there is quite a bit that I do agree with. In his recent book, America’s Expiration Date, he refers to many conservative political commentators and conservative pastors.
He is very clear that he loves America, and just as clear that he is deeply troubled about America. He begins chapter nine with a painful thought:
Whenever I hear the song “God Bless America” . . . I ask myself, why should he? . . . Americans don’t seem to be doing much that would find favor in God’s sight.
Cal Thomas wonders, like Lincoln did, why would we ever think we can escape judgment from a righteous, holy God? Or, if that is too hard to hear, why would we ever think we can avoid suffering the consequences of our chosen behavior? (See Galatians 6:7-10.)
In that same chapter he sharply criticizes those Christians who mainly turn to politics and government to “save the day.” He has another book devoted to that fallacy called Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America.
Remember, that is his own political and spiritual landing place. He is a conservative Christian, politically and theologically. He just understands better than most, that government is as much a part of the problem as it is a solution to the problem.
Cal Thomas believes that unless there is revival IN THE CHURCH that results in massive internal transformation of Christians, the expiration date of America, well, it is getting closer. When the Church is not like Jesus, what hope is there that our culture and its institutions will be Christ-like in purpose and character?
When the Church is not much like Jesus, why would we ever think we will be missionally able to engage the culture? When we are not like Jesus, too much preaching is just preaching to the choir, and the choir is getting smaller and smaller.
Sobering words, but the prophets sent by God have always been sent to “sober us up” so we might turn from our ways and seek the Lord.
Every social, cultural, and political issue of our time is complex—wicked complex. It is easier, as I have done, to describe the situation, then it is to map out a way forward.
But I do know this. I need to be revived. You need to be revived. God’s church needs to be revived. And some of the Christians who think they are revived may need to be revived the most.
Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, in our land, in our community, in our homes, in our church, in our lives, as it is done in heaven…
And deliver us from evil… from our evil… not because we deserve it, but because we need your mercy, grace, and love.
To you alone be the glory and honor and power forever. Amen.