Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Prophetic Preacher and the Sin of Abortion

To what lengths should a godly minister go toward protecting innocent human life? Preachers already feel pulled in so many directions. We rightly put our energies into preaching the Gospel, church growth, and exciting programs. But has God no concern for the rights of the weak and defenseless?

Certainly, a minister’s primary responsibility is to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2). This involves a call to repentance as well as a call to faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus said, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). In His last public discourse, Jesus exposed and denounced the sins of the religious leaders of that day. Likewise, in the midst of secular Athens, Paul declared that God is “now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent”—pagan Greeks as well as Jews.

Ministers must likewise follow the example of Jesus and Paul. The taking of innocent human life in abortion is a sin. So a minister should preach against abortion. But should a minister do more to protect innocent human life than simply preach against it?

Should anyone need to be reminded, we learn from Paul that a minister must not only call others to righteous living, he must pursue after it himself: “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace” (2 Timothy 2:22). Central to righteous living is a self-giving love for one’s neighbor. In the case of the weak and defenseless, it is taking up their cause. God has said. “I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things” (Jeremiah 9:24).

Conversely, God hid Himself from Israel when they only prayed and sacrificed, for He said. “What are your multiplied sacrifices to me?… I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly” (Isaiah 1:13). Iniquity in their instance was that they did not seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow—basic acts of justice. Does God now tolerate a lack of concern for justice on our part?

Taking up the cause of the unborn means action, public action. For James asks, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”

The call to righteous living, in this case, is a call to give these needy persons clothing and food. If this much is required, how much more should we seek to prevent the taking of innocent human life? “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Christ said to His followers, “You are the salt of the earth.… You are the light of the world.” Paul admonished, you are now “light in the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Ephesians 5:8ff.). When God commissioned Paul, He appointed him “to open (the Gentiles’) eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light … performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:18ff). Our main purpose is to expose the unfruitful deeds of darkness and to exhort people to turn to Christ. Again, in the abortion crisis, the light is not meant to shine behind closed doors.

Abortion is indeed an “unfruitful deed of darkness” which we are to expose. Its forces are impressive and are on the attack. But we serve the “Light of the World,” and as Martin Luther reminds us: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are attacking at that moment, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all battlefields besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

God appointed Ezekiel to be a “watchman for the house of Israel.” But God warned:
When I say to the wicked, “O wicked man, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hands. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your life.”
This same compulsion rests upon prophetic preachers today. Occasions arise when the Word of God cannot be held in, and to do so would make us guilty of the blood of others. Infants are dying painful deaths today in abortion chambers. We must face the horror of abortion. These are extraordinary times which call for extraordinary actions. We cannot afford to ignore what is taking place.

Notably, whenever Peter or Paul spoke to a Gentile audience, they spoke of coming judgment and exhorted people to flee from the wrath to come. This is a Good News act. It flows from true love for the lost. James concludes: “He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins” (5:20).

In sum, our call to preach the Gospel, to live righteously, to be salt and light, and to proclaim God’s judgment is a call to act prophetically. It is true that the New Testament office of minister is not equivalent to a prophet. But there is a prophetic aspect to preaching, for prophets were directed by God to speak forth His word in an open forum, often in hostile circumstances, to bring repentance. Preachers are God’s primary mouthpieces today.

There are parameters to our protest. The first is that God’s purposes are not served if we break His Law. Destroying property or hurling abuse at others is contrary to God’s desires.

Also, God is against violence. We are a nonviolent people, based on the commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” No form of violence should be tolerated, not even hate. Those involved in abortion desperately need God’s forgiveness in Christ.

We are motivated out of love and concern for unborn children, for mothers who out of ignorance or callous indifference abort their children, even for the clinic personnel. We must warn them to flee the wrath to come. Are we willing to love them that much?

A godly protest will be covered with prayer, conducted with reverence, and be an occasion for witnessing to Christ’s love. We must be ready to offer love and help as we show alternatives to the horrendous choice of abortion.