by Justin Lonas
Editor's Note: This is the third of 10 articles on living up to Paul's challenge to stay true to the principles of Christ rather than those of the world (Col. 2:8).
Tradition Number 3-Selfishness, Gratitude, and the Sanctity of Life
Much has been made of our cultural self-absorption and ingratitude, but nowhere are these attitudes more evident than in issues of human life. Abortion, euthanasia, and other morally dubious medical practices such as embryonic stem cell research represent an exaltation of self as much as a devaluation of life.
Each January is set aside as a month for us to celebrate God's gift of life. Intentionally, this observance coincides with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision officially condoning abortion. Since that time, the lives of over 40 million children in America have ended before they ever saw the light of day. Another 40+ million children are killed around the world each year.
What could drive so many women to make the decision to terminate the lives of their children? At best, they are worried about providing for their children and are either unwilling or unable to avail themselves of the options available for their child (such as adoption and crisis pregnancy support). At worst, especially in the developed world, they simply refuse to have their lives encumbered by responsibility. Many who favor abortion have even abandoned the line of reasoning that assumes that a child is not a person until birth-it no longer matters to them. They have no guilt about taking what they acknowledge as human life. Legally promoted abortion is a monument to selfish behavior and ingratitude toward the Creator of life.
Euthanasia and assisted suicide likewise reflect a worldview that usurps God's value of life for a self-determined assessment. Whether by one's own wishes or by the decision of someone else, ending a human life on our timetable rather than resting in God's is to distrust His perfect will. Granted, the quality of one's life looms large in such decisions, often seeming more important than the inherent value of their life. God's definition of quality, however, and His plans for illness and disability may be hidden from us. It is not for us to decide whether someone lives or dies-our responsibility is to care for the afflicted and honor God by trusting Him to work out His glory through their lives.
Destroying life in the name of curing disease, as proponents of embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and other such practices seek to do, is another attempt to chart our own course and disregard God's gifts. None of the proposed benefits of these endeavors could ever trump the value of the lives taken to produce them-the decision should never be made to trade a life whose potential is unknown for one whose is.
Most, if not all, of today's life issues involve looking for escapes from the consequences of sin. Unwanted pregnancies seldom come from stable, God-honoring marriages; death and disease are the direct and unavoidable results of the fall. Standing for life means taking the hard road of unselfish concern for others and patient trust in God. Carrying a baby to term and raising children is not easy; caring for the disabled, elderly, or terminally ill can be extremely taxing. When those responsibilities are undertaken with a view toward God's plan, however, they become a joyful obligation.
Promoting a culture of life starts with cultivating Spirit-led, others-focused relationships based on valuing the lives of others. The roots of abortion are found in misguided love and failed marriages; euthanasia is anchored in viewing our elders as out-of-touch burdens to our resources rather than sources of wisdom and guidance.
As the Church leads the charge to protect the sanctity of God's image in the wider culture, we should be careful to lead by example.
When divorce rates in the Church are comparable to those of the population at large, promiscuity pervades our youth, and infidelity is not uncommon, we are not leading.
When we whisper about irresponsibility when couples marry before completing their education, have children before they are "financially stable", or produce a larger family than we deem "prudent", we are letting the world rather than the Word dictate our understanding of the family. When we refer to children born outside of our plans as "accidents", we show disdain for God's authority over all life.
When we neglect our aging relatives or institutionalize them without medical necessity, disrespect our elders and ignore the valuable experience they have to share with us, we are following the crowd, not the Lord.
Such actions and attitudes reflect the "me-first" demands of our sin nature instead of a life of gratitude for Christ's sacrifice.
Scripture makes it clear that the self-focused life produces worry and disobedience to God. Gratitude, on the other hand, flows from an understanding that "The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it" (Psalm 24:1). When we live as stewards of God's possessions, generosity comes easily. Giving of time, resources, and even "security" to care for those He has placed in our lives becomes a natural response to the gift of life we've been given.
Even as we show the world God's model of life and family, we should also do everything in our power to change our culture. This can and should include things like operating crisis pregnancy centers, educating women on options other than abortion, promoting and participating in adoption, and volunteering to care for the elderly or disabled.
The most important strategy, however, is what should always be our first calling-speaking God's Truth. We cannot call ourselves pro-life if we do not value an unsaved soul as much as we value an unborn child. 1 Peter 3:9 tells us that God wants all to come to repentance, and we should do all we can to ensure that every life is given the chance to respond to His call.
Justin Lonas is editor-in-chief of Pulpit Helps magazine.