Vol 2, Num 3 :: 2003.01.31 — 2003.02.13
This series of devotionals was originally written for a week of morning devotions at Illiana Christian High School. The chapel theme for the week was “Pro-Life.” Unattributed quotes throughout are from 50 Ways You Can Be Pro-Life by Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman.
Monday: Matthew 25:31-40
Little baby Karyn’s mom made a difficult choice: Helen decided to go through with the pregnancy. She read a brochure about what was happening to her unborn child, saw the pictures of what a fetus really looked like, and she talked with a very kind woman who urged her not to murder her baby. But living with her decision wasn’t going to be easy for this mom-to-be. She had two little ones already and her husband, Jim, left when he lost his job and found out baby #3 was on its way. She hadn’t talked with her parents in more than 2 years (they never liked Jim) and she didn’t have time to make too many other friends. Baby Karyn’s life was spared; praise the Lord. But would that kind woman from the pro-life group be around for the next nine months? Could Helen count on her—and others like her—to help her put food on the table for herself and her family? Would they help her get a job and child care while she worked?
Maybe you think that being pro-life means being against abortion. And it does! But when Jesus talked about “the least of these,” surely he also meant unborn children and others who are not considered real persons (or real important) by our society. What happens to those babies that are not aborted? “The child in the womb lives in a secure environment, protected from inclement weather, poor housing, emotional abuse, and much more. Too many children on the other side of the womb live a desperate life of fear, hunger, cold. and physical abuse. For them, life outside the womb is not a welcome world.” Are we only concerned about their birth…or are we also willing to work for the quality of the rest of their lives?
What can I do, you say? You can pray to end abortion. You can pray to end poverty. You can sign up to be a big brother or a big sister or a GEMS counselor or a Sunday School teacher so that a child’s life is good now. When you become a lawyer you can fight for legislation that makes it easier for Christian families to adopt. Someday you can adopt a child who might have been rescued from an abortion. And whatever you do, you’ll be doing it for the least of these, and for Christ Himself.
Tuesday: Psalm 8:1-6
From the Chicago Tribune (January 20, 2002): “Burhan Himuni, age 3, was sitting on his father’s lap in a car when it was hit by an Israeli missile. Koby Mandell, 13, had skipped school to go for a hike with a pal when some Palestinians saw a murderous opportunity when he came upon them in the desert. Shalhevet Pass, 10 months, never knew her family lived among the controversial Jewish settlers in Hebron when the Palestinian sniper’s bullet hit her in the head. Faris Odeah, 14, was a daredevil who used to shimmy down the drain pipe to escape a grounding by his father; throwing stones at Israeli tanks was his last bit of mischief. Divy Tmeizi, 2 months, was a blessing to her parents after 10 years of infertility—before Jewish vigilantes sprayed their car with bullets outside Hebron. Yehuda Shoham, 5 months, was safe with his mother in the back seat when the stone came through the windshield near Shilo.”
Are these children in a faraway country any less worthwhile than the unborn children we fight so hard to save? Why are civilian children and adults who are killed in conflicts called “collateral damage?” Doesn’t collateral mean “things?” Are these children—no matter what race or ethnic group or what country they’re from—any less worthy of the royal status given them by God, as stated in Psalm 8? How can we fight to save them, too?
God has called his people to demonstrate a concern for those who are being unjustly treated. Many times in the Old Testament we read how God intends to punish the children of Israel because they oppress the poor. God looks upon those who are “bullied” by others in the same way a parent looks upon his or her child who is being pushed around by the school bully. And it should not surprise us. The Scriptures tell us that “we are the children of God. And he is a God of great compassion toward the oppressed—but great anger toward the oppressor. Too often the church has stood by silently while governments have oppressed their people. The innocent are defenseless and voiceless. If we do not speak for them, no one will. In the pro-life movement we understand that logic. We most often speak up for the voiceless person in the womb. It is exactly this kind of compassion that then moves us to speak up for those who are unjustly harmed outside the womb.”
What can you do? Read a magazine or a book that will help you see a Biblical perspective on needs and justice. Join Amnesty International and find out how the simple act of writing letters can save the lives of those unjustly imprisoned. If a life is worthwhile, it is surely worthwhile no matter where on this planet it is lived.
Wednesday: Romans 3:21-26; 5:12-15
This is going to sound cruel, so be warned. Many of us who are pro-life fall into a wrong premise when thinking about why we want the lives of unborn children to be spared: we say these future children deserve to be born because they are innocent, because they haven’t done anything wrong, because they haven’t sinned. But—and here is a harsh reality—those unborn children deserve death just as much as the inmate on Death Row. What?! That little baby is a murderer?! Not literally of course, but the Bible teaches that all human beings are tainted with the sin of Adam. We all are conceived and born in sin. That means our lives—and our deserving of God’s judgment and eternal death—begin at conception. So the worthiness or unworthiness of a life does not depend on what a person has done or hasn’t done. Instead, lives are worthwhile because God says that they are, because God values them, because God is the one who gives and takes life.
So why are we still killing prisoners? “They deserve to die,” “what they did was so awful,” “God gave the state the sword.” Of course capital punishment is a controversial issue in Christian circles, but do we perhaps need to rethink our stance that life is worth preserving on one end of the spectrum—at birth—and not worth preserving on the other end of life? Today’s Bible passages talk about our guilt: we have all sinned, in Adam all die. And Lamentations 3:58 adds this perspective: “O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life.” If God is taking up our case that means we are guilty of a crime and we need God to speak up in our defense. Of course God does more than take the stand to tell what nice people we are (because He couldn’t say that; it’s not true). He redeems us; that is, He knows and acknowledges our guilt and then takes it upon Himself to set us free.
Do we need to do the same for the “least of these” who are in prison? We don’t have to say they’re nice people. We don’t have to let them out of prison or let them off the hook. Maybe we just have to look at them the way God does: guilty but worthwhile. We Christians should understand the prisoner’s perspective perhaps better than anyone. We know our sins (even if society says our gossip, jealousy, envy, lack of compassion, and other “personal sins” aren’t so bad). “And we are fortunate to come back each time to a Savior who loves and forgives us.” Maybe we need to give Death Row inmates the time necessary for the Spirit to reach them with that message.
Thursday: Deuteronomy 30: 11-20
Chris is a typical homeless person. He doesn’t have a job. He doesn’t have a permanent residence. That means he has to use the toilet, the shower, and other basic facilities when and where he can find them. He can’t cook without a stove, he doesn’t have a place to store his clothes so he wears most of what he owns and it’s not any too clean. He’s vulnerable to bitter cold, snow, wind, drenching rain and scorching sun. If he gets sick, he probably can’t go to the doctor unless it gets really bad—then maybe someone will take him to the clinic. Some of Chris’ neighbors have been robbed of their few possessions, a few others have been beaten as entertainment for rich kids from the suburbs who came to city for some “fun.” Chris is one of the as many as four million people in the U.S. who live in boxes, under bridges, in cars, abandoned buildings, or back alleys. What does Chris look like in your mind? The fact is that Chris has red hair and he’s 10 years old. It’s true; as many as one third of the homeless in our country are children.
The homeless are some the “unlovely” people we prefer not to include in our campaign for life. The elderly, the disabled, immigrants, people with AIDS, and those who don’t quite fit society’s norm for beauty sometimes don’t quite measure up to our standards for worthwhile. “From the earliest age, children learn to mock the child who does not understand the math lesson or who cannot kick a ball straight or who cannot see well or who has a speech impediment such as stuttering or a lisp. This fact of society is particularly hard on those who have severe physical limitations from birth and those who don’t match the Ken and Barbie standard of beauty. The message of this cruelty … is that only certain models of God’s creation are to be celebrated while other human beings are to be despised. This twisted view of God’s loved ones is heretical and decidedly un-prolife. [We] Christians need to counter this cultural heresy. We are all made by the special creativity and love of our heavenly Father; we do not need to be ashamed if we do not look or sound like society’s ideal.”
How do we help those who feel unlovely? There’s no organization to join, there’s no curriculum to make beautiful people more accepting of those who are not. We Christians simply need to act like we are truly on the side of all people, not just those who look like us or act like us or earn money like us or have good morals like us or vote like us or talk like us or wear our kind of jeans or shirts. “The bottom line is this: any time we fell we can reject one of God’s people we have stopped being pro-life. At that point we have no ethical basis to expect others to follow our anti-abortion agenda because we are inconsistent in our position. And at a more frightening level, we have crossed God. We have violated one of His children.”
Are you pro-life in relation to yourself? That may sound like a strange question, but think about it. Do you consider yourself worthwhile? Is your life worth living, worth protecting, worth prolonging? If you say yes, how do you show that in what you do? Do you wear a seat belt? Do you drive safely? Do you put things into your body that shorten its length or harm it in general, whether that’s too many fatty foods, the toxins from cigarettes, the chemicals in alcohol, or the junk from junk food? If you are truly pro-life, include your own life, even the mundane parts of your day-to-day living, in that view which says, “This life is precious in God’s sight.”
And of course the last pro-life point to be made must be this: is your life the “full life” of John 10, the “life that is truly life” of I Timothy, a life that will lead to “eternal life” (I John 5)? The basic premise of the pro-life movement (and of these devotions this week) is that all life is worthwhile, worth saving, worth fighting for. But there is an exception to this rule: the life lived without God, without a knowledge of His unconditional love for us, without good works arising out of thankfulness, well, that’s not really a life. I John says that without Jesus we may be living, but we don’t really have life. Are you pro-life? Do you really want to live? Live for God!