I Will Never Understand

After watching a video on illegal abortions that occur in the Philippines, I can say that I am conflicted about the issue of abortion. Our assignment in class was to look up Roe v. Wade, and we were to write down 1) whether we knew what the case was before this assignment, 2) a three-sentence summary of the case, 3) how the ruling was interpreted then versus now, and 4) whether we thought that the ruling should be upheld. The last one got me. After seeing the video of the illegal abortions that take place, I understood something that I’ve always somewhat understood but never realized until recently: it’s not as simple as “legal” or “illegal.”

After seeing the abject poverty that over 30% (I believe it says in the video) of the population lives in, I was empathetic to the mothers who were trying to obtain abortions. Here in the United States, we have an overabundance of families willing to adopt “unwanted” babies, or babies who are born into bad situations, if the mother chooses that rout. But in the Philippines, so many of these women have only two choices, abort or starve their children. We have a mentality in the U.S. that the only reason that a woman would want an abortion is because she selfishly does not want her child or the trouble or responsibility that children can bring. We fail to see that in many, many parts of the world, this is not the case.

The young girl in the video who is recorded during her abortion is sobbing during the entire procedure. Why is she sobbing? Because she is losing her child. She doesn’t want this to have to be an option. She doesn’t want to lose her baby. But she is faced with the decision to abort her second child, or let the 8 month old baby that she already has go hungry. Obviously this is not black and white. And obviously the mayor’s decision to make both abortion and contraception illegal was a poor one. But if you notice in the video, there is a comment made: “This is where religion and politics come together.” That sentence got me thinking even more, especially about Christians who think that there should be laws against abortion. Is more legislation really the answer? Are we going to the right place for our problems to  be fixed? What does this say about the idol of government?

The truth is, we’re trying to fix a very deep problem with a very surface-level answer. We’re putting band-aids on broken bones. We’re trying to fix sin, not through Jesus Christ, but through man-made laws. It won’t work. It will never work. I strongly believe that we need to focus on loving these men and women and children. Are we really showing the love of Christ when we stand outside abortion clinics, hiding behind signs, and yelling at women about how awful they are? Even if that’s true (and I know that every human being is born a sinner in opposition to God), we are completely eliminating love from our message. Now, some might say that it’s like a parent’s discipline. It seems harsh, but will benefit the child in the future. To me, it sounds like poor justification for beating a child. We also have to be careful not to go so far in the other direction that we eliminate God’s judgement and wrath.

A large part of why I am not in any pro-life groups is because 1) I feel that they are far too focused on making new laws and putting trust in government when it should be in God, 2) because of how nasty those groups can be toward people, and 3) because they don’t generally focus on loving and serving people, but rather focus on being aggressively legalistic in their approach.

I’d love to know why those same people who are outside of Planned Parenthood yelling at people are not also the same people raising their voices for, say, foster care reform or advocating making adoption easier, in light of the fact that there are 150,000+ children who are up for adoption through the foster care system, and over 600, 000 in the foster care system overall. This does not include the countless other kids who are living on their own with no familial support whatsoever. Why is nobody upset about this? Why is it not a huge issue? Besides this, 25% of U.S. children are not receiving regular meals every day, or live without consistent access to food. To top that off, of the women who get yelled at for having had abortions, so many of these women who had abortions say that they felt pressured into it, or that they regret it, and many even say that if they’d had the proper support they’d have kept their child. To me, this says nothing of the women but says everything about the quality of help that we are giving them. If we’re going to be against abortion, why are all of these other issues ignored when they relate directly? There’s also the fact that information about adoption is hard to obtain and not made widely available, while abortion is covered in every single sex-ed class and Planned Parenthood brochure in existence.

I would love to know why Christians are not coming alongside these men and women more often and saying, “We’re all sinners. I’m a sinner. You’re a sinner. We’ve made bad decisions. I don’t agree with the one you made, but I want to love you anyway, because Jesus loved me first.”

 

Author’s Note (added Nov. 20, 2012): I’d like to clear something up real quick. I actually don’t even know if it’s an issue, but I feel the need to address it, just to be completely, entirely, absolutely clear on this: I am not condoning abortion, nor do I support the practice in any way. I believe absolutely in the right to life, and I believe that abortion is, in fact, murder. What I was trying to convey in this post was that my heart breaks for these women, and that I wish that these sorts of things did not have to happen. I was not trying to say that abortion is a solution to poverty, unplanned pregnancies, or anything else. It is never a solution. There is one instance where both the mother and the child cannot be saved, and that is ectopic pregnancyIn this case, the baby has implanted outside the uterus and it is a life-threatening condition for the mother in which the baby will not survive. I do not believe that women should ever be denied medical attention that they need in order to save their life. However, I do not believe that abortion “on demand and without apology” is women’s health, and I do not support it in any way. I may post more on this later, but for now I’d just like to clarify what this post was attempting to get across.

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A couple of quotes, and a thought…

“The one who has Christ has everything. The one who has everything except for Christ really has nothing. And the one who has Christ plus everything else does not have any more than the one who has Christ alone.” -Augustine

‎13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-16

“We should not ask ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and the light?'”

Are you both salt and light to the world?

I think that too often we think of humanity as one giant collective, and we figure we can’t change anything because the vast majority has not changed at all because of us. But I also think that the cure for this is to stop thinking of humanity as a collective entity, and to begin thinking of humans as individuals. What can we do to help the individual? What can we do to show our immediate family and neighbors the Light of the World? Are we showing them that Christ is our everything, or are we acting as if Christ is just one more thing on life’s check-list?

Jesus never said, “Go and love humanity.” He told us to love our neighbors. He told us to love the people who are directly within our sphere of influence. How often do we talk about spreading the message of Christ to the world, but we’re too afraid to even talk to our neighbors or family? (And I am also guilty of this. I believe all of us are, at some time or another.)

We don’t need to change the whole world at once. In fact, it’s not even us who change the world, but Christ working through us to change one person’s world. Just one at a time. We change no one. Christ changes people. If we think that we’re the ones who change people, then we will just become frustrated when we don’t see anything happening no matter how hard we try.

It’s not us, but Christ through us.

God’s Grace

I’ve heard the question before, “How can God be a righteous God if He declares sinners pure before Him?” The answer is Jesus.

This is a quote from J.I. Packer on God’s grace that just about sums it up:

God’s justifying judgment seems strange, for pronouncing sinners righteous may appear to be precisely the unjust action on the judge’s part that God’s own law forbade (Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15). Yet it is in fact a just judgment, for its basis is the righteousness of Jesus Christ who as ‘the last Adam’ (1 Cor. 15:45), our representative head acting on our behalf, obeyed the law that bound us and endured the retribution for lawlessness that was our due and so (to use a medieval technical term) ‘merited’ our justification. So we are justified justly, on the basis of justice done (Rom. 3:25-26) and Christ’s righteousness reckoned to our account (Rom. 5:18-19).

Sinners can be declared righteous in the eyes of God because the basis of their salvation and righteousness is Jesus (all of Ephesians 1). In place of a sinful human, God sees His Son, who is completely righteous. Jesus died for the sins of His people so that God could justly declare them His own. If God were to declare a sinner righteous without justification, then God would not be a righteous or fair God. But since Jesus paid the price for the sins of God’s people, God is able to give grace.

On the flip-side, there is the question of how a righteous, good, and loving God can condemn people to hell for something that is not their fault. But God is not a mean kid with a magnifying glass who burns some ants and leaves others alone. Humans go to hell because humans are sinful. God cannot declare a sinner righteous without Jesus, and a spiritually dead person cannot follow Jesus because they are in bondage to their human nature, and therefor in opposition to Him.

In theology, the term sin translates into “without grace” or “wrongdoing.” In some cases it even translates into “missing the mark.” In the philosophical sense, sin simply means “without.” So those who are without God, or in a state of being outside of Him, are in sin by default, and we’re all born that way.

One of Plato’s operating philosophies was that “one can not do evil when one knows the good [can access the “form of the Good”]. All evil comes from an ignorance [or absence] of the good.” Obviously to Plato and other pagan cultures the “good” was not God as described in Christianity. However, the point remains that sin is basically the state of being without God. People don’t go to hell for what they do, they go to hell because everything about their being in opposition to God (Ephesians 2). It’s only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we can become “Christian” or “Christ-like” because our natural state is one that is in opposition to Him. Another way of putting it is that we make ourselves our own lords and oppose God’s lordship over creation.

Another question that comes up is, “What if I’m a good person? Wouldn’t God let me into heaven?” No. Because good people do not exist (and I’ve had consensus on this even from non-Christians). Think about this: you don’t teach your children bad behavior. You teach them to be good. The reason that we think people are good is because we raise our children morally. When they grow up and go out into the adult world, suddenly we see them become something else. They stray from that moral path that we set down in front of them, and we say, “The world corrupted my children. They had such good hearts.” The world didn’t “do” anything. Humans are born corrupt and moral upbringing just disguises it for 18 years.

So, if we are born into sin by default, and since sin is the absence of God, then there are no good people. This also negates actions as qualifiers for “good” and “bad” if “bad” is just the natural state of mankind. Most people consider themselves good because of their actions. They think that, qualitatively or quantitatively, their actions will be the sum total of their goodness or badness. But that’s what the Pharisees did and Jesus got pretty ticked at them for trying to be righteous and holy through their own merits. We have no merits. Even the saved have no personal merits that make them “good enough” in God’s eyes. They didn’t suddenly start living a different life style or “get their life right” and God said, “Oh, well I guess now you’re good enough for Me.” The only one who was perfect (or “good enough” if you will) in God’s eyes was Jesus, and that’s why He had to die on a cross, so that God’s people could be redeemed through His sacrifice, and God could replace the image of a broken human being with the righteous image of His Son. Not one is good, not even one.

In closing, I’d like to say a couple things. One, I am deeply sorry if you’ve run into Christians who told you that your sins disqualified you from salvation. That you were too horrible for God to save. They do not believe in the all-powerful God of the Bible, or they’d know that the power of Christ can overcome any sin in anybody’s past. Second, I’d like to say that I’m sorry if you’ve ever run into Christians who were just arrogant about the fact that they were Christians. If they truly understood how depraved they were, they’d know that they have nothing to brag about, and I’m sorry for the “holier-than-thou” Christians who make you never want to talk about God or go to church ever again. But I’d also like to say that the only way to Christ is through repentance, by grace through faith. It’s not works that save us, but the evidence of Christ is in the visible transformation of a life. If you continue in sin thinking that God’s grace is a get-out-of-hell-free card, then that’s a dangerous road to be walking and I’d ask you to question whether you’ve really changed. However, if you think only of God’s wrath and miss out on His love, that you’re too horrible for any god to save, realize that Jesus’ blood already paid the price. If you’re His, then you were His before the foundations of the world. This erases the past of the chosen so that they can be made whole in Him.