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Osama Bin Laden, Abortion, Guns, Lust, Wars, Pro-Life – all in one essay that is rather disjuntive and free flowing, sort of like this title

 READ Genesis 1:27, Matthew 5:13-45

In a recent conversation among friends, one person remarked:  “I am opposed to abortion, but I am not a single issue voter.  There are lots of life issues that I take into consideration when I am trying to decide who should vote for to be a congregational representative, senator, or president.”

Another responded, “If you vote for somebody who support or allows for abortions, then you cannot call yourself pro-life.”

 Well, as you might imagine, lots of fun ensued in the hour following these two statements.

 I have to say that I agree with the notion that being anti-abortion does NOT mean you are pro-life. 

I will no doubt gain the wrath of some of my more liberal, pro-choice friends to saying this, but I am opposed to abortion.  I respect the discussion points of feminist who say, “My body, my choice.” Still, as a Christian, I think that the “my” argument is a bit odd.  The Christian ethic prompts us to value the need of the other.  So the “me” and “my” rights thing seems for me, as a Christian, a rather strange argument. 

I also understand the arguments from the left about when life really begins.  Is it at conception?  When the child is viable outside the womb?  When it takes its first breath in the delivery room?  I do understand.  With all honesty, however, I am unsure what the right answer is.  The Bible is not at all as clear to me about this subject as others say that it is.  No matter!  For me, human life begins as inception.   At this point theology and science, in my opinion, seem to agree.

 I also understand the argument that this whole discussion about when life begins is a deeply personal matter.  The kind of thing, we are told, that should be handled between a woman, her family, and her priest or pastor.  The argument here is that this is a religious liberty issue.  I really get that.  I love the first amendment.  I do believe in the separation of church and state was the Founder’s intent.  That said, if I believe that the unborn fetus really is a human being, then my ethic about dealing with this issue makes the discussion less about freedom of religion, and more about civil rights.  For me, abortion is a civil rights issue!

 So, I am (to say the least) not a fan of abortion.  Still, abortion is not the only “pro-life” issue that I take into consideration – especially when choosing a candidate.  My aim is to be more than just anti-abortion.  I want to be pro-life, consistently, across the boards.  That means I am, like one of my friends noted earlier, not a single issue voter.  That means that sometimes I will have to pinch my nose and vote for “the lesser of two evils” (I hate that phrase, but it seems to fit).   

 I remember the excitement my family felt when we learned my wife was pregnant with our first child.  It was 20 years ago, now – but seems like just yesterday.   Through all the difficult times of her morning sickness and backaches, as well as the financial stress, we have kept our eyes focused on the goal of bringing a healthy baby into the world.

 As expectant parents, we thought a great deal about the quality of life our child will experience. 

Will humankind completely destroy our environment before our child becomes an adult? 

 Will our child become another victim of this nation’s rising crime rate?

 Will she be drafted into military service?

 If our child is a little girl (she was), will she have the opportunity to follow God’s calling into any vocation, even if that means becoming the pastor of a Baptist church?

 These are just a few of the kinds of questions we asked then?  To them we might add state sanction execution, terrorism, access to health care, affordable shelter, etc?  Shouldn’t the birth of a child be the place to begin discussions about human life issues, rather than the place to end those discussions?

 So, I would like to turn to the scriptures and explore some “biblical theology” about LIFE.  I want to challenge some of my conservative friends who think that “pro-life” means “anti-abortion” and nothing more.  I’d also like to challenge my friends on the left to see if “pro-choice” can really be squared away with the scripture.

 In the process, I guess I might make everyone angry. 

 Human Life

 The value and significance of human life is affirmed from the beginning of the scriptures.

 In the book of Genesis, we read that God created human kind as male and female in God’s own image (Gen. 1:27).

 What does this mean?  The phrase has something to do with our vocation or purpose.

 As creatures fashioned after God’s own likeness, you and I are given a special “vocation” in the world which is similar to God’s activity in creation.  What is our “vocation?”  We are to praise and worship God, fellowship in love with other persons, participate in the ongoing creative work of God, and be prudent caretakers of God’s world.

 Unfortunately, there is much which prevents us from living out our vocation.  Hunger, poverty, sexism, racism, the destruction of the environment, violence and war are some of the many by-products of the fall (the presence of sin in creation).

These social problems keep us from fulfilling our purpose in creation.

 In the gospel story, however, we see God’s solution for the terrible problems which besiege the human race.

Because of Abba’s love, revealed in Jesus Christ, the human race is recreated in and after the image of Christ.  Paul writes that in the old Adam all died.  But in the new Adam, all are made alive.   It is to us all that this gift is given, that the life of the Holy Spirit flows.  So, then, both in creation and redemption, humanity is shown to have great value to Trinity. 

The expression of this new life is what the Bible calls “the kingdom (reign) of God.”  It is a way of being in which God’s respect and love for all human life is revealed.  It is the place where the Godheads vocation for humanity can find expression in our social and communal relationships.

Discipleship and the kingdom

The beachhead for the Kingdom of God, as John Killinger has said, is the church.  The church is a community of disciples who are seeking to understand and respond to Abba’s great love in tangible ways that express to the world Abba’s grace and love. 

The church is a place of discipleship.  So, what is a disciple?  There is a variety of interpretations for what Jesus meant when He said His disciples were the “salt” of the earth.  Salt has been seen as a seasoning, a food preservative, a sign of the covenant (Num. 18:19), and even a disinfectant (Ex. 30:35).

Alan Kreider has offered one more interesting possibility.  He points out that salt was often used in Palestine as a fertilizer

In the context of Matthew’s gospel, this suggests that disciples make the world ready to receive new life from God’s Kingdom, just as fertilizer makes the soil ready to germinate new seeds in the field.  (“Salty Discipleship,” The Other Side, March/April 1989).

In prior posts about John’s gospel, we have seen the importance of the image of “light” and “darkness.”  Jesus claimed to be the “light of the world” and said that His followers would have the “light of life” (John 8:12).

To illustrate this point, He did the work of God by giving sight to a blind man.  How do we reflect the “light of life” in our society?

We do so, as dearly loved children of the Father, by following Christ’s example and ministering to the needs of our world through the love, resources, and presence of the Holy Spirit.  .  In this way, we glorify the Father (5:16).  In other words, we live our lives in such a fashion that we reflect the in-breaking reality of the “kingdom of God.”

Nature of murder

Now let’s talk about murder!  (I know that this all seems a bit disjunctive right now, but I do have a target in mind.  I may miss it, but it’s there.  I promise!)

“You shall not kill.”  (Ex. 20:13).

This doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?  As long as we define murder as actually terminating life through some means of violence, most of us probably have no problems with this commandment.

But Jesus broadens this command to include not only the actions, but also the emotions which lead to murder.

Now we have some problems.

You see, murder is rooted in the emotions of anger, contempt, hatred and hostility.  We have all felt these emotions toward another person.

These feelings certainly won’t put us in jail (5:22) but they do put us in danger of judgment.

This is not to say that feeling hatred is just as destructive to another person as murder.  I’d much rather be hated than killed.  In fact, I have been hated many times and slept just fine (after checking to make sure my doors are securely locked).  Still, when we hate another person, we still show a lack of respect for their life and potentially make it impossible for that person to fulfill their “purpose” as a part of God’s creation.

Right now there are thousands of people celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden.  Now I certainly will not miss a wink of sleep tonight over the fact that he is dead.  But I must say that the joy at his death seems out-of-place, especially among so many “bible-believing Christians.”  Personally, I am sad at the fact that this creation of God’s love never discerned and lived out Abba’s passion and purpose for his life.

Miles Wesner has said, “Guns and knives are not the only lethal weapons. We can demolish self-worth; we can destroy productive relationships; we can assassinate character.” 

Such actions and emotions may not destroy a life but they certainly limit the quality of that life.

Harboring feelings of hatred can also harm our own quality of life.  As Christians, we are being recreated by God in the likeness and image of Christ.  So my hatred toward another (even a person as vile as Osama Bin Laden) diminishes my ability to be an expression of Father’s love. 

The center for such an ethic is the revelation of Christ, which we see most clearly in cross.  For Christians, the cross is not merely a symbol of salvation.  It is also the pattern by which the Holy Spirit uses our lives to reveal Jesus to the world.  When we allow our hearts to be filled with feelings of malevolence toward others, we also do harm to ourselves.  We can’t fulfill God’s will and purpose for our lives if we hold feelings of hatred against another human being.

Nature of lust

Okay, let’s take one more quantum leap. 

Adultery, like murder, was considered by our Lord as being a matter of the heart.  He taught that adultery was not merely an action but an attitude and intention.  Of course, the action is potentially more destructive than the attitude.

The attitude is a sin against oneself, while the action is a sin against another person or persons.  Yet Jesus still makes it clear that it is not enough to refrain from the act of adultery.        One must also be free from lust.  Yeah, right, good luck with that, eh!

As we interpret these teaching, let us remember that Jesus was addressing a male-dominated society.  Tradition had defined adultery in terms of property rights.  Women were nothing but property, and adultery was limited to sexual relations with the wife of another Jewish man.  The seduction of a non-Jewish or single woman was not considered adultery.  By defining adultery in these terms, the tradition sought to protect male promiscuity while depicting the woman as a dangerous temptress.

In many ways, this double standard remains a part of our culture. 

Jesus did not say that looking at a woman was sinful.  What is sinful is looking upon a woman lustfully, with no regard for her personhood and worth.

So, what is Jesus saying?  He is saying that women were not created to be objects for male fantasies and domination.  They are equal partners with men in creation.  As we have already read in Genesis 1:27, humankind was created as male and female in God’s image.  Any actions or attitudes which treat women as less than equal is contrary to the will of God.

So those who diminish the value, worth, or role of woman in the “Kingdom” as something less than or subservient to that of men, we diminish the value of self and others as created and redeem by Father.

 Love for enemies

One more life issue leap, okay?!

The Bible talks about loving others – but who are we suppose to love?  In the Hebrew scriptures the admonition to show love for neighbors (Lev. 19:18)?  The Jewish person, no doubt, understood this command to refer only to fellow Jews.

One should respect one’s own kind, but those outside the tribe or nation were of little value.  Eduard Schweizer points out that this is the case in any militant movement (Good News According to Matthew, p. 132).              Uncompromising battle always demands a hatred for one’s enemy. Whatever is in opposition to one’s own point of view is cast in the role of the devil, whether that be another nationality, religion or political ideology.

Jesus, however, says something really radical in this setting.  “Love your enemies!”  To express love for an enemy is to treat them as if they are part of your family.  We are not to build fences which confine our love towards those whom we like and who are like us.  We are to love everyone no matter their race, faith or political ideology.

Jesus even includes love for those who are presently persecuting us.  We are even to love those who treat us in an insulting and abusive manner.

We are not only to love those who abuse us but to pray for them also (5:44).  The prayer we offer is one of “blessing” (as the KJV suggests).

We don’t seek out God as an ally in the battle against our enemy.  Rather, we ask God to meet the needs of our enemy.  Just as sin is a matter of the heart which motivates our actions, so also faithfulness to the will and way of God.

But the good feelings are never enough.  Our prayers on behalf of our enemies must usher in actions of love and respect.  In this way, we reveal to the world that we are God’s children.

Now with these SCRIPTURES as a foundation for our discussion, life issues become broader than simply a discussion about abortion (as important a discussion as this is).  It is also a discussion about woman’s right, treatment of enemies, feeding the hungry, and a plethora of other issues.

So, let’s have some fun. 

What social problems exist in your community which diminish the worth and value of persons created in the “image of God”?  How can you and your church be “salt” and “light” in these situations?

What are some ways in which our society limits the personhood and worth of women?  Of men?

Is it possible to “love your enemies” and still seek a means to kill them in battle? 

What implications should Jesus’ teaching about non-violence and love (Matt. 5:38-48) have on Christians when their government is preparing for or engaged in war?

How does the teaching of scripture influence our attitudes about Osama Bin Laden’s death? 

Consider the following ethical issues in light of today’s lesson:  abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, euthanasia, poverty and racism.  Don’t just tell me what you think and toe the party line.  I have tried to keep my opinions about these matters to a minimum – dealing with the scripture instead.  Now I invite you to deal with these issues in light of the scripture.

Engage.

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2 Responses to “Osama Bin Laden, Abortion, Guns, Lust, Wars, Pro-Life – all in one essay that is rather disjuntive and free flowing, sort of like this title”

  1. Terry W Spencer says:

    “What social problems exist…” (etc.) Homelessness is one. Salt and light mean we engage it, intentionally and with loving purpose. Godlessness is a kind of homelessness. Is Osama bin Laden homeless? Is a woman who terminates God’s creative purpose inside of her homeless? Is an unloved enemy homeless?

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