Read:  Genesis 1:26-31; Psalm 8:1-9; Matthew 12:9-14

Oh boy, I am afraid it is going to hit the fan now – especially with my more progressive or liberal friends, who will probably take this article as an affront against a woman’s right to choose what will happen with their body (yeah, this blog is about human life issues, like abortion).  I take some comfort in writing, however, by the notion that my more conservative friends will think I am hedging.  They will think I need to come out hard and fast, condemning abortion in no uncertain terms.

My aim is not to find a “middle-ground.”  I know full well that convictions related to issues of life have no middle-ground.   I do think, however, that some “common-ground” is accessible for people of good faith who are willing to find it.

I attended a clergy-gathering in Charlotte, NC, where two respected pastors – each from differing sides of the political spectrum – were involved in a debate about abortion.  Both used the Bible to support their positions. 

“Life begins at birth,” the first pastor declared, in no uncertain terms.  “Adam was not a living soul until God breathed into him the breath of life!”  

The other pastor replied, “Life obviously begins at conception.  Don’t you remember what God said to Jeremiah?  He said that He knew the prophet while he was still in his mother’s womb. According to the Bible, abortion is evil!” 

Similar debates are currently taking place throughout the church.  Issues like abortion, euthanasia, and (more recently) cloning are regular topics of discussion in both pulpit and pew.  Christian ethicists currently find themselves in a race to keep up with new technologies and the life-issues they force us to confront.

As these debates take place, there are many in the church that turn to the Scripture to find a clear-cut answer to these pressing questions.  What’s tough (and I know I will immediately aggravate some by saying this) is that the Bible does not offer the precise answers we seek.  At no place in the Bible will you find a definitive statement about abortion, cloning or physician-assisted suicide.  To refer to poetic or narrative passages like those in Jeremiah and Genesis as if they were biological textbooks is a misuse of the Scripture.  It usually reveals more about the individual’s personal convictions about the issue than it does the will of God.

Does this mean that the Bible can offer no guidelines when it comes to addressing these most pressing ethical issues?   I think not. 

Proof-texts supporting particular ideological convictions about human life may be difficult to find in the Bible.  Nevertheless, the Bible does offer certain identifiable principles which can and must be employed to guide Christians through these muddy ethical waters.  Perhaps if Christians of differing convictions could stop engaging in political grand-standing – opting instead to seek common biblical ground – the tragedy that is abortion could be minimized in our society.   

The first principle is that God created humankind in God’s own image (Genesis 1:26-27).  There are two important aspects of this statement.  First, God is the author and giver of life.  Second, when God gave human beings their life, it included aspects of God’s character, nature and goodness.  This would certainly imply that human beings have great worth in the eyes of God.  This being the case, it is necessary for Christians, as  we discuss all issues related to human life, that we do so within a framework that understands the values all life, while respecting God as Creator.

Now the immediate application of this would seem to lend itself to respect for the unborn.  Certainly this is more than an appropriate application.  That said, let’s also included in our discussions the truth that women are also created in God’s image.   When so-call “pro-choice” individuals talk about “women’s rights,” they must be heard and respected.    Women are more than baby-making-machines. 

A second principle is the recognition that God cares for humanity (Psalm 8:5-8).  Not only does God create human life but God becomes intimately involved with the human beings who are His creation.

After considering all the vastness of the created order, the psalmist marveled that God would recognize and care for him.  Should not God’s care for all humanity play some role in our deliberations about ethical issues of life?

How might that affect our discussion?  How about if those who oppose abortion started expressing more care for the needs of poor children whose parents cannot provide them adequate care.   I heard a conservative radio personality recently devote a portion of his program to the “pro-life” movement, arguing that the courts and congress ought to put an end to all abortions. 

In the next segment of his program, he lambasted all forms of government assistance to the poor (including WIC – which provides lower cost food for pregnant women, infants, and children).  So, what he was basically saying was this:  “The government should secure the right for every fetus to come to terms and be born.  After that they are on their own!”  If we are going to protect and advance the cause of defending the “rights” or the unborn, because God loves them and cares for them, shouldn’t we also build a more just society for those infants and children once they are born? 

The third biblical principle is the recognition that our life has been granted a purpose by God (Psalm 8:5-8).  Human existence should be viewed as something more than simply living and dying.  God has given all human beings purposes for their lives.  Ethical discussions about life must be framed in such fashion that all people are given the opportunity to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives. 

The fourth principle is the recognition that God sees all individuals as persons of value (Matthew 12:9-13).  In this passage, Jesus heals the withered hand of a man.  The only problem is that He conducted such a healing on the Sabbath in the synagogue.  This angered the Pharisees who placed a greater value on their traditions and personal convictions than they did on the worth of that single individual.

There comes a time when Christian people must stop debating and arguing and instead find common ground on which they can act to promote the worth of ALL human life.

In what ways are you (or your church) engaging in ministry that adds value to people’s lives? 

Or maybe you are just making statements and debating issues!

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