I love to debate. By that, I don’t mean simply arguing with others about anything, but actual formalized debating. I was taught how to debate as an elective in middle school and later ended up receiving a college scholarship in speech and debate. One of the things I love about debate is that logic and reason are the keys to success. Sure, there is a place for rhetoric and passionate speeches, but those are only successful as long as they play a supporting role to sound argumentation and logical reasoning. Unfortunately, I got too used to this environment and would launch into “debate mode” sometimes when a friend in the cafeteria would say something that wasn’t right or didn’t make sense. Turns out that “here are 10 reasons why what you said is stupid” doesn’t really make a great dinner conversation. This led to my early retirement from formalized debate, but my background in it and the skills that I learned through it still remain.
Because of this background, I try to approach contemporary issues from a rational and logical standpoint. But the unfortunate thing is that is seems these are no longer the standards in today’s world, especially when it comes to issues of the sanctity of human life. The more I look at and read about the actual beliefs of people that God has called us to witness to and love, the more I see things that are beyond reason, and instead are being run by a form of madness. Let’s look at a few examples.
Over time, the argumentation of the pro-choice position has changed from saying that a fetus is not a life (which changed since science has given us overwhelming evidence of the falsehood of that idea) to now focusing on the notion that a woman can do whatever she wants with her body. This new argument can be logically shown to be false on a number of different levels, from the fact that women can’t legally do whatever they want with their bodies (prostitution is still illegal) to looking into the dangers of having convenience rule the day. If choosing to keep a child is only based on the mother’s convenience (see: her choice), then what’s to stop them from killing a newborn baby? There’s really nothing less convenient than a newborn child, who is totally dependent on his parents for everything and has no sensitivity toward sleep cycles or personal time. If convenience is our new standard for decision making, then we’re in trouble.
Thirty-eight of our states have laws that protect a child in utero from over 60 different violent crimes. Here’s how this can then play out in today’s world. If a mom is driving to an abortion clinic to kill her child, and is hit by a drunk driver on the way and the child dies as a result, the drunk driver is charged with homicide. But if the mother makes it to her destination and that same child is killed at the abortion clinic, no charges are filed. Abortion is apparently the exception, even though it has the same, if not a worse, effect, than those other 60 violent crimes. This is not logic, it’s madness. Recently a mother in Europe won a case to euthanize her disabled daughter, and many people praised the decision. But when a dog in Spain was quarantined because it was carrying the Ebola plague, many of these same people were outraged and protesting the fact that this animal carrying a disease with a 50% mortality rate can’t go play in the park. This is not reason, it’s insanity. A woman is praised for her decision to end her life via assisted suicide, which is the moral equivalent of seeing a man preparing to kill himself by jumping off of a bridge, and cheering him on. That’s not being run by any moral code, but depravity. Clearly, logic is no longer effective in changing these issues.
It’s easy for me, and many others, to just throw our hands up and give up, as if this is a new problem. Yet a quick look at the struggles of previous generations can show us that this is by no means a new issue. Outright racial injustice in our political and social systems was a battle that was hard fought for decades in America and is, on a different level, still being fought today. Before that, the issue was slavery. Before that, it was the slave trade. Before that, it was child labor issues and if you go back before that, societies were dealing with human sacrifices. The point is this: our hope cannot be in a utopian society where reason and morality abound. We are simply not going to have that until the day that our Lord returns. Changing our society’s laws about certain issues like abortion may be a good thing, but it won’t fix the real problem that lies in our hearts. Our hope for change in this world is not sanity, logic and reason returning to our culture, but in the transformation of individuals by the powerful Word of God. Following the example of Christian leaders, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to William Wilberforce, whohave fought similar injustices in generations before us, we need to stand for life. But how do we do this, and where do we start?
We cannot start by just organizing our youth groups and churches to go on marches for life or volunteering at the nearest crisis pregnancy help center, though those are great ideas that should be used later down the road. The problem is that if we jump right to just going and doing things without laying the foundation as to why we’re doing them, then we aren’t really going after the real problem. So here are some ideas of how to stand for life, in order of when they should happen:
- Teach, discuss and internalize the concept of the image of God. The whole issue of the value of human life must begin, for Christians, with this crucial teaching. We must begin with Genesis 1:27, where out of all creation, mankind alone is made in the very image of God. All humans, as a result, are inherently valuable. We are different in looks, gifts, culture, roles, age and circumstances, but equal in value. This has far-reaching implications, from issues of racial conflict to abortion, from sexual exploitation in pornography or strip clubs to any form of slavery. All of these are examples of when we forget about the image of God, when we see or treat others as less valuable than ourselves. So how do we do this? Lead Bible studies, devotions and discussions on this topic. Share various news stories and look at how these are examples of people forgetting about the image of God. Use the image of God as the basis for your youth group rules (ie. “Instead of tearing people down, we remind others of their infinite value in Christ through our words and actions”). Have parents write a brief letter to their children outlining who they are based on God’s Word, and have them stick that letter on their children’s bedroom or bathroom mirror. Make a card for each of your youth that outlines all that God has done to show that they are valuable (created you in His image, formed you in the womb, called you by name in baptism, and even sent His Son to die for you) and how that value is not based on anything that you do.
- View the world around you through the lens of the Gospel. In the midst of the ongoing discussion and walk with our young people regarding their value in Christ, we need to continually push for putting this into practice. The world and our sinful selves see the outward appearance and actions of others and make a value judgment based on that. We need to trade this way of viewing the world in for Gospel lenses, with which we see the outward appearance and actions of others and realize that they are simply a sinner in need of God’s grace, just like us. There’s not a magic button that can be pressed that changes us into this mode, but rather the Holy Spirit changing our hearts through the Word, Sacraments and the constant cycle of confession, repentance and forgiveness. Our role in this is not in that transformation, but in the encouragement of living it out. This is found in little, everyday moments where we point out how the Gospel changes the way we see those around us. When you see a man who is homeless, talk to your youth about his value and how we should treat him as a result. Start off your time with the youth by asking about what image of God issues they’ve seen this week. Counsel youth through break-ups or sports losses by framing the whole issue around the fact that it doesn’t have any impact on their value. Order rubber bracelets and print “Image of God,” “Infinite Value,” or “Worth Dying For” on them, then give them to your youth to wear daily as a reminder of how they should see themselves and others.
- Put it into action on an everyday level. Once we begin to see others differently, the next step must be to actually treat people differently. We can’t just think that people are valuable and then turn around and not even care about treating them that way. That’s like wanting to compliment someone else, but instead of saying it to them out loud, you just keep it to yourself. You may know that they look nice today, but they don’t know that, and so you haven’t built them up at all. This first happens on a day-to-day basis. When our youth see a person at lunch that is sitting by themselves, they move over and sit with them. When asked why, they respond by talking about that person’s value in the sight of God and as a result, us. When someone sins against us, we not only forgive them, but we also tell them how valuable they are to God and to us. When someone’s being bullied, picked on or put down, we stand up and say, “Hey, she’s worth dying for! You can’t treat her that way!” I actually heard that after youth group one night last year, and even though it was made in a half-joking manner, it was still effective. It’s a form of everyday boldness in which we stand up for all life, regardless of who it is or what the circumstances are, because people are made in the image of God, and they are valuable.
- Organize specific events to target areas of interest. Here is where we finally get to what most people consider to be the first step. Here’s where we go out and participate in a “Walk for Life” event, spend time serving at a local crisis pregnancy center, or get involved with “Lutherans for Life” or a similar activist group. But we do these events from the foundation of all human life being valuable, not just one issue being important. As we’re seeing people through the lens of the Gospel and as we’re sharing their value with them through our daily words and actions, we also stand up for specific issues and topics that affect regional and national change. We cannot make the mistake of having “Life Sunday” mean “Anti-Abortion Sunday.” Instead of being known by what we are against, when we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) in light of God’s value for all mankind, we become known by what we are for, which is life. We don’t just highlight what is bad and wrong, but we focus on what is good, right and salutary. We actually make “pro-life” into a descriptor of us in every area of our lives, from the cafeteria and sports complex to hospitals and adoption agencies.
Let our legacy not be one of simply shaking our fists at the darkness, but of bringing the light of Christ to meet and overcome it. Let us not settle for quick fixes or once a year events, but dig in for the long-haul. I pray that years down the road, we will be asked about our role in the overturn of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and the like, just like those before us have been asked about suffrage, slavery and the slave trade. I pray that our answers can honestly be that we refused to sit down regarding the sanctity of human life, that we toiled for many years sharing the Gospel with those affected by these issues, and reinforced the value of life wherever we went.
I think that the day is coming soon where logic and reason will return when it comes to these topics, and that life will once again be legally reaffirmed in this nation. As we go and live out the Good News that Christ has died for us, that we have infinite value because of His sacrifice and that we have been made in God’s very image, I hope that we can see the effects not only in the abortion clinic, but also in the strip clubs and in the pornography industry where women are treated as objects to be desired not people to be valued, in the streets of our cities where we attempt to make one group or another into second-class citizens, and in our own hearts as we receive God’s forgiveness for our sins without holding onto value-sucking guilt and shame. But we cannot put our hope in living to see these things come to pass. Instead, we put our hope in the God who creates life, in the Son who redeems life and in the Spirit who brings us to life through the Word. With that as our hope, we stand for life each and every day until the day He calls us home to experience eternal life with Him forever. When we get there, I pray that we will see people there that are in heaven because they heard about Christ through our standing up for life wherever we went. That’s the goal, that’s the hope, and now’s the work. But know that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.