Posts Tagged “ephesians”

The 10th Annual Sanctity of Human Life Post

(Each year, the Sunday closest to January 22, the date of the passing of Roe v. Wade, is observed as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” in many churches.)

Ten years have brought us a long way. The 7th post on this blog observed 2004's Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This year brings us to the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand in the United States.

As America has become more politically polarized, her views on abortion have as well. However, there is a growing trend against abortion, particularly the more barbaric late-term procedures, which are now only approved by those blinded by their insistence on how much of a “right” it is. A recent Time cover read “40 Years Ago, Abortion Rights Activists Won an Epic Battle with Roe v. Wade: They've Been Losing Ever Since,” and Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, thoroughly dissected that article. And, there are some truly heartening statistics for those who value life:

However, as Dr. Mohler so adeptly points out, abortion is far from the “rare” its proponents claim they want to see. 50 million abortions have been performed since Roe passed, and we are at the point where 1 in 3 women have had an abortion by the time they make 45.

Science is helping the pro-life cause. I covered a good bit of this about a year and a half ago. Ultrasound has given us a window into prenatal development, and psychology and psychiatry have identified post-abortion depression as much more common than postpartum depression per incident.

Interestingly enough, the most damage to the pro-life cause in the past year came from two pro-life national office candidates. I covered both those guys at the time (the latter also citing Dr. Mohler - what can I say, he agrees with me a lot!), and since that is where our movement faltered this year, I believe this is where our focus should be. Our participation in the debate should keep the following Scripture in mind:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world…” - Matthew 5:13-14a (ESV)

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ…” - Ephesians 4:15 (ESV)

As Christians advocating for God's way of handling His creation, we must remember who we are. Salt can make a meal pop; however, salt can also overpower, and can be painful when ground into an open wound. Akin and Mourdock were the latter, coming off as callous and uncaring, much like those who still support “partial-birth” abortion come across to us. Light illuminates, but it can also blind. I left the entirety of Ephesians 4:15 there to show it in its context, but the first part of that verse is the key. We know this works; the “crisis pregnancy center” didn't even exist before Roe v. Wade, and now they outnumber abortion providers. Their popularity is due to the care that pregnant and scared women can receive from these organizations. They don't beat the women over the head with their “mistakes” of pregnancy or of seeking an abortion; they offer counseling, ultrasound, and support through pregnancy, childbirth, and the first few months of motherhood. They show a better way, and many women are choosing that path.

While progress against abortion is good, there is an the assault on the sanctity of human life from the other flank. “Assisted suicide” has been making the news already this year. In late 2012, two brothers in Belgium asked to be euthanized and eventually found a doctor who agreed, despite their condition not being consistent with even a liberal interpretation of the “unbearable pain” that law requires. North of our borders, Quebec looks to become the first Canadian province to legalize assisted suicide, not through legal changes, but through medical characterization of the procedure.

Both the Belgium law and the Canadian guideline revisions have advocates claiming that they will be applied narrowly; it sounds like they want it to be “safe, legal, and rare.” Where have we heard that before? Belgium and Canada both have government-run health care systems, so the government has a financial interest to maximize its investments in the system. Right now, it's a long jump to allow someone to be euthanized because they have no hope of recovery, and keeping them alive is expensive. With the Belgian brothers, and this change in health guidelines in Canada, that jump became half as long. I'm certainly not accusing the advocates of these laws of wanting to kill people; I'm sure to them, this is just them trying to help people in pain. I can guarantee, though, that in 30 years, very few of these people will still be around, and the next generation will have been reared in a society where it's perfectly normal to choose when you die. At that point, faced with looming deficits, it's a very small leap to see mandatory euthanasia based on medical evaluation. The slope isn't terribly slippery, but it's a slope nonetheless.

This illustrates the root of the disagreements many of us pro-lifers have with these laws, guidelines, and procedures. The disagreement is one of worldview. We see human life as precious, from the moment of conception through natural death, being conferred that status by God's declaration and unique grace to us within His creation. Human life alone is described as being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); its offspring described as a “reward” and having many as a “blessing” (Psalm 127:3-5); prohibited from being killed (Exodus 20:13); offered salvation from our fallen state (John 3:16); and promised reuniting with God (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) or judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). God has made it pretty clear how He views the part of His creation that was made “in His own image” (Genesis 1:27).

If we lived in a society that agreed with this worldview - well, I probably wouldn't be writing this. However, we do not, and the society in which we do live has an answer to each of those points.

This brings us back to the Akin/Mourdock problem. Simply asserting our views (then asserting them more loudly) is not going to be a very effective way of convincing others. We should keep in mind that not only does our society hold those conflicting views, they also claim to value tolerance above all else - except for tolerating us, interestingly; they have been raised to believe that we are hateful people who just want to control people's lives and force our religion down everyone's throats. Compounding the issue, some of our forebears actually did go about things this way, particularly over race.

So, is it just futile? Of course not. I believe the answer is three-fold.

  1. We must advocate with words. We must choose those words wisely, but we must use words. These words should be loving, condemning the practice of abortion while offering love, compassion, and forgiveness to those who have had them, realizing that it is but by the grace of God that we have not made (or are not still making) the same decisions. Use words honestly - where science supports an argument, use it; where it doesn't apply, don't try to shoe-horn it into applying.
  2. We must back up these words with actions. Crisis pregnancy centers, as mentioned above, have been hugely effective in not only preventing abortions, but for education and support. The film To Save a Life showed another angle of being pro-life, taking an interest in others to prevent suicide; though I didn't mention it above, suicides are also up this past year. Be involved with food banks, shelters, or other organizations that show we care for life when those lives are going through rough times. Be involved with senior's activities. Pick a place and plug-in; put feet to your words.
  3. We must be vigilant. We must not give up the fight against legislation or policies simply because we haven't had time for the first 2 points above to be effective. We must continue to pray; we have the Creator of human life on our side.

Changing the culture seems like an overwhelming task, and it truly is a monumental one. However, the size of the task does not relieve us of our responsibility to be salt and light, and to work towards making it a place where all life is valued, from the moment of conception through natural death.

My Problem with So-Called “Gay Marriage” (Part 1)

This is long, and it's just part one; strap in.

Today, our president announced that, in a 180-degree turn from his previous statements, he now favors “gay marriage.” There are several things about this entire situation that boggle the mind about this, and most of them come back to the inescapable fact that few other religions would permit such bigotry against them. For the vast majority of opponents to same-sex marriage, their opposition is not rooted in hate, but in their religious beliefs. The insistence of these activists to literally re-define marriage is what makes this most distasteful. In future parts, I'll also deal with the fact that they are not honest in their arguments; they cannot be, or they will have to cede what they feel are their strongest points. Finally, I have an opinion (bet you didn't see that coming, huh?) of how I believe government can both respect religion and get the vast majority of what the “gay marriage” activists want; that will be part 3.

Imagine, if you will, that our founding fathers were Jews rather than Christians and Deists. They set up our government to honor Passover above any and all other days, requiring that employers give Jewish employees time off from sundown to sundown on Passover, provided they attend the special services at the temple. This worked well for over 200 years, as some people got a day off each year, and other's didn't. It didn't occur to them to mind; this is just the way it's always been. There's a program out there for which they don't qualify, but it didn't bother them, the same way that it didn't bother them that they weren't eligible for food stamps because their income was too high.

Then, one day, the Protestant population started wondering why they didn't have this same protection - “Why can't I demand a free day off a year, just because I don't hold to that ancient, antiquated religion?” They go to the government and say “Hey, this doesn't seem fair - why can't we get a free day off each year?” The government says, “Well, what do you have in mind?” The people reply “Passover should be for all! We want a Protestant Passover, except without that temple requirement; we just want a free day off like them!” The government promptly laughs them out of its offices.

These Protestants aren't done yet, though. Prestigious universities have been teaching Protestantism as an equally valid alternative to Judaism for many years, and now these university-educated people are educating an increasing number of the nation's children. They decide to lay the groundwork by starting to normalize Protestantism. They find some inspiring stories about Protestants throughout history; they speculate that others may have been &“closet” Protestants, even though they never really said for sure. Finally, they follow this up with people who were “unfairly” treated simply because they were Protestant. If it's one thing kids understand, it's "that's not FAIR!", and this plan has wildly-successful results. The reasons given tend to evolve as well; in the beginning, it's fear; a few years later, it's bigotry; a few years after that, it's just hate.

Finally, this so-called Protestant Passover movement really starts to have some legs. Politicians are asked their view of this, even when the nation is facing far more pressing issues. The Jews are livid about the government defining a “Protestant Passover” that confers all the rights of the free-day-off Passover, but is celebrated by people who have no clue what it is they're celebrating, and without the worship requirement (which was the original reason behind the law in the first place). They would base their complaints on the free exercise of religion, and they would be told to stop hating.

You see where I'm going with this. There is absolutely no way our fictional government would even consider something so ludicrous as Protestant Passover; but, with two generations of conditioning by partial parties, now it doesn't seem ludicrous. I believe this is the point we have reached in our nation today; those who are for “gay marriage” cannot fathom any motivation other than hate in their opposition, no matter how little sense this makes. (“But wait,” you say, “wouldn't the original Passover law constitute an establishment of religion?” One could make that argument; come back for part 3, my friend.)

The word “marriage” means something to the Christian faith. Through the several Scriptures that follow, we survey some of the verses that establish marriage as having special significance; this is my proof that the “gay marriage” push is offensive to Christianity. We'll start with two verses that are central to this argument.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

These two verses establish the sufficiency and completeness of Scripture. Either it's all true, or none of it is; I hold to the former view. What was written was written, and the omission of what was not written is also significant. We also see that the purpose of Scripture is to equip man through teaching (education), reproof (some versions translate this “rebuke”), correction (a change of course), and training (“here is how you do it”). This means that, although Jesus has come and fulfilled the law, reading the law still has value; it gives us insight into how God thinks. Studying how God dealt with people and nations can show us His patience, mercy, and judgment all at the same time.

I think that this is where many of the Christians who identify themselves on the “pro” side of this argument go astray. They focus on one verse or passage, to the exclusion of all others. They may give special emphasis to the words of Jesus - most Bibles do, by putting His words in red! However, these verses tell us that all Scriptures is profitable. If Jesus said something, Paul echoed it, and Peter explained it, Peter's explanation is not “one of many interpretations” of Jesus' words; it is the explanation that God has preserved in His Word!

With that being said, let's take a look first at some pro-marriage verses. From the very beginning, God created male and female (yes, “Adam and Eve” not “Adam and Steve”), and near the end of Genesis 2, we read

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

Later, Solomon has this advice for his son:

Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.

Proverbs 5:18-19

(Am I the only one noticing that not only are they supposed to be husband and wife, but they're supposed to keep the fire burning? Ever read the book Song of Solomon? Yowza!)

Now, sure, those are both Old Testament. But, when Jesus quotes these words (and not in the “It has been said...but I say” way)…

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?...”

Matthew 19:4-5

...well, that would seem to make them doubly-important in my book. Paul, who was one of the last people to see Jesus, found himself in the position of educating new believers who came from a background of hedonism. We'll deal with the "don't"s here in a bit, but let's look at how he summarizes his instructions on roles in marriage.

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:33

Husband with masculine pronoun, wife with a feminine pronoun - it's almost like there's a secret message there. No, I kid; it's no secret at all. Keep in mind this was written in Greek, when the Greek culture had just recently begun to fade. There was certainly plenty of homosexuality and pederasty in Greece; if there had been something positive to say about either of these things, Paul had the perfect opportunity. However, he had a different take.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:26-27

(Could that last part be talking about venereal disease or AIDS? Probably shouldn't go there; this is already long enough as it is.)

Paul is not a lone wolf on this; the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the prohibitions in the Levitical law on not only homosexuality, but also bestiality, incest, and adultery are consistent with this. Incidentally, these laws are given as a group, lending a certain “they're all the same sin” feel to that list. Non-marital sexual activity was prohibited.

Marriage was the first institution established by God, followed closely by the family. The reason our government issues marriage licenses in the first place is a carry-over from the Church of England (more on that in part 3). It is significant in the Christian faith. The fact that it has been abused and devalued by Christians and non-Christians alike does not change that. In fact, let's go ahead and get that red herring out of the way here. Remember above, where Jesus quoted the Old Testament? Let's pull that passage over here in with a bit more context.

And Pharisees came up to Him and tested Him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?”

He answered, “Have you not read that He Who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so….”

Matthew 19:3-8

Here, Jesus not only recognizes the institution of marriage, He reinforces it, tearing down an “out” that Moses had permitted, and had been a part of their law ever since. Now, I personally believe that it's a good thing that divorcees aren't shunned; Jesus doesn't indicate that divorce is better or worse than any other sin, but He does call it out as sin. If sin is forgiven and forsaken, my reading of Scripture tells me that's good enough for God, and if it's good enough for Him, it's good enough for me. However, the modern church has swung too far away from shunning to the point that divorce is common and accepted; it makes the argument for the sanctity of marriage weaker, especially in the eyes of the non-believing world. However, it does nothing to dilute the words of Jesus here.

Marriage is significant to the Christian faith. I believe I've demonstrated above that “gay marriage” is an oxymoron; how do you have “prohibited-activity sacred-institution”? Just as Muslims would fight a move to classify pulled pork as a halal dish, or Catholics would not want to receive a Big Mac as the Eucharist, Christians who oppose “;gay marriage” are simply defending their faith. Redefining a word that currently denotes the first institution ordained by God should be met with strong resistance by all Christians. Maybe this assault is what we need to recognize how far we've drifted from what the Word says should be the way. Forget about the sins of the past; we should determine what God says, then stand for it.

(This is part 1 of a 3-part series. The other parts will be linked here as they are published. The other parts will remain in my head.)

Gay Bishops: A Big Deal?

Much has been made over the decision this week by the Episcopalian church's approval of its first openly gay bishop. A lot of the discussion I've seen on this has centered on how this may split the church. I don't see that, and here's why. The Bible is very clear about the qualifications of a minister (check out the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy if you've never read those.) The time that this became a big deal, in my opinion, was when this man was first approved as a deacon or priest. Should those who have responsibility of a congregation be held to any less of a standard that someone who has responsibility over those who lead congregations?

The Episcopal church, as an entity, has made its decision. Of course, as with many denominations, there are good folks who know what is right, and disagree with the leadership when they go astray. The biggest problem with this decision is that it sends the signal that certain precepts, in the Bible in black and white, can be discarded if they do not fit the way one feels. This bishop doesn't feel that the prohibition of homosexuality found in Leviticus and Romans really apply to us today. This is a very dangerous example, especially when it's being set by one that is recognized as a leader of a Protestant religion.

The Bible should serve as a guide, and a source that can tell us if our feelings are pulling us in the right direction. This exactly the thing that Paul talked about in Ephesians 4:22-23, when he says to put off the old nature, with its lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds. If our feelings were a good guide for holy living, we wouldn't need the Holy Spirit to direct us. But, they aren't, and we do. I don't look down on the Episcopal church, either as a whole, or the people in it. I do pray that they will return to a more literal interpretation of the Scriptures, and that no one will take this action as a license to discard parts of the Bible they don't like.