Here is the first of five articles whose intent is to explain and apply the Bible’s call to do all things for the glory of God.
Tomorrow is the 4th of July. It marks the 246th year commemorating our nation’s independence from the Empire. What a history we have in such a short time (historically speaking)! Courage, wisdom, perseverance, kindness mingled with enslavement, greed, corruption and violence. We are not different from any other nation in these ways but we are different from them in others.
The founding DNA of our nation differs from that which established the kingdoms of old. Neither fiefdoms nor monarchies crafted our nation. Neither invasions nor gifts established America. No, it was a zeal for independence in many ways that did it; from: religious persecution, unjust taxation, squashed opportunity or even to seek a second chance. All along there was a sense of destiny, of hope, of boundlessness that carried the pilgrims and then pushed the settlers. That sense has not gone away. It is what supports concepts like the “American Dream.” That a refugee from Ukraine, South Sudan or Guatemala can come here and make something new and belonging to them is an inheritance from what founded this nation in the first place.
Not all have adopted such a sense; neither have all been in positions to achieve it if they had it. No nation’s history contains no dark, immoral or wicked spots–ours certainly doesn’t. But, it would not be appropriate before Almighty God to maximize our faults so that the good is finally eclipsed. We used to know this. I say “good” because what has been and is present in America is good: a Constitutional republic, a Bill of Rights to secure our independence from our government, the economic / medical / arts / engineering developments and the ability (for most) to walk the streets without fear or the oversight of an ominous dictator. Even those who are oppressed can find their way out of their oppression (that might be controversial for some but history doesn’t support such a view).
Our historic faults and their present impacts must not be minimized, to be sure, but neither are they to be what defines us as a people. America has been and is a good place to call “Home.”
But it is not a Christian nation. It is not a holy people. It is not the apple of God’s eye. It will not ever be those things because it never can be. It will not be a place of libertarian freedom nor will it be a place of pure justice. Independence Day isn’t the day to set our minds and hopes on these things hoping that America might one day resemble them (or that we did in the past and it must be reclaimed). The Fourth is a day for us to give thanks to God that He would give us such a gift as America. That it has been a place where injustice has been addressed; oppression has been broken; help has been administered; ignorance has been educated; compromise has flowed. What other nation has been called a “melting pot”?
Christians in America should give thanks to God that we have been born here. Our brothers and sisters worldwide might have some or none of what we enjoy. Our citizenship, therefore, should be a stewardship. That we use the freedoms we have for the benefit of others around us. Sometimes that will mean we work for the oppressed, for the unborn, for the widowed, for the refugee. Sometimes that means we will compromise for legislation that treats all people equally without trying to guarantee equal outcomes. Sometimes it means we say “No” to our selves and our tribe for the benefit of others.
I am convinced that Christians above all others should be active in these things. What have we got to lose? Since our Home is heaven and in it will be the perfections of everything we could ever hope or think, we can strive to make America a better place for all people–even if it is imperfect. America doesn’t need to be heaven; it needs to be a better America. God made a covenant with Noah wherein He promised to preserve the earth until Christ’s return and He calls us to build a civilization steeped in restraint, justice, enterprise and civility. For Americans, this means us in this place and time.
Some will want to include in this program lifestyles and commitments that all know are incoherent, wrong and harmful. It has always been this way. In our project, there will continue to be significant disagreement and fracturing and this should not be surprising. Some will not get “their” way even if their way is the moral way (the way commended to us by the very nature of things). Some will not get “their” way even if it held with exuberant passion. But neither should this surprise us. For those in Christ who have an eternal home, imperishable prepared for us by Christ, the faults in America are real but they are not ultimate.
Consider this: for those who do not know Christ, this place contains all the joy and happiness they will ever know. At the moment of Christ’s return, all who have refused Him in this life but have received His common grace will receive it no longer. Why can’t Christians work to make it a better place for them? Out of compassion? Most parents teach their children to leave a place better than when they found it. As Christians, set apart in the Church to be received as the Bride of Christ one day, shall we not work to leave America a better place than we found it?
The “industry” of abortion has taken a major hit today and evil with it. It numbers among the greatest days of my life. It is hard to process the events of Friday, June 24, 2022: I have been thinking, writing, praying, preaching and teaching on this topic since 1994. (I point to that as my political self-awareness season.) Many like me weren’t sure we’d ever see a change in the horrific laws supporting the murdering of the unborn. The analysis, the jubilation and the outcries will be swift, detailed and dogmatic.
Where is our boast, Christian?
- Is it in the decades of grass-roots work in prayer, policies and protests?
- Is it in the slow degradation of abortion access through some incremental laws?
- Is it in the growing scientific realization that viability is arbitrary and life begins at conception?
- Is it in the actual silliness of the Roe and Casey legal grounding?
- Is it with Project Veritas exposing PPA’s practice of selling aborted baby body parts?
- Is it with President Trump who nominated Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett?
- Is it Mitch McConnell who steered them through the Senate?
- Is it the brilliance of Justice Alito and Thomas (and Scalia before them)?
- Is it with Mississippi changing their laws to disallow abortions after 15 weeks?
Where is our boast, Christian? Bible-believing Christians know our God is the God of the oppressed, the fatherless, the widow, the helpless. None are as helpless as the unborn. We have prayed and He has answered. It was His good pleasure to see to it that life would prevail on this day. We boast in Him!
But we have done more than pray. So again, is it sufficient to say our boast is in the Lord? In a way, no. Our boast is also in the innumerable opportunities men and women in this country have taken to see abortion outlawed and the distressed in pregnancy helped. All of the bullet points above are victories for life and we may boast in them! Is it God’s providence that has done this? Yes! His providence, however, was worked out in and through the acts of men and women.
I ask this because of what is now before our nation: a post-Roe world. Now that the fact there is no Constitutional basis for abortion has been exposed, we have to work with our fellow citizens to stop the practice altogether. We who believe must pray but also we must engage with those organizations and groups that care for life from womb to tomb. Roe and Casey didn’t just fall for no reason: but for 1000’s of reasons over 50 years.
Perhaps our greatest problem isn’t that abortion is still legal and encouraged in some states (though that is a problem). Our greatest problem is that there will still be a demand for abortion. Why might this be? I speak as a pastor. Here’s a non-exhaustive list to get us thinking:
- Believers undervalue having families and more greatly esteem careerism for men and women (especially women). Can we read the Old and New Testaments and conclude that careers are what God esteems most from men and women?
- Believers too often undervalue the created purpose for sex: making image-bearers. Sex means more than making babies, but not less. (As an elder shared with me, it’s “meaning” is far more than something physical or procreative but for my task here, I’m dividing “meaning” from “purpose” as I think the procreative purpose is more neglected in the Protestant church.) Simply put, when we counsel the young about sex, do we ask, “Are you ready to be a father?”?
- Believers don’t think long term: 9 months isn’t that long. (I’ve said this before.) A crisis pregnancy will come to an end in 9 months. For most women that’s .01% of the average life span for a woman in the USA (81.1 years). This isn’t to minimize the crisis nature either of how it started or its process. It is to simply say believers need to think in terms of a lifetime and then of eternity.
- Believers in churches don’t often make room for those in crisis. A crisis pregnancy might still carry the scarlet A in congregations but it certainly should not. Which of us has sin that is not (yet) for public view? How can we look down on those who can’t help but parade theirs in public?
- Believers can prioritize ease over perseverance and reputation over humility. It is one of the most tragic facts that church families often pressure their daughters in crisis pregnancies to get abortions. Why? The pregnancy would be inconvenient; it would ruin parents’ plans for their daughter’s future, etc. Why else? “If word got out that our son impregnated that girl, what would people think?” Reputation isn’t nothing but it certainly isn’t worth murdering a child.
- Believers too often don’t want to be bothered. We like our lives the way we live them. Unexpected pregnancy would be so disruptive. Or, making room in our homes or our churches for those in distress would be so exhausting. Someone else will handle this. Isn’t there a government program?
It seems we might be better at caring for our aging parents than we are in caring for our wayward sons or daughters; I guess that’s good. Yet, unless we look some of these reasons in the eyes and ask ourselves which applies to us, then we risk keeping the demand for abortion alive and too many still-to-be-born little ones dead.