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Standing for Life

By Pastor Tom Anderson

Defeat. Setback. Failure. This is the stuff of moral witness in this world. Moses experienced it, losing big--9 times in a row when he attempted to stand against Pharaoh's power. Jesus knew it when not even a single one of his friends stood up for him at the Cross. Paul knew it; being run out of town after town as he sought to plant churches. There are few easy moral victories. The people of God have always been called to persevere.

Dietrich Bohoffer once said it’s the job of the church to be the moral conscience to the state. This is most often a lonely calling–just consider the Hebrew prophets. The definition of sin can’t be reduced to the breaking of rules. It’s really about the human compulsion to rebel against the will of God for us.

One year ago, 57% of Michigan voters established the individual’s right to abortion in our state constitution. It’s an emblem of the moral calculus in our times. The highest moral value is that of individual rights. It’s not the community. It’s not the vulnerable other. It is certainly not the unborn child. It is the choices of the sovereign self that is our highest virtue. “I am my own master” captures this thinking

David Watson is professor of New Testament in Ohio. His state passed a similar measure to Michigan and he wrote in response:

Waking up in Ohio the morning after the passage of the ballot measure…, I felt more intensely the disconnect with many of the people among whom I live. Ohioans have enshrined in their state constitution protection for abortions up to the point of viability (usually 22-24 weeks), with exceptions allowing later abortions. I have no doubts that unborn children in which disabilities are detected, and particularly those with Down syndrome, will be targeted under the exceptions. To suggest otherwise would be naïve…

There is a long Christian tradition of the elevation of human life. Chapter 2 of the Didache, one of the earliest non-canonical Christian documents, forbids both abortion and the killing of a child who has been born. While pagans would expose unwanted infants, the earliest Christians would rescue them. After all, humans are unique the bearers of the Imago Dei. Human beings, they insisted, are not simply useful, but sacred. The most vulnerable require the most care. For followers of Christ who continue in this tradition, the success of Issue 1 represents a moral defeat.

Love is the highest virtue of the Christian life. To love is to will the good for another, even if it costs you something–and it probably will. The great prayer of the Christian life is not “my will be done” but “your will be done.” Love is about seeking the good of the other and because it is, love is clearly out of sync with modern views of the self. Nowhere is this more evident than in Michigan’s abortion law.

The goal of Christian moral witness is not to whine about what has come to be. This is not the time to despair, give up or retreat into a cave. The lives of our children are at stake! It is a time to understand what is and to respond appropriately with a witness for love. It is a time for courage and perseverance in sharing our conviction that the unborn child is surely among the “least of these” as Jesus said, “In as much as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Love is what we owe to those still in the womb. Love is not an easy answer to all our dilemmas but it is the place where all moral thinking must begin.


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