The history books tell a story of Christians who valued life in ancient Rome and transformed a culture.
Will they say the same of us?
First, this post is for professing Christians, for those who claim Christ as their Lord and Savior. I, like you have been appalled as I have watched the videos exposing the selling of baby parts by Planned Parenthood and the nonchalant way these little lives are spoken of. I have been convicted as I have read article after article calling us, as believers to rise up and truly be people who will be voices for the unborn, thought about calling my Senator (just being honest.. but have yet to do that, just figuring out what I want to say… you can find your senator information here), and wondered of the “how’s”. How do I engage in this cultural battle? Perhaps that is you as well.
If you are new here, let me tell you briefly my story. I have a loving husband, dog, and 2 little girls who died shortly after birth. Over the past two years I have carried to term those two precious girls, diagnosed in utero with fatal defects that 95% of women typically abort. I chose a different way, not because of my own courage and strength but because a different way, a different worldview had been built into my heart because of what Jesus did for me on the cross. It’s a worldview that reflects the centrality of the gospel as the giving of one life so that another could live. That I die for others not the other way around. In a culture that says “it’s about me, my wants and desires”, the gospel calls us to live not for ourselves but for the sake of another. My husband and I did not walk this journey alone, we had a community of people that rallied around us and chose to live out the same worldview, to lay down their lives to lift us up and be the arms of feet of Christ in the most painful season of our lives. And can I tell you, when people laid down their lives.. unimaginable beauty rose.
Both times, as we received the diagnosis my heart felt overwhelmed. The second time, we decided to get a 2nd opinion. As the doctor confirmed the diagnosis, she said “Can I share with you your options?”, to which my husband said “no, thank you”. She proceeded to say “I’m concerned about your fertility future in continuing this pregnancy”. In the midst of my own grief that we would be carrying to term another baby that would not live, I had not the words at the time but thought in my heart… “But this is what Jesus did, he laid down his life for me, so that I can live. He knew what it would cost Him and determined it was worth the cost… that my chance at life was worth laying down his life.” I simply responded “we know that it may affect the future and we will still carry our daughter to term.” At the heart of her question was a worldview that says “Look out for what you want, it’s about you, it’s about your future.” Yet, at the heart of ours was “It’s about honoring God, it’s about obeying Him, it’s about being a picture of the gospel to the watching world, its about valuing life at the cost of my own.”
Aborting babies is not a new thing in our culture, but has been rampant in even cultures past.
Cicero (106-43 BC), writing in the period before Christ, cited the Twelve Tables of Roman Law when he wrote, “deformed infants should be killed” (De Ligibus 3.8). Similarly, Seneca (4 BC-AD 39) wrote, “We drown children who are at birth weakly and abnormal” (De Ira 1.15). The ancient writer Plutarch (c. AD 46-120), discussing the casual acceptance of child sacrifice, mentions the Carthaginians, who, he says, “offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds while the mother stood by without tear or moan” (Moralia 2.171D). Polybius (ca. 200-118 BC) blamed infanticide for the population decline in Greece (Histories 6).” – Michael Craven
The early Christians lived in a society where infanticide and even child sacrifice was legal. But Christians, transformed by the life of Christ, began to live out something different. When the Romans left their unwanted babies in the forest, the Christians went into the forests and rescued those babies. They cared for THE people, not just THEIR people. They sacrificed their own comfort, their own security; they laid down their rights for the sake of those in need of rescue. When you see someone drowning, you don’t wait for a comfortable boat to come along and slowly row out to get them, you don’t write a blog post on how to swim, you don’t stand at the edge of the water and shout this is how you survive. You GO. You run into the water with all your might and then you swim with all your might, with no thought to anything but I must rescue this person, risking your own life so that another may live. This is the way of the cross. This is the way of the people of the cross.
Planned Parenthood may be defunded by the government for abortions because of this, they may not. But we will only change a culture, change a nation as the Christians did in the Roman empire if we go. Will we step outside the safety of our home, our comfort and step into the lives of those who have never seen the transforming power of Christ at work? Will we become a safe place to catch the woman who feels she has no other option but to abort? Do we know that woman? Will we become a safe place for the ones who do choose abortion, to catch them in a sea of life transforming grace and love and tell them of the One who has paid the penalty for our sins so that we can know Him? Do we know those women? Do we live our lives in such a way that we have gone into the broken homes and places and built relationships with those that have a different worldview than our own, those that are our enemies, the very ones that we may be tempted to cry “foul” at? Will we be a people known as the ones who adopt the countless babies and young children who are waiting in a system that consistently fails them? A people known as the ones who give of our time and finances to help the ones that will adopt these children? Will we go beyond that and becoming a vehicle of God’s grace to the women that carry those very children we will adopt and care for them as well? Going is saying, “I will sacrifice my time, my comfort, my money, my vacations to care for those that are in need”. Will we be a people known for laying down our lives or taking up our lives? Will we be a people that live out a different worldview, one based on a better more secure authority, one that says my life is not my own? One that calls us to be different. From Genesis to Revelation He is ALWAYS calling His people to be different, not for the sake of being different but different because the Kingdom of God is different than the Kingdoms of this world.
Jesus came for those in need of a physician; he stepped into their lives with such grace, love and TRUTH that they were drawn OUT of their sin. Do we live in such a way that people are drawn out of their sin? One where people are so compelled by the love of Jesus that they can’t stand to live another way other than his way. Do we live that way? I fear that many of us look just like the world, myself included. We like being liked, we like our stuff, our vacations, our comfortable lives and will only get uncomfortable enough that it doesn’t cost us what we really love. Going costs us something, and we often like the idea of going but not the cost of going. This was not the way of the believers in Rome. They sacrificed it all, they lived radically different, they took in children when they could hardly afford their own, they provided for the sick and the hurting when it cost them providing for themselves. And the Roman empire took notice…
Julian the Apostate, the last pagan emperor of Rome, clearly understood the power of these Christians when he wrote the following:
“These impious Galileans (Christians) not only feed their own, but ours also; welcoming them with their agape, they attract them, as children are attracted with cakes… Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity, and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors. Such practice is common among them, and causes contempt for our gods (Epistle to Pagan High Priests).”
Emperor Julian clearly saw the writing on the wall. The Roman Empire would not succumb to political upheaval or force but to love, the love of Christ. Julian’s dying words in AD 363 were “vicisti Galilaee” (You Galileans [Christians] have conquered!).” – Michael Craven
They humbled themselves and called on the Lord to change them, to change their nation and he heard from heaven and HEALED their land and an entire EMPIRE was transformed from the inside out, and the way of the cross became the way of the people. Hundreds of years from now, people will look back on our culture in shock at the barbaric ways we exterminated the lives of children under the guise of sophistication and medical progress, just as we look back at the ways of the Romans and other cultures who practiced infanticide. But, will the history books also tell of the ways the Christians rose up and lived radically different, sacrificing their own comforts for the sake of others, bringing the hope of Christ to the watching world and thus transforming a culture? Or will the Christians in our society be indistinguishable from the rest of the world? History tells the story that those societies transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ were also transformed in their value of human life. Will that be our story? If our hearts as believers don’t change, if it doesn’t begin with a transformation in us that extends in the way we give of our lives for the sake of another, there will be no transformation in our culture. Laws, while good and right upholding truth, NEVER change hearts, relationships do.
Oh my brothers and sisters, let us show this country the way of the cross. Let us be the ones whose knees are worn from praying that God would heal our land, that take in the unwanted, that care for the needy, that speak the words of Jesus in TRUTH and ACTION. That we would truly show the world what it means that Jesus is Lord of our life, that he came to heal the broken hearted and restore the places long devastated. That He has called us to be ministers of reconciliation. Will we love and pray and move towards the very ones to whom many of us have called “barbaric”? Do you know that Jesus came for them too? Many will hate us for living this way, but many will be drawn to the hope of Jesus Christ for they will see us living a different way, compelled by the love of Christ. And hundreds of years from now, perhaps it will be written in the history books, “There was something about Jesus in the lives of those Christians that transformed that culture and saved the lives of millions”. But let’s be honest, we’re all hoping Jesus comes back long before that!
“For the LOVE of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer life for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised… THEREFORE, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5: 14-15, 17-18 (emphasis mine)