I think what really gnaws at the heart of the church goer is the idea that God really doesn’t trust their intuition. That He truly would think so little of their insight that He would mandate, to the letter, every issue of faith and practice, rendering us irrelevant to the arbitration of truth. We’re not actually supposed to believe that “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17) mean’s “every good work” are we? When professing Christians stand on the same kind of “straw man” arguments that unbelievers do our position is as absurdly untenable as theirs is, but at least we get to make decisions too.
Abortion ministries and those who minister at abortion mills are subject to some of the harshest scrutiny by the local church. Those who minister in this way have the soul crushing task of crying out to those who are entering and leaving abortion mills across this country for the gospel of Christ. We watch hundreds and thousands of mothers serve up their children to the butcher’s block. When the terms of the scrutiny are the plain teachings of Scripture, that scrutiny ought to be welcome and embraced. But there isn’t a whole lot of that going around. No, mostly it’s purely subjective views, primarily coming from people who themselves have never (and probably will never) publicly speak out against the dismemberment of human beings.
I taught a Sunday school class recently in my local church. In it I mentioned what various members of our local church do at the local “abortion mill”. A woman who I know very well and love stayed after class to tell me that perhaps referring to it as an “abortion mill” wasn’t very loving. I don’t doubt the woman’s intentions were good, and she is certainly not alone in thinking this way. Many others totally reject the use of graphic signs outside of abortion providers which accurately depict what is currently happening inside of them. Maybe their right? Perhaps we should change our approach to be less confrontational?
Theology (our belief about what the Bible teaches) has multiple sources - - Scripture, emotion, experience, etc. It’s arrogance to think otherwise, and the less aware a person is of this reality the more their theology and the subsequent practice will be colored by external influences (them) Instead of Scripture alone. For this reason, every Christian who truly seeks to know the mind of God must earnestly divorce their theology from their experience. I do not believe any person with a sin nature achieves enduring balance in this area. If we do achieve balance, it’s only for an instant as pendulum swings across center and then we must fight to bring it back. I don’t claim to be immune from these influences, but I hope to be aware of them so that they do not determine what I believe. For example, the woman who came to me to question my choice of terms (abortion mill); there is obviously some experience affecting her perspective (perhaps a personal experience with abortion in the past or a close friends experiences). Her position may well be to protect men and women within the body of Christ from greater grief by using what she views as unnecessarily harsh terminology. The emotions evoked by her life experiences formulate (to some extent or another) her views on this subject. On the other hand, many people in my position have stood on the side walk in front of abortion providers and watched as a plumber walks into the building to dislodge human remains (the parts that can’t be sold) from a garbage disposal because (due to such a high volume of abortions) the density of those remains has clogged the drain. Obviously, I am not without emotion either and any downgrade in rhetoric so as to be less offensive is very, very hard for me to accept. This woman is a faithful Christian. I truly desire to honor Christ above myself. How do we reconcile our differing views?
In Judges Chapter 19, a Levite traveling with his concubine (his legal wife) seeks lodging in the Israelite city of Gibeah (vs.14). They are denied hospitality, which is in itself a tremendous disgrace in that day and in that culture. Eventually, they were granted refuge for the night but from a foreigner to the city, an Ephriamite (vs.16). Then, the men of the city demanded to have sexual relations with the Levite (vs.22). Unwilling to hand over the Levite man to them, the Ephriamite offered them his own virgin daughter as well as the Levites concubine (vs.24). “So the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning” (vs. 25). Afterward, she managed to get as far as the doorway of the house her husband was staying in but then collapsed and eventually died (vs. 26, 28).
The Israelites had a custom that prior to and after this was only ever used on animals. In 1 Samuel 11:7, Saul “took a yoke of oxen and cut them into pieces, and sent them throughout the territory of Israel” as a way to rally the Israelite nation to war “and they came out as one man”. This animal dissection was consistent with the Jewish custom demonstrated in Exodus 29:17 and Leviticus 1:6. But in Judges 19:29, the Levite takes his dead concubine home and “cut her in 12 pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout the territory of Israel”. All who saw it said “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen…Consider it, take council and speak up.” (vs. 30) And so the nation unified, rose up, and made war against the Benjamite inhabitants of Gibeah (Chapter 20).
The Levite husband took what was done in dark places rather left unknown and shone a light on them. His pain was now their pain. The revelation of his grief conceived national anguish, and national anguish gave birth to action. Did they honestly not have some inclination that a part of their own country and members of their countrymen were doing such things? Whatever they preferred to forget flooded to the forefront when they peeled back whatever covering was congealed to the human remains distributed throughout the land. That is not the head of an ox…. that is the head of woman… and the arms…and the legs! After a night and morning of rape and abuse, the sight of her body whole would have induced nausea, but when viewed as severed pieces of a grotesque, disjointed puzzle, the image it produced could not be suppressed. Why did the Levite expose the wickedness of Gibeah in such a gruesome way? Because you don’t get to live here and not look at the wickedness of your own kind. You don’t get to have a good night’s rest as your neighbor gets ripped apart from the inside and left on the doorstep like discarded human garbage. Leave slumber and sleep to the soft hearted and partake with me in horror I cannot quiet - - because the men who condone murderers are murderers! So let them see what they have become, and root out their own patch of rotten flesh!
If the Benjamites had simply handed over the men who were directly responsible, there would have been no war (Judges 20:13). Of the tribes that unified against Israel, 40,000 died in the war. In the tribe of Benjamin, over 25,000 died. All for one woman. Was she worth it? Oh yes, both she and what she represented. She alone was enough to warrant war because she bore the image of the invisible God. Her inherent value had been assigned by God when he formed her “in the womb” (Jer. 1:5). But why trade one wife for more than 65,000 men? Because as precious as those lives were, in order to preserve them it would have cost the nation its soul. Even the stain of blood and the appearance of severed limbs lose their “punch” after a while. The heart of man is so dull that what starts as stark and dire when left to tarry becomes less so, and then less so, and then less so, until you participate in the thing you once hated and become the people you abhorred. They chose to loose what they ultimately could not keep to keep what they could not afford to lose. For one person created in the image of God… for one woman.
It was sorrow that produced action and “the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10). What people want is to be healed without being forced to acknowledge they're broken. We are all broken, and we must know it or we will not seek to be healed. To my dear sisters, who sit in our churches and revisit the grief of their own abortion at every mention of it from the pulpit - - you are free because Christ has freed you. Because Christ has freed you no one can or should try to push you back from where He has brought you. Brothers and sisters, I am better than no one and worse than many. I have thought and felt things that if put on display to be seen by those I love, would almost certainly leave me with only one companion in this life, my Lord. Even my heavenly Father would not accept me if not through the murder of His Son. When I hear those things from the pulpit that have played in my mind and plagued my conscience I am wrecked. No amount of time or distance from where I’ve come will change that until I am caught up to be with Him. But God forbid my pastor take the “two edged sword” (Heb. 4:12) and dull the blade on my account. No, I pray that he speaks and those young men listen so that they will not walk where I have. The penitent heart of a Christian should never seek to stay the hand of the shepherd from restraining the other sheep so that they won’t suffer the same pain we have.
Peter called the Israelites murderers (Acts 2:23) and “they were pierced to the heart, and said…Brethren what shall we do? Peter said to them, repent” (Acts 2:37 – 38) and they did and the Jesus whom they murdered became their Savior! In Acts chapter 7, Steven calls the Jews murderers (vs. 52) and then, directly after, in one of the greatest proclamations of love recorded in Scripture says of the men that are presently murdering him “Lord do not hold this sin against them” (vs. 60). Did Steven love them? Yes, so much that he could not pander convenient lies or happy half-truths to dull what so desperately needs to be sharpened if it was to cut through the hard hearts like mine once was. If you need further evidence simply turn the page to anything Jesus ever said. Not every soft word is loving and not every hard word is hateful but in order for a hard heart to be broken, hard truths must be spoken. Why do we display sin in such a confrontational way and invoke graphic images in our words in hopes for repentance? Because every faithful prophet, priest, or preacher in Scripture did including our Lord. What feels loving is fickle and subjective. What is loving has been passed to us from the origin of love that we might simply be faithful to it.
Do you hate the pictures of the babies that are half melted by saline or that have had their arms and legs ripped off and their decapitated head crushed by forceps? Not as much as we do, I assure you. We stand for hours trying not to look directly at them, and if our gaze temporarily fixes on them trying desperately not to remember our own infant children and then thinking of them in such terms. Then we weep, sometimes in spurts, sometimes for hours, and sometimes for days. But not one of us would remove those pictures. The sight of one dismembered woman rallied a nation to justice. Yet the churches of this nation who comprise those Americans who profess Christ reject such images and so remain the lethargic lump so distant from New Testament Christianity they are unrecognizable. They have now murdered 60,000,000 babies. They kill with poison and scalpels but we kill with silence. Who is worse - - the spiritually dead who murder or those who claim to have been purchased back from death who say nothing and then rebuke those who do?