Updated August 2019
Text: Ecclesiastes 3:7b
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Have you heard the phrase “Open mouth, insert foot”? Has it ever happened to you? One of the problems we humans have with communication is that we don’t listen well enough, with the result that we sometimes say or do things that cause embarrassment. Years ago, a telecommunication company made funny commercials to sell its cellular phone by mocking the inability of people to hear clearly what is being said on competitors’ phone systems. In one such commercial, a grandmother puts baking flour all over her grandchildren because she thought her daughter had instructed her via the static-prone cellular phone to “flour the kids.” The daughter had really said, “How are the kids?” Silly, yes, but still illustrative of the truth that people don’t always listen as closely as they ought sometimes and, therefore, speak or take action that is not the most well thought out.
The writer of Ecclesiastes said that there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. What divine wisdom! Communication experts tell us that effective communication has more to do with listening, keeping silent, than with speaking. These experts tell us that if we listened to each other more, especially in the area of controversy, we wouldn’t say as many things that cause us to “insert the foot.” We also would not be so misunderstood when we speak because listening to others connotes that we care about them and value what they have to say. We Lutherans value life highly and oppose abortion vigorously. Yet it could be true that we are not “heard” or understood by individuals confronted with that choice in life. The old phrase, “They won’t care what you know until they know that you care,” is really true here. While important, it is not enough for us to only voice our opposition to abortion. We are called to make a difference in the lives of each person contemplating abortion by actively entering their world as we love them in their pain and confusion, as we encourage them with the hope that God gives to all who are called according to His good purpose and who walk according to His command, and, yes, by pointing them to the godly option of life. There is a time to be silent as we listen to and care for those in the process of making decisions which are not only wrong but also abhorrent. In so doing, we will make a real impact with real people.
Today we reach out to all women who have had an abortion in the past and who live with silent pain and shame. This is a place where tears are understood and where healing comes with honest conversation, confession, and forgiveness in Christ.
Today we reach out to all men who contributed to a pregnancy outside of marriage and who encouraged and/or paid for an abortion. That burden is a heavy load that only Jesus can relieve.
Today we reach out to all those who have supported abortion politically and medically. We realize that at times you have believed that we have only shouted slogans at each other rather than reasoning with each other. We want to assure you that we value all life and sincerely want the best for all people.
As a Church, we want to listen to the pain and confusion, to the distress and fear, of those who contemplate abortion as a solution to the difficult situation in life that they face. And in listening, we want to show that we care, that we love, and that we are willing to go the distance to sustain life. We owe a debt of gratitude to all who in the name of Christ support and work in crisis pregnancy counseling and life centers. In so doing, they are listening and caring, thus making a difference.
And so, how are we to respond to the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, “a time to be silent, a time to speak”? As Christians, we are called to be silent before God and to listen to the voice of Jesus. Our Lord Himself said, (in John 10:27 NIV) “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Our clear call is to listen to Jesus only—He is our Friend, our Savior, and our Redeemer! Other voices may call out to us, but we ignore them. Peter, the disciple of Jesus, said to Jesus, (in John 6:68, NIV) “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Like Peter, when confronted with difficult choices, we go to our Savior and to no one else for answers. Jesus alone speaks and brings the comforting assurance of life eternal. To our young men and women today, to our teenagers and youth, we tell you that Jesus is the only voice to heed. When troubled and perplexed, especially when confronted with the choice between life and death in pregnancy, know that Jesus came to bring abundant life into the world. Hear your Savior’s voice and know that He will sustain you.
We also listen to the clear words of Scripture. The Bible is inspired, which means “breathed out” by the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures are completely true and dependable because their source is the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when the Bible speaks, we listen. We listen to the words of King David, who wrote in Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV):
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Here God is clearly instructing us that we humans are His creation, especially when we are in the mother’s womb. Every one of those days, from conception to birth, was ordained by God’s creating hand. How could any of us think we could destructively intervene and overrule God’s creative work and put to death that which He has given life? No, we will listen to God in His written Word. In the New Testament, the recounting of Jesus’ birth brings us another word from God to which we listen. Luke tells the story in which the Virgin Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Both women were pregnant—Mary only recently with Jesus and this by the power of the Holy Spirit and Elizabeth, six months along with John the Baptizer, who was the one designated by God to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. When Mary came into Elizabeth’s home, her six-month-old, preborn baby leaped for joy because the mother of the Lord was in his presence. This was not a “preborn baby kicking in the stomach thing.” This was faith produced by the Holy Spirit in the preborn baby. John the Baptizer, although still in his mother’s womb, was a living human being with faith in his Savior. We Christians are silent before God and listen to His Word. We believe the commandment, “You shall not murder,” which most specially means do not harm innocent life. We do not change that commandment to fit our needs or wants or concerns. We do not say that times have changed and, therefore, God’s commandment should change to fit the times. No, we are silent before God and let God and His Word stand!
There is a time for silence and there is also, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, a time to speak. What are we Christians to speak? Only those things that are in conformity with that which God has given us in His Scripture. We sometimes may think like the Prophet Jeremiah at the beginning of his ministry. He said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6 NIV). He was afraid that people would not listen to him. He said, “Who will listen to me … the word of the Lord is offensive to them” (Jeremiah 6:10 NIV). God told Jeremiah, “Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word” (Jeremiah 26:2b NIV). Today, we have God’s Word recorded in the Bible, and we Christians are to speak that Word to the world. We are to tell the story of Jesus and His love for humanity, a love so deep that He willingly died on the cross to save people from the guilt and condemnation of their sins. This is what we can speak to those who are in shame and guilt because of an abortion issue in their past—“You have a forgiving God and a loving Savior—Your sin has been paid for, you are redeemed—God sees you through the Cross of Jesus. You can be free from your past. Bring your heavy burden to Jesus, and He will take it so that you can have rest and peace.”
We can speak to the world on behalf of those not yet born. We can honor life by word and deed, in how we raise our families, care for the aged, and respect one another. We speak loudly that we are pro-life when we live our lives in love one with another. In fact, living this way is absolutely foundational if our speaking out as supporters of pro-life issues is to have integrity.
We also speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. The writer of Pro-verbs instructs us this way, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (31:8-9) In our society, pre-born babies to the infirm and aged are under attack. Life has become fragile for those not able to wield power for themselves. It has always been so in history. That is why God asks His people to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and to defend them. How may we Christians responsibly do this? Writing letters to our representatives and senators in Congress is one easy route for us.
Making sure you know where candidates stand on life issues is another way to defend the rights of the pre-born and elderly. And then vote pro-life. (Are you registered to vote?) Actively supporting pro-life agencies such as Lutherans For Life and crisis pregnancy centers by volunteer work and financial contributions is another way to support the weak and destitute. When God says “speak up,” He doesn’t mean just in your head and with those who agree with you. God means take godly action. A side note: breaking laws is not a godly option in supporting life. But taking no action is also not a godly option. Christianity is not timid religiosity—it is an active, living force because it has a living, active God. Jesus rose victorious from the grave that we might have life and have it to the full. We want all to experience this life. We do not sit back idly while the world imposes evil upon those unable to defend themselves. Now is a time to recommit to our Christian values, which are grounded upon scriptural teaching. It is a time to be silent and a time to speak!