Text: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
It was on January 22, 1973, when Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackman wrote the court’s 7-2 decision to permit abortion. The court ruled that human offspring are not persons “in the whole sense” at any time before birth. The court ruled that during the first three months of pregnancy a state may make no laws regulating abortion. Three years later, July 1, 1976, the Supreme Court extended its original decision and ruled that abortion may be performed on minor daughters without the knowledge or consent of their parents. A woman, whether married or unmarried, may obtain an abortion without the knowledge or consent of the father.
Since that fateful decision in 1973, 28 years ago, more than 40 million unborn children have been killed. Think of all the children, teen-agers, and young adults who would have been alive today had it not been for the Supreme Court decision. An abortion is performed somewhere in the United States every twenty-two seconds, 4,000 each day. The U.S. has one of highest abortion rates among developed countries. Nearly 200,000 second and third trimester abortions are performed annually, 17,000 of these occur after five months of pregnancy. According to statistics released by Planned Parenthood, just seven percent were motivated chiefly by the “hard cases” – mother’s health (3%), baby’s health (3%), rape or incest (1%). The highest abortion rate is among 18 and 19 year old women (56 per 1,000).
The abortion industry is a multi-million dollar industry. A conservative estimate is close to a half billion dollars annually. But we have moved beyond abortion to infanticide. It is becoming more and more common to allow handicapped babies to die by refusing to give them necessary medical care. Euthanasia, so-called “mercy killing” of the ill or handicapped, has a growing number of advocates. Pro-euthanasia groups are increasing, and their influence is being heard more frequently in the mass media.
Those who support abortion, euthanasia, or infanticide, whether they realize it or not, are supporting a whole new view of human life, one which rejects the value and dignity of each human being and the responsibility to care for the weak and the helpless. How the Word of God needs to be heard by our generation! What a tremendous need for the Divine perspective on the value of life to be recovered in our time! Let us observe several reasons set forth in the Scriptures for “choosing life.”
1. Life is a Wonderful Gift of God.
In Psalm 100:3 we read, “Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” God is the creator of the unborn. The prophet Isaiah declares, “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the Lord, am the Maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself, and spreading out the earth all alone” (Isaiah 44:24). The explanation of the first article of the Apostle’s Creed testifies to our acceptance of the biblical witness of God’s all-encompassing creative work, “I believe that God created me and all that exists, that He still gives and preserves to me my body and soul, eyes and ears, etc.”
We are to receive God’s gift of life with thanksgiving and with commitment to protect and preserve what God had entrusted to us. To refuse what God had given to us is to spurn what He intends to be a precious and cherished gift.
2. God’s Gift of Life Begins at Conception.
Job asks a rhetorical question, “Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?” (Job 31:15). The answer is Yes! Elsewhere Job gives eloquent witness to God’s gracious formative work in fashioning the human body before birth. “Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me with cheese, clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit”
(Job 10:8-12). Compare also Psalm 139:13-16.
A child does not suddenly “come alive” at birth. Life begins nine months earlier at conception when an individual human being comes into existence. The prenatal period, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood are all stages in the continuum of life. The commandment against killing applies from the moment of conception. Indeed, those who practice abortion are guilty of murder. They have taken the life of a human being in its earliest moments.
3. God is Responsible for Life and Death.
God is given the exclusive right to author or to terminate life. It is His authority, for example, that lies behind the practice of capital punishment in civilized societies. It is His authority that under girds a nation’s engagement in a just war, a war defending freedoms that may be threatened. “The Lord brings death and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up” (I Samuel 2:6). The fifth commandment still says, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:1,13). Our Lord repeated this commandment and all the rest in His Sermon on the Mount. He extended its application beyond the actual taking of a human life. He underscored the full authority of the Decalogue in his statement, “Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).
Perhaps we can understand why the unbelieving world would set aside the commandments of God, but to observe some of our church-sponsored hospitals, yes, some of them Lutheran, permitting abortion killing is incomprehensible in light of the clarity of the Word of God and the professed commitment of a Christian to its authority. Abortion involves killing life, stopping a beating heart. It may be currently legal in our United States, but it is sinful and repugnant in the courts of heaven.
God’s call in Deuteronomy 30 is to choose life in the midst of a culture of death. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (v.19). The call is to agree with God that life is a wonderful gift of God and to value all life as precious. The call is to recognize and affirm that only God is responsible for life and death. No one may take this matter into his own hands without God’s authority.
But our text is saying more to us than simply valuing physical life. It is a call to receive by faith the spiritual life that is provided in God’s great redemption plan culminating in His Son’s atoning death on the cross of Calvary. “He is your life,” Moses says, pointing ultimately to Jesus who came announcing, “I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). As “the way, the truth, and the life,” the Lord Jesus satisfied the demands for justice to be served and holiness to be kept. You and I have “fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Because of our sinfulness, we deserve eternal condemnation. But the sinless Son of God took our sins upon Himself as if they were His own and suffered the punishment for them. The Scripture declares, “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21). Because of our condition as fallen sinners, we could not fulfill the demands of God’s holy will as expressed in the Law. But Jesus fulfilled “all righteousness” on our behalf and went to the cross as the perfect sin-offering, the perfect atonement for our sin. Yes, “He is your life.”
To choose life is to “love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 30:16). This certainly includes the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” The Lord promises His blessing upon those who walk in His ways as His believing children. But the warning is also clear in our text that “if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish …” (Deuteronomy 30:17).
The people of Israel were at a crossroads as Moses gave this ultimatum. They could choose to depart from the Lord and do evil. God didn’t force them to follow His ways, and He still doesn’t force anyone. Yes, we can “neglect so great salvation” and lose our soul (Hebrews 2:3). The Bible records examples of many who departed from the Lord through sin and unbelief. Jesus tells us that there is coming a great “falling away” in the last days before His return (Luke 18:8). Jesus said that because of the abounding iniquity “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). How true that is today in our “culture of death.”
But the call of God to us today is to “choose life.” Life is in God. Life is in His Son, abundant life, eternal life (John 10:10, 3:16). Death is because of sin. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). As we think of the choice before us today, we must realize that we have no strength of our own to come to God, to choose life. In fact, we have no desire to come to Him until the Holy Spirit begins His gracious work through the Word (John 6:44). But He is attending His Word today, and even as He calls us, He enables us to come.
Jesus calls us today to come to Him (Matthew 11:28). He promises His forgiveness no matter what the past and present may be. Perhaps there is someone who hears these words who has had an abortion. You realize your sin today. You are repenting in sorrow for what you did. There is full and free forgiveness through the precious blood of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 1:18; I John 1:9). There is a new beginning in Jesus! Choose life—life in Jesus!
To everyone who is trusting in Christ today, there is a great need to choose life – to choose life by valuing life so much that we stand up for what is right in God’s sight. Let us allow the Lord to open our eyes and to give us strength to act upon what we believe. What would God have us do as we live in a “culture of death”?
(1) Certainly God would call us to Cherish the Children in our midst. To cherish the children means to recognize that they are a gift of the Lord (Psalm 127:3). They are not a matter of mere convenience or personal fulfillment but rather of gracious privilege and sober responsibility before the Lord (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4 et al.). This involves, first of all, the children in our homes, but it also involves the children in our congregation and in our neighborhood. It’s a call to recognize the vital place of Christian education programs for the young in our churches and to renew our pledge of prayer and support. Choose life!
(2) But to choose life is also a call to Walk the Walk, to put feet to our prayers and actions with our words. Certainly we should keep praying that the Supreme Court decision would be reversed and a human life amendment would be passed which protects life in the womb. Our prayers should include our government leaders, those who are in the forefront in crafting legislation that will diminish and ultimately defeat the abortion holocaust. And our prayers should continue for ministries that are seeking to be there when the choices are whether to choose life or death by abortion.
But practical assistance should accompany and follow our prayers (James 2:15-16). Are there unwed expectant mothers who need support and encouragement to keep their unborn babies to delivery? Perhaps there is a need for some financial help.
One of the special alternatives that can be presented to unwed mothers who feel unable to care for their child is adoption. Young people experiencing an unplanned pregnancy must be encouraged to understand that relinquishing a child for adoption can be a very loving and mature way of choosing life. Adoption has been meeting the needs of children at least since the baby Moses was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter on the riverbank. Sadly, the number of young people choosing adoption has dropped markedly through the years. Thirty-five years ago this choice was selected in 90% of the cases, whereas today fewer than 10% choose this alternative. Falling adoption rates have been attributed to many causes, not the least of which are abortion and the diminished stigma associated with out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
There are misunderstandings connected with adoption also. Here is an opportunity for godly counsel so that the adoption alternative will be presented in a positive, informed manner to young people facing pregnancies. There is need for much prayer and work to be done so that adoption can again be recognized as a loving, life-giving choice.
Another part of our application of choosing life may be to inform other Christians of the needs and opportunities. Do we need a greater awareness in our churches of what is happening in the abortion clinics down the street? Are we too easily forgetting the slaughter that is going on all around us?
Yes, there are many other practical measures that may be an expression of our choosing life – educating the general public, distributing literature, writing letters to our legislators, sidewalk counseling, voting pro-life, etc. May God give us wisdom and courage in following His plan for us in these crisis days.
We are living in a time of Holocaust seven times worse than Hitler’s Nazi Germany. After World War II, German citizens living around Nazi extermination camps were required to visit the facilities to witness the atrocities they had permitted to occur. Though it was “legal” to kill Jews and other political prisoners, the citizens were blamed for not breaking the law in deference to a higher moral code.
We would not advocate breaking the law as we take action against the abortion Holocaust among us—but we must respond. We are accountable! We are responsible! As Christians who value and obey God’s “higher law”, as Christians who are constrained by the love of Christ, we must “choose life.” Amen.