November 30, 2011

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Just saying, “Choose life!” can stir things up because it is associated with abortion. But this verse is not about abortion. It is about what we as God’s people base our choices upon. We base our choices upon who has chosen us. 

The Chosen
Why did God choose a bunch of people that He often referred to as “stiff necked”? We find the answer in Deuteronomy 7. “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (7-8). They were not chosen because they were special. They were special because they were chosen. 

So it is with us. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We are special because we have been chosen. God in Christ rescued us from the slavery of sin and set us on the path to the Promised Land of heaven. 

We make our choices in the context of being chosen. Most of you are familiar with this scene: You’re with your child or grandchild and someone offers them a piece of candy. What’s the first thing they do? They turn and look at you with that, “Is this going to be okay?” look. We are God’s chosen children. We can trust Him. When faced with choices what we need to do is turn to Him, “Is this going to be okay?” 

The Choice of Another God
The choice given in our verse runs deeper than life or death. The choice is to trust God or turn to other gods. That was Israel’s constant problem. That’s why God warned, “But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them …” (30:17) that’s when the evil and the curses will come.

Death is the god of choice in our culture today. We choose death through abortion to rescue us from a crisis pregnancy. We choose death through the destruction of human embryos to rescue us from disease. We choose death through assisted suicide to rescue us from pain and suffering. Luther says in the Large Catechism that whatever we turn to for more “good and help than God” becomes our god (Tappert, 368, 28). But the god of death only seems to offer “good and help.” In reality, “evil and curses” follow in its wake.

It is estimated that over 32,000 people are negatively affected by an abortion decision every single day in our country. An innocent, unborn child is destroyed. The mother of that child has her life changed forever. The father has his life changed forever. Grandparents, siblings, friends, society itself—all suffer greatly as the result of a single abortion. Death does not relieve the burden; “evil and curses” follow in its wake.

A woman who had an abortion once asked, “How come abortion is the only sin that gets its own Sunday?” Although we call it “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” and not “The Sin of Abortion Sunday,” her point is well taken. It reminds us that it is not the sin of abortion that separates us from God. Sin separates us from God. We all stand equally guilty before Him. But God has chosen us in Jesus and He cleanses the repentant heart of every sin with His blood. 

Assisted suicide has been legal in the Netherlands for many years. But they moved beyond that to euthanasia and from euthanasia for terminal illness to euthanasia for chronic illness and for mental distress, from voluntary euthanasia to involuntary euthanasia. Death does not relieve the burden, “evil and curses” follow in its wake. 

This devaluing of human life has overflowed into an alarming climb in teen suicide and a drastic increase in child abuse. It has overflowed into our classrooms with children killing children. Death does not relieve the burden; “evil and curses” follow in its wake.

The Choice to Trust in God
The choice of death as our rescuer-god always leads to “evil and curses.” There has never been a choice of death that rescues us from our problems and leads to life. Well, there was that one time! “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus chose death and “brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10b). Jesus chose death to rescue us. We never have to! 

That is our assurance that we can trust Him. That is our assurance we can choose life. We can trust God because He loves us and has proven that love in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We can trust God because He “sets His love upon us” every time we come to His holy meal to receive the very price paid for our rescue. 

Talking about life issues in our churches is more than just speaking against something going on in our culture. It is speaking for those who face these issues and are being tempted to choose death. What a message we have to share with one another. We belong to God. We can choose life. We can choose life and defend the life of the vulnerable. We can choose life and care for those who are weary and burdened. We can choose life and share the forgiveness of Christ when mistakes are made. 

We can trust God and choose life and we can let it spill over into our everyday lives. In the things we say and the things we do in our society we can have an influence upon those facing these difficult situations. We can walk beside them, loving them with the love of Jesus. And as we share the love of Jesus, the Holy Spirit may give us opportunity to share Jesus, the source of our love, the true rescuer from all of our struggles.

“Choose Life!” I pray this very biblical phrase will stir up our trust in God. We can make good, God-pleasing choices because we are chosen by God in Christ. We are very special people, chosen people. Chosen people choose life! Chosen people can bring their influence to bear on a sin-broken world and sin-broken lives and make a positive difference!