Text: Ecclesiastes 3:7b & Proverbs 31:8-9
Rev. Dr. James I. Lamb, Executive Director of National Lutherans for Life
Someone once said, “If you don’t have anything to say, don’t prove it by talking!” That can be good advice! Sometimes, as we read in Ecclesiastes, there is a time to be silent! But if you do have something to say—something wonderful, something filled with hope, something life changing—then it is no time for silence. It is time to speak!
It is time to speak because we, as God’s people, have something to say. On this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, it is important for us to understand that we as God’s people have something to say about the issues of life and death facing our country. It is time to speak because we have something to say to those who are facing difficult situations—the pregnant teen, individuals dealing with chronic diseases, and those with terminal illness. It is time to speak because we have a message about our God who is extremely loving enough and caring enough and powerful enough to help us in any and every situation we may find ourselves in. It is time to speak because we have a message of life and people do not need to turn to death as the solution to their problems.
It is time to speak because we have something to say to those who have faced difficult situations and made decisions they now know to be contrary to the will of God and are filled with guilt and despair. It is time to speak because we have a message about our God who is extremely loving enough and caring enough and powerful enough to forgive any and every sin and with that forgiveness to bring hope and healing. Yes, it is not time for silence. It is time to speak because as God’s people equipped with His holy Word, we have something to say.
It is time to speak because as God’s people it is our responsibility to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, those who are destitute, and those who are poor and needy. Speaking up is not optional for God’s people. It never has been. In verse 1 of Proverbs 31, we learn that our text is part of an oracle of King Lemuel. Now we do not know who King Lemuel was, but we do know he had a smart mother! She is the one, we are told, who taught him the words of our text. It was his responsibility, not just to rule his people, but also to speak up for those who were oppressed for one reason or another. This is a recurring theme in the Old Testament. There God is called the “Father to the fatherless” and the “defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5). In the Day of Judgment, those who oppress the needy are to be held as accountable as sorcerers and adulterers (Malachi 3:5). Therefore God’s people, from the king on down, had a God-given responsibility to speak up for and defend the poor and needy. It is a recurring theme in the New Testament as well. God’s New Testament people are to “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). They are to “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). They are to care for the orphans and widows (James 1:27). Jesus says we are to care for “the least of these” as if we are caring for Him (Matthew 25:40). God’s people today, clergy and laity alike, have a God-given responsibility to speak up for and defend those who cannot do so themselves.
We have a responsibility to speak, and it is irresponsible for the Church to be silent just because some issues affecting God’s people are controversial, divisive, or considered “politically incorrect” to talk about in church. We have a responsibility to speak because silence is not a neutral position. It is irresponsible. Most of you have undoubtedly heard the excuse that children sometimes use when caught at a particular misdeed. (Some of you children may have used this a time or two yourselves!) ”Hey, you never told me not to.” Our silence speaks. It says to those unborn children who cannot speak for themselves, “We really don’t care that one of you is killed in horrible ways every 30 seconds. The rights and needs of big people come before yours.” Our silence speaks. It says to that pregnant, confused, and fearful teen, “What you hear out there is right. You really have only one choice, and abortion is not a wrong choice.” Our silence speaks. It says to those who are struggling with difficult situations and decisions, “Don’t expect any help from this body of believers.” Our silence speaks. It says to those who have made wrong decisions and whose hearts are aching with guilt and hopelessness, “Some sins are just too big to talk about. Some sins are just too big to be forgiven.” Our silence speaks. It says, “These really are political issues, and the Church has nothing to say about them.” Yes, our silence in regard to the life issues in our churches speaks. It proclaims Satan’s favorite line, “Did God really say?” I wonder, what will God say of the Church’s irresponsible silence?
It is time for the Church to assume her responsibility to speak, not because we want to scream and yell and judge and condemn, but because we have the truth of God’s Word that speaks to these issues. In a world of moral pluralism, someone has to speak and say that some things are morally wrong. In a world of relative truth, someone has to speak and say that there is a truth. In a world where nothing is really wrong except to call something wrong, someone has to speak and say, “Yes, some things really are wrong.” Pre-marital sex, abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and cloning-these are wrong, not because it is someone’s opinion that they are wrong, but because they violate the fundamental principle of Scripture that says that all human life is a sacred gift from God. They are wrong for they insult the Lord of Life and treat Him as if He is not big enough or loving enough or powerful enough to help us when we turn to Him in time of trouble. They are wrong for they forget that life and death are in God’s hands and that as long as God gives life, God gives life meaning and purpose.
It is time for the Church to assume her responsibility to speak and to call wrong things wrong. But that is not enough. It is time to speak so that we can send a message loud and clear that there is help from the body of believers for those who are struggling with difficult decisions and situations. Jesus did not condone the sin of the woman caught in adultery, but neither did He exclude her from His love. Our text talks about the “poor and needy.” That can describe those who have no means of support and are in need of financial help. But people can also be poor in spirit. Their spirits can be crushed by the circumstances in their lives. They can feel alone, forsaken, and afraid. Those with chronic or terminal illness, families faced with difficult decisions as they stand around grandma’s bedside, couples unable to conceive children-these folks are in need of love and support. They need to know that they are welcomed by, not excluded from, the body of believers. They need to know there is help for them here in this place. [Here you may want to be specific about groups in your congregation, such as a human care group, or groups that you work with in your area, such as a pregnancy center.] It is time for God’s people to speak openly about the life issues of our day so that those affected by them will know that the church will not abandon them.
This is especially true for those who have experienced an abortion, and there are many who have. With over 3,000 abortions every day, it is estimated that by the age of 45, 30% of all women in this country will have had at least one abortion. (1) Abortion affects men as well. Sometimes the father of an unborn child will want that child. But he has no legal say as to whether the mother has an abortion or not. Sometimes it is the father who pressures the woman into having an abortion, and then later the reality of that decision causes him guilt and despair.
It is time for the Church to speak to the heart of these women and men so that they will know that they have not committed an unforgivable sin. The sin of abortion is a sin that Jesus bled and died for just like every other sin. It is time for the Church to speak so that these women and men will hear the Gospel applied to their sin. It is time to speak so that the Gospel can be at work in them bringing them the hope and healing that they long for. It is time to speak so that people affected by an abortion decision know that there are people who care for them and want to help. For example, Lutherans For Life has a national hotline called Word of Hope for those struggling with a past abortion. People who call will get professional Christian counseling over the phone and be put in touch with a Christian counselor in their area if desired. [Here you may want to add any local resources. Often pregnancy centers will offer post-abortion counseling.]
The bottom line to all of this is that it is no time for silence. It is time to speak because we have something wonderful to say! It is time to speak because the life issues facing our nation are spiritual issues, and the Church has a responsibility to speak to them. The Church has a responsibility to defend those whose lives are threatened. The Church has a responsibility to help those who are struggling. The Church has a responsibility to forgive those who have made mistakes and help them heal. So, since we all learned the song in Sunday School that the
Church is not a building or a steeple but the people, since you and I are the Church, what are we going to do about it? In our text, the verb “to speak” is in a form that is more than just saying words. It describes a very intensive and intentional action. It is the difference between, “He spoke at the meeting” and “He boldly and persuasively spoke out at the meeting.” As the Church, we are called upon not just to say words, but to speak boldly and to put our words into action. How can we carry out this responsibility to speak boldly to the life issues of our day? What can we do that can make a difference? Here are some practical suggestions:
[Here either list some things available in your congregation or refer to the LFL resource How You Can Speak and make it available for everyone. This resource is available as part of this year’s Life Sunday materials.]
As someone once said, “If you don’t have anything to say, don’t prove it by talking.” But if you do have something to say—something wonderful, something filled with hope, something life changing—and if you have been given a responsibility to say it, then it is no time for silence. It is time to speak!
(1) Alan Guttmacher website www.agi-usa.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html