Blogger Jonathan Dudley started something when he wrote "When Evangelicals Were Pro-Choice" (for CNN) and "How Evangelicals Decided that Life Begins at Conception" (for the Huffington Post).

His contention is that "what conservative Christians now say is the Bible’s clear teaching on [abortion] was not a widespread interpretation until the late 20th century." For proof, he cites individuals and groups who agreed with the legalization of abortion in some, if not all, circumstances in the late 60s and early 70s.

Dudley explains the migration to the current pro-life view as evangelicals falling under the influence of powerful leaders of the "Religious Right," such as Jerry Falwell. Christians should, in his view, "consider the possibility that they aren’t submitting to the dictates of a timeless biblical truth, but instead, to the goals of a well-organized political initiative only a little more than 30 years old."

Why does it matter that what evangelical leaders say is "the biblical view on abortion" was not a widespread interpretation until about 30 years ago? For one thing, it's harder to argue the Bible clearly teaches something when the overwhelming majority of its past interpreters didn't read the Bible that way. For another, it illustrates that evangelical leaders are happy to defend creative reinterpretations of the Bible when it fits with a socially conservative worldview -- even while objecting to new interpretations of the Bible on, say, homosexuality, precisely because they are new. And for another, by looking at the history of how today's "biblical view on abortion" arose, one can begin to see the worldview that made it possible. In the process, it becomes apparent it is that unacknowledged worldview, and not the Bible, that evangelical opponents of abortion are actually defending.

Several Christian writers generated helpful responses: Mark Galli of Christianity Today (here and here), John Stonestreet of Breakpoint, and Albert Mohler. I'd like to add a few points to the discussion:

  • InterVarsity may have published (and then rescinded under pressure) a 1984 book that said abortion was legitimate in some instances, but it had already published Michael Gorman's Abortion and the Early Church in 1982. This book built the case that from its earliest days, the church opposed abortion.
  • Regular Baptists, from which Life Matters Worldwide sprang, were solidly pro-life from the beginning. In 1971, two years before the Roe v. Wade decision, the GARBC (which would call themselves "fundamentalists" rather than "evangelicals)" acknowledged that "the sanctity of human life is well documented in Scriptures" and resolved to "go on record as being thoroughly opposed to abortion on demand."
  • Diverse methods for interpreting Scripture -- in the past or today -- better explain why there's diversity in Christendom on abortion. Your stance on this issue has more to do with where you land on the errancy/inerrancy spectrum than anything else. Those who approach the Bible with a non-literal hermeneutic are the ones who come up with novel interpretations (concerning homosexuality, for instance), while we who take God's word literally have always maintained it's a sin. 
  • The same is true of abortion. Taking God's word at face value and employing grammatical-historical methods of interpretation, we are satisfied with statements about the personality of unborn humans as found in Genesis 16:11-12 and 25:22-24, Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, Hosea 12:2-3, Luke 1:15 & 41, and Galatians 1:15-16. 
  • What hindered many Christians from early involvement in the pro-life movement was not lack of biblical support, but hesitancy to join the political fray. What increased the comfort-level with the pro-life movement for many evangelicals (and brought them into the political arena by the backdoor) were hands-on ministries such as pregnancy care centers that sprang up in the 1980s. PCCs gave them opportunities to prevent abortions by offering alternatives. They could serve families in their communities, reach out to women who'd already had abortions, and share the Gospel.  

Over time, our understanding has grown about just how pervasive the sanctity of human life ethic is in Scripture, and what we are called to do about it. More than a few proof-texts, it's a theme from Genesis to Revelation.

Every age has been confronted by challenges that require Christians to go to work "rightly dividing the word of truth." If, as Peter says, "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness," then we are equipped to handle questions that didn't necessarily arise in the 1st century -- or the 3rd, or the 13th.

No, the word "abortion" never appears in the Bible, but if you study topics such as violence or the murder of innocent people, you'll find those are the domain of wicked people. Furthermore, the treatment of widows and orphans as well as all poor people is also tied to the sanctity of human life. Thus, if you make a move to strike someone, or abandon a hungry person to her own devices, you're placing them at risk of death -- their blood would be on your hands.

Abortion is nothing if it is not violent; it is the ultimate injustice. The pregnant mother and her unborn child must not be abandoned. We are learning what to do when it comes to this issue.

Postscript 12/6/12: Here's a pertinent article by Phil Cooke that appeared on a Huffington Post blog -- How Christianity Lost Its Voice in Today's Media Driven World

While some people are critical of social networking (and the Internet in general) as being a time-waster and a dangerous source of filth and misinformation, I'm a fan. Unlike mainstream media, it's a form of communication that we can turn to our advantage.

I wouldn't be blogging if I didn't think so, but I do acknowledge the truth of what the critics say. As with any good thing, moderation and discipline are advised. I want to add another misuse to the list: Social media such as Facebook and Twitter give occasion for people to spout off in ways they probably would not in polite company.

I can't count the number of times I've cringed at the response of someone who claims to be a Christian because what he or she has said was disrespectful or hateful. Mom was right: We should think before we post.

And we should apply Paul's words to Timothy about communication with or about opponents:

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 24-26)

I apply these words this way:

  • The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. I don't think this means we shouldn't respond, but we mustn't be argumentative. Any reply should be for the reader's benefit and not for me to "score points."
  • The Lord's bond-servant must be kind to all . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. I take this to mean there ought not be any name-calling, verbal abuse, or harshness.
  • The Lord's bond-servant must be able to teach . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. Teaching is something other than the clever jab or sound byte. It requires time and patience. More on this below.
  • The Lord's bond-servant must be patient when wronged . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. Oh, it's so tempting to retaliate when the other side calls us a name or is harsh and abusive about an idea or person we admire -- abundant evidence of that online -- but their behavior doesn't excuse our responding in kind. "Love keeps no record of wrongs." We also don't have to rebut every charge made against our side.
  • The Lord's bond-servant must with gentleness correct those who are in opposition . . . on Facebook or in comments posted elsewhere online. If repentance is the goal-- and it always is -- then gentleness is the key for dealing with opponents.

It's tempting to say nothing when we can't think of something nice to say, but the unborn can't afford our silence. I'd like to take this opportunity to challenge all of us to become an army of patient persuaders as described by Paul. If we can't learn to articulate our beliefs in ways that appeal to others, then can we at least point them to resources that can be counted on to not bash them over the head? Here are a couple good ones:

Stand to Reason - basic Christian apologetics 
Life Training Institute - pro-life apologetics (see The Case for Life companion site)

One last thought: Our opponents are not exempt from kind treatment because they advocate the killing of innocent unborn human babies. At the time of writing 2 Timothy, Paul was in prison awaiting execution by Nero. He didn't allow fear or hatred to deter him from attempting to persuade guards and soldiers -- who had participated in the deaths of other Christians -- to accept Christ as Savior. He took great delight in the Gospel going forth, even though others might do so out of spite (Phil. 1:12-17). And, while he acknowledged the harm some Christians had done to him, he prayed God wouldn't hold it against them (2 Tim. 4:16). That's something to remember the next time we're attacked.

Related: 
Should pro-lifers verbally "bash" anyone? (on Facebook)
Monday musing for October 5: Love the enemy
Monday musing for September 17: Christians in an age of aggression

Postscript: The reason we often lack graceful speech is we fail to rely on the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, in Luke 12:11-12, "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Thus it might be advantageous to learn to cite Scripture and not certain radio talk show hosts who may or may not always speak from a biblical point of view.

We're all familiar with -- and intimidated by -- the model woman depicted at the end of Proverbs 31, but have you ever heard a sermon or read an article about the man in the first 9 verses?

The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.
Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!
Do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings.

It is not for kings, Lemuel—it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.

Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!
Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.

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.

Scholars note this king is unknown in the annals of biblical history and agree Lemuel may be a euphemism for Solomon. The name means "to God," as in "belonging to God." If the "Proverbs 31 woman" is God's ideal for womanhood, then verses 1-9 could be said to describe the ideal leader -- the one owned by God.

A likely reason we don't hear much about this passage is its dangerous reference to strong drink, as though drunkenness is allowed the common man if not the king. Plenty of passages -- including Prov. 20:1 and 23:19-21 -- clear up any misconception. (See also Luke 21:34, Romans 13:13, 1 Cor. 6:10, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:18.) Basically, good leaders are those who don't indulge themselves, or let their pleasures overcome good judgment. Ecclesiastes 10:16-17 serves as a parallel:

Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time—for strength and not for drunkenness.

Note also that the "Proverbs 31 Man" does not indulge himself with women -- leading to unwise alliances, fatherless children, and broken relationships. Dalliances sap strength AND, in our society, lead to abortions. The wise man exercises self-control in this area of life as well.

The point of sober leadership is the just use of power. The good leader doesn't allow his friends to ply him with anything -- wine, women, wealth -- to the neglect of justice.

In a crowded throne room (or courtroom) a king could be dazzled by the pomp, ceremony, and influence of powerful advisers. He could overlook the poor man in ragged clothing standing at the end of the line, or forget the wretches outside who never gain entrance because they're too ashamed, or disabled, or must work all day to survive. After all, they're not the king's party pals.

In all the competing interests, the king must keep the "little people" and their concerns in mind. The wealthy, the powerful, the beautiful have their own voices. But who speaks up for the little ones, the "non-persons" who have no voice?

Not only should the godly leader avoid perverting justice by condemning the innocent (Exodus 23:1-9, Dt. 16:18-20), but he should also be their advocate. "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. . . . Speak up!" Men who defend the weak and helpless imitate the character of God: Psalm 10:17-18, 82:3-4, 146:9; Proverbs 10:29, 31:9; Isaiah 1:17, 25:4; Jeremiah 5:28, 16:19; 2 Samuel 22:33.

What if we don't have leaders like that? What if they're under the influence of Planned Parenthood? What if they not only disregard the unborn, but advocate on behalf of their enemies?

It falls to us to do the speaking up -- petitioning to and about our leaders. Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks should be made to God for kings and all who are in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-4). And, while the parable in Luke 18:1-8 is about demonstrating faith through persistent prayer, it also shows the propriety of petitioning "unjust judges." Through our diligence, perhaps one day they'll do the good they're reluctant to do, despite their prejudices. (Note that the parable also diagnoses the root of injustice -- no fear of God or respect for the sanctity of human life.)

Men -- whether they're leaders in government or at home -- must speak up about abortion. Despite what feminist's say, men shouldn't be silenced because they lack female reproductive equipment or the experience of bearing children. Many women have abortions because their men are either coercive or weak. Since all human life in the womb is valuable to God -- male and female -- male voices are crucial to the pro-life movement. Abortion is not just a "woman's issue."

Related post-election reading:

I still remember the moment I excitedly realized I could obey a difficult passage of Scripture. The sun was in my eyes as I headed east after leaving the bagel place where I'd studied Luke 6:27-36. It may have been this same time of year, with a 40 Days for Life campaign going on. Whatever it was that made me put two thoughts together -- loving my enemies and praying at the abortion clinic -- I felt joyful as I anticipated loving the local abortionist by praying for him!

Before this, the concept of having an enemy had been rather vague. None of mine seemed to have a name or a face. They existed in the abstract -- Fear, Anxiety, Forces of Darkness in High Places ... entities like that. Whenever I came across references to foes in the Psalms, I spiritualized them. In general, I didn't really want to identify someone as my enemy because that would mean -- in the world's scheme of things -- having to battle or confront him or her in some way.

Thankfully, what I am actually called by Christ to do is love, do good to, bless, and pray for those who "despitefully use" me. Or despitefully use the unborn.

As previously noted, righteous indignation is too thin a motivation for being pro-life anyway. It simply doesn't get at the core problem or bring about lasting change. The reason is, it doesn't reflect the totality of Christ's character the way loving ones enemies does.

Over at Churches for Life, Rev. Douglas W. Merkey writes that there are many possible motives for being pro-life. "Some ... are driven by an imbalanced affection for God’s law and an overblown sense of their own piety. Some ... are driven by unresolved guilt, perhaps fueled by their own abortion experience. Some ... are driven by a hope for human approval, or insecurity. Still others ... are driven by a craving for political, social, or moral enlightenment." He urges champions of life to be "gospel-driven." (See a longer treatment of this idea here.)

When I read the article my mind went to 1 Corinthians 5:9-13a where Paul corrects a misperception: 

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges.

We're to hold "insiders" to God's high standard but, rather than being constantly alarmed or surprised by what "enemies" do, we're to treat them with godly pity. "Such were some of you."

So, while I might identify someone as an enemy of life, my treatment of him or her is modified by what God requires of me in terms of reflecting His mercy. I have to recognize this person is incapable of living a new life, never having forsaken the old (Col. 3:1-14). He lacks the advantage of an indwelling Holy Spirit.

Thanks to the Gospel, enemies become friends. Carol Everett is one such trophy, among many. Hatred and vilification could not do what the Holy Spirit, prayer, and persistent pro-life witness did by God's grace.

A new pro-life organization is devoted to bringing abortion doctors and workers out. Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood executive, has started And Then There Were None, whose goal it is "to provide financial, emotional, spiritual and legal support to anyone wishing to leave the abortion industry."

Do you know the name of an abortionist? Would you pray for one today? Here's a list of over 700 in the U.S. Find the one nearest you.

Even though "progressives" wish we'd gotten past the abortion issue by now, it has certainly not faded from this election cycle. In fact, "social issues" (marriage and abortion) once again offer some of the clearest distinctions between candidates at all levels.

Both candidates for president, however, agree abortion should be admissible in cases of rape, incest, and the life (and health) of the mother. This has not been the case in other contests and the rape issue has somewhat blown up in all our faces. Republican candidates could do a better job expressing themselves, but it's surprising how surprised the media has been by the idea that executing one of the victims of a crime ought to be a crime. (And, no, scorn for opposing views does not qualify as a rationale.)

Aside from the standard objection to such "hard case" abortions -- that a person's right to life is not altered by the circumstances of his or her conception -- the pro-life view seems to steadily lose resonance. That's as Jesus predicted (John 15:18-21), so please let us not act surprised.

Tired of being on the defensive, one Christian blogger put together 10 questions that pro-choice candidates should be forced to answer. I'd add an eleventh: Why should being conceived in rape or incest be a death sentence? "Liberals" are usually so good at identity politics, so I wonder why they can't distinguish between a rapist and his baby.

Pregnancy resulting from rape touches on a host of meaty doctrinal issues. A theologian would really be able to sink his teeth into them, but I'll sketch out a few aspects of the biblical worldview that have been overlooked in the recent drama:

  • Sin - Non-biblical worldviews deny its existence, but the Bible says there is such a thing, and that rape belongs under the heading (Deut 22:25-29). God is the ultimate One sinned against, as well as the victim (Psalm 51:4). Rapists and abortionists must answer to Him (Gen. 9:5).

  • Justice - Non-biblical worldviews mistakenly blame the victim for rape, or punish the children. Deuteronomy 24:16 says only the perpetrator is guilty. 

  • Suffering - Non-biblical worldviews say a sovereign God would never allow suffering, so instances of rape mean God either doesn't exist or is weak and not worth our time. In the biblical worldview, God is always great and good, no matter what happens to His creatures. Suffering is a result of Adam's sin and sovereignly allowed by God for purposes known to Him and rarely revealed to us (Job 1-2, Gen. 50:19-20).

  • Life - Non-biblical worldviews view life as random and essentially meaningless. The Bible teaches, however, that God is the source of all life (Genesis 1-2, John 5:26, Col. 1:16-17, 1 Tim. 6:13). Human life is no accident and all human beings are created in God's image (Gen. 1:26-27, Ps. 139:13-16). This includes the child of rape or of any illicit sexual encounter. It even includes the rapist!

  • Parenthood - Non-biblical worldviews increasingly consider children as commodities owned by their parents, but in the biblical worldview, children belong to God and are granted to parents in a stewardship arrangement (Psalm 127:3). Adoption reflects God's loving character and is an excellent alternative to abortion (Eph. 1:5). 

  • Redemption - We who know the Savior who redeems and restores sinners should let these truths shape our responses to rape victims and their children. We should also never let the magnitude and horror of such a violation be too far from our imagination. We should suffer alongside women as they relive their trauma. When they elect to continue a pregnancy, we should support them with a sense of respect, awe, and gratitude for the abundance of God's grace in their lives. We should love and welcome their children.

This has been an admittedly rudimentary treatment of theological issues at stake in our culture. [Added 10/31/12: To demonstrate the difficulty of saying everything you need to on this subject, I found myself today regretting I hadn't made a point about how abortion solves nothing -- doesn't erase the rape or negate the trauma -- it only compounds the violence and violation that women feel. I also should have provided a link to What About Abortion for Rape or Incest? on our website.]

Related: 
Mohler: The Mourdock Moment -- Life, Death, and Lies on the Campaign Trail
Christianity Today: Are Pregnancies Even from Rape a Gift from God?
Douthat: The Press and Abortion, Revisited
Richard Mourdock Gets in Trouble for His Extremely Conventional Religious Beliefs
Rape, Conception, and God: Why Mourdock Was Right
Our Media & The Blessed Rape Baby
Rape, God, Life, and Liberals
Reardon: The Despicable “God Intends Rape” Comments
Mohler: The Great American Worldview Test -- The 2012 Election
Pro-life group vows changes after Akin debacle

Personal stories:
“Rape hurt my mother, but abortion devastated her.”
‘I’m not a mistake.’ Five women conceived in rape support Mourdock
I was conceived in rape. Did I deserve to be aborted?
My Rape Pregnancy and My Furor Over Social Myths
Dear Ann Coulter: babies conceived in rape are not cannon fodder

Postscript: I was just chatting on Facebook with a friend in Kenya and asked him to pray for our country as we undertake the election next week. He replied, "I fervently pray for your nation. May God give you a leader after his heart and give all of you wisdom as you elect." And then he said something that put everything we endure -- endless robo-calls and attack ads -- in perspective: "Pray for us also as we come to elections. Civil wars arise and many kill each other." Wow. Good reminder, huh? Please pray for Kenya!

What does the following factoid say about our culture?

The National Retail Federation projects that Americans will spend $370 million this year on Halloween costumes . . . for their pets!

It's ridiculous on so many levels: There's the folly of celebrating ancient pagan rituals; the pretense of substituting cats and dogs for children; and finally, the fiction that Americans are suffering under a down economy.

Oh, what Life Matters Worldwide could do with $370 million! Or any number of pro-life ministries . . . combined. Did you know that our entire budget for this year is a little over one-tenth of one percent of that figure ($392,000)?

How should we explain this to friends in Africa, Latin America, or Asia, where paganism is not a game and the struggle for daily survival is all-consuming? What couldn't they do with a fraction of what we waste?

Meanwhile, in Uruguay, the country's Senate has joined its House in legalizing abortion in the first trimester. The first abortion clinic has recently opened in Northern Ireland. And in China, abortions continue on a pace of 13 million per year! These three reports were found in a quick scan of headlines from just one newspaper this morning -- The New York Times. They show that we Americans have done a good job of exporting abortion culture.

What can we do? I'd like to think that with more support we could do more to fight abortion here and abroad. We could do more to counter philosophies and vain deceit (Col. 2:8).

This past weekend our board met to discuss next year's general budget and special projects. For now, we're still working on meeting this year's goals. If you'd like to help us, click the 'Donate Today' tab above. From there you can select General Fund or one of our projects to support.

Thank you!

Jesus' description of a future separation of sheep from goats in Matthew 25:31-46 has always held me in fascinated terror. I remember hearing my mother read it when I was a child of five or six and feeling an awful pang of conviction. Had I ever helped someone in such a way that would keep me from being lumped with the goats?

When I asked our president, Tom Lothamer, what he was musing about this week, he brought up this passage. And he said that on a recent reading something struck him afresh. He noted how unconscious the sheep seem to be of their own actions. When told why they are worthy to "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," they ask, "When did we do all this for you?" They seem unaware that helping people, particularly "the least of these my brothers," was actually service to Him.

I think this means sheep are those who serve Christ without consciousness of self, from an overflow of worship and gratitude. What they are conscious of is God's constant presence and protection, His watchful eye, His glorious character that exudes mercy and grace. They don't think about service in terms such as, "I'd better do this for God." Or "I need to rack up more good works." Or "It's my duty as a Christian to help so-and-so." Somehow they are honestly innocent about service to others. They display the beauty of a life transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Goats, on the other hand, seem very conscious of all they have done. Their question is, "When did we not take care of you?" They are religious about keeping score, racking up points, mindful of earning something, making their own way. It's the same attitude that comes through in Matthew 7:22 about people who profess to know the Lord but are ultimately denied by Him.

There have always been questions about this portion of chapter 25, such as who is Christ intending as "the least of these"? And what is meant when He says this is a judgment of "the nations"? Not to be missed, however, is the Bible's unavoidable emphasis on helping the helpless (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Psalm 41:1; Proverbs 19:17, 21:13; Luke 10:25-37, Hebrews 13:1-3, 1 John 3:16-19).

What does this have to do with being pro-life?

Everything. Leaving someone hungry, sick, by the side of the road, and so on consigns him or her to the present condition. Left unattended, unless someone else steps in, he or she will die. And then the question is, will his or her blood will be held to my account (Genesis 9:5)? Will I have to answer for it?

I am my brother's keeper. I am called to be a good neighbor. I may hope and pray for others to come along, but I don't know they will. I am here. I am aware of a need. I must do something.

The Good Samaritan was more conscious of the beaten man's need of help than of its cost to himself or his own piety. He said, in effect, "If I don't take care of this person, who will?"

In the latest update from Bill and Lori Smith (10/14/12), the missionaries to Papua New Guinea write:

Real religion is a relationship with God through His Son and it is lived out in our lives among the people we touch each day. It is not something done each week . . . our religious activities . . . it is a life-transforming daily explosion of His power through my life [my emphasis]. It is reaching out to the lost and hurting around me. It is being willing to go to the place of sacrifice and be willing to be hurt and used and abused to show my love! Leaving my comfy pew and putting into action the love of God to those that need it most! . . .

We can work or we can serve . . . there is such a difference.

What a joy that as we refocus and see God clearly in our lives He eclipses the irritants, fears and frustrations. We give because He has given all for us. We love endlessly because we are loved beyond measure. Our actions speak the words in our lives.

"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word."

Paul encouraged believers in the 1st century with these words (2 Thess. 2:16-17), and they bless our hearts today. Life Matters Worldwide's mission statement echoes the thought:

Helping the Body of Christ articulate the biblical pro-life message in word and deed.

Word and deed. Proclamation and practice. It's an over-arching theme in Scripture, Old and New Testaments. The prophets were famous for challenging people who professed to have faith in God to also help the suffering person -- or at least stop participating in their oppression. Isaiah 58:1-11, Jeremiah 7:4-7, Zechariah 7:9-12, and 8:16-17 are just a few OT passages that come to mind.

James completes the thought in 2:12-17: 

"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."

From our earliest days, this organization was founded on the principle that "it's not enough to say abortion [or now assisted suicide] is wrong, we must also offer alternatives." There are many ways to do that. We've made it an aim to express our beliefs in actions that establish and sustain pregnancy care centers as effective Gospel outreaches. And, through LIFT, to help Christians offer practical and spiritual support when church members are chronically or terminally ill. 

Whatever you do for Christ today, may God encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word!

Related article that may hurt to read: Pregnant and homeless on the doorsteps of a Christian megachurch

Jesus' disciples had a lot to learn. About a hungry crowd, they said, "Send them away." About a desperate mother: "Send her away." To parents with children, in effect: "Take them away!" Perhaps they were at a loss for knowing what people needed, or how to help. Maybe they were simply annoyed. 

How often are we like that? I felt something similar on a recent morning driving to work. A man was standing near the highway entrance holding a sign that said he’s a veteran and needs help feeding his family. Many thoughts swirled through my head as I passed by: Is he really a veteran? His buzzed haircut and soldierly posture vouched for him, but both could be easily counterfeited. Was he willing and able to work at any menial job, or too proud to take what's available? Why was he willing to humiliate himself? Is his situation really so desperate? Would he really buy food with the donations, or drugs and booze?

Of course, it was impossible to change lanes, pull over, and ask him these questions without endangering myself or other drivers. And it probably wouldn't have been wise for me, as a woman, to approach him at all. 

I found myself wondering if, or when, the “professionals” would step in -- people who work with the hungry, who know the right questions to ask, and have referrals to food pantries. Are they aware of this fellow? Have they tried to help and been rebuffed? Where were they?

Giving is sometimes messy, but Jesus didn’t seem to have a problem with it. 

In contrast to the disciples' hostility or apathy, a deep pity moved Him to effective, confident acts of mercy on behalf of the lost. The object of His compassion was people --those who knew they had problems and those who were oblivious. His objective was complete restoration. While not everyone responded in faith, He graciously served. 

His compassion met both immediate and eternal needs -- problems such as hunger, sickness, and sin. While laying out hard truths about God’s kingdom, Jesus did not neglect other human needs but served the whole person. 

As they followed, the disciples witnessed first-hand how perfectly Jesus expressed His Father’s compassionate nature. They heard Him say, “I feel compassion for them” and watched Him do something about it. In the course of their training, Jesus directed them to perform lowly acts of service for others, such as having them hand out the baskets He was filling with food. 

In response to situations like the one of coming across a hungry person and feeling at a loss of what or how to give, some friends have come up with a creative solution. They've begun carrying bottles of water and granola bars in their cars and handbags that can be offered in Jesus' name, along with information about local food pantries. It's a good way to avoid the trickiness of handing out cash and the embarrassment of giving nothing.

Pro-life ministries reflect Jesus’ spirit of compassion on a larger, more organized scale. They serve the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Pregnancy care centers “suffer alongside” those caught in the web of sexual immorality, unwanted pregnancy, and abortion. LIFT “suffers alongside” the dying and chronically ill. Meanwhile, the world offers counterfeit answers -- abortion, euthanasia -- that abandon people to death. 

God often uses frailty or deficiency to draw people to Himself. Physical, emotional, and social problems point to the reality of sin because they proceed from it -- their own sin, the sin of others, or the Fall in general. Sometimes, caring for these problems is our only entrée past closed doors. The people served by compassion ministries may not know it, but they also have spiritual needs. 

Evangelism and compassion go hand-in-hand. It’s not enough to educate people about abortion, or hold their hands as they weep. They may still be lost in sin. That’s why true compassion ministries will point toward the source of ultimate transformation -- Jesus Christ. Salvation from a life of sin and the penalty of death is only in His name (Acts 4:12). 

God still prepares His followers for compassion ministry. The challenge is being willing, ready, and in position to help. 

Scripture references: Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8; Proverbs 14:12; Lamentations 3:22; Jonah 4:11; Matthew 9:35-36, 14:14-21, 15:23, 30-38, 20:34; Mark 1:41, 6:31-44, 8:2, 10:13-16; Luke 7:13, 9:11-17, 15:20, 17:11-19; John 1:18, 13:14; Philippians 2:1; Colossians 3:12; Hebrews 1:3; James 5:11.

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Onward Christian Workers

Aren’t you tired of being whipped into a frenzy every time someone insults us or infringes on our rights? Isn’t it exhausting to keep track of the media’s offenses against Christianity? I look forward to a dissipation of heat on November 7, the day after the election, but it’s probably wishful thinking to believe real calm will set in. Soon a new round of accusations and recriminations will begin (or the old round will continue). And in no time the 2016 campaign will be upon us. 

Is this how Christians are supposed to live, tied to a political cycle, at the mercy of 24-hour news feeds? Of course not. And yet, it feels as though to be a fully engaged person, hyper-vigilance is the watch-word and righteous indignation the predominant virtue. Too many of us run hot during election season and cold the rest of the time.

D. A. Carson noticed the trend back as far as 2005 in a lecture on the book of Revelation. David Rogers of SBC Voices helpfully transcribed pertinent parts of the audio recording for his blog post, “D. A. Carson on Angry Christians and the Devil’s Tactics”

If you want to make a lot of money with a Christian book in this country, write a book that says what’s wrong with America, listing all the bad things that you possibly can on the Left, demonize the Left. It’ll sell like hotcakes on the Right. . . .

Now contrast that with the first Christians taking the gospel in the Roman Empire. They were nobodies. They didn’t have anybody taking away their heritage. They were out to take over the heritage. They looked around and saw an extremely pluralistic empire, and they said with Caleb, in effect, “Give us this mountain.” And they kept witnessing and kept getting martyred, and so on, and there was a revolution, finally—a spiritual revolution.


But we can’t do that today. At least we find it very difficult, because we’re so busy being angry all the time that at the end of the day not only do we lose our credibility with people on the Left—they start demonizing us back—but we have no energy or compassion left to evangelize them. When you’re busy hating everybody, and denouncing everybody, and seeking political solutions to everything, it’s very difficult to evangelize. Isn’t it? Very hard to be compassionate, to look on the crowds as though they’re sheep without a shepherd, very hard to look on them like that when they’re taking away “my heritage.” Do you see?


Yes, I do. More recently, blogger Don McBride sounded a similar note: 
 

U.S. Christians are becoming more political and less evangelistic, and this is something they need to watch. It’s easy to wrap up in political anger and point out sin, but our call is to reach the lost. If we see the signs of the end fast approaching as they are, then we should be about the Master’s business of . . . preaching the Gospel, and being the light for Jesus. We are Christians, not Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, or Liberals. We need to be evangelistic. We need to shine Jesus, not politics.

The corrective, of course, will come from God’s word, this time in the mouth of James (1:19-20): “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” 

Indeed, as we’ve seen in the past week or so, the misplaced anger of some who claim the name of Christ has made it tougher, more dangerous, or impossible for Christians in Middle Eastern countries to patiently and gently go about the work of reaching lost souls. 

The trouble is, in making a call to bring Christians back from an over-reliance on political or social change, the pendulum is bound to swing over to an unreasonable and unbiblical abandonment of civic duty. Neither extreme is acceptable.

We must not fall for any of the “Six Myths of Cultural Engagement” that Jim Daly of Focus on the Family identifies. Myth 2 is that “we must be loud, vocal, and visible” and Myth 3, “getting angry is the path to success.” The truth is “if we truly want people to hear us, we must be humble, personable and subtle.” 

And, while Myth 1 says “nothing can be done,” Myth 4 is that “we must fight the darkness.” Just because one position is false doesn’t mean its opposite is true. Instead, “we must increase the light by presenting the good, true and beautiful story that changes lives.” 

It’s easy to be angry, apathetic, or even despairing , but we’re not called to the ease of giving in to natural inclinations. Rather than passion (intense emotion) or lack of passion (apathy), we’re called to self-control and to imitating Jesus’ life of compassion -- according to Merriam-Webster, a “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Rather than being right and having our say, we need to be wise and willing to give up some rights . . . for the sake of the Gospel.

We’re also called to be sober and alert in prayer, and I would suggest at this moment that we pray for those Christians on the frontlines who face death or being kicked out of their countries of service as a result of the misguided expression of rights here in America.

Also, in our appeals for God to bless America (or any country), we should admit we don't deserve it. Why should God bless a nation that exports abortion-on-demand? Rather we need His mercy so that the Gospel may flourish here and abroad.

We can be bold without being brash. As Rick Warren recently preached, the sanctity of life, sex, and marriage are "three aspects of the Christian worldview that are hated by this world. Most Christians clam up and shut up because they're afraid to even stand up." The stand we take in the voting booth is private and powerful. Don't miss the opportunity -- or shirk the duty -- coming up this November 6!

We are called to stand up for the rights of others by acting on their behalf and voting when we can. As we wrote in "Whatsoever . . . voting," a candidate's stance on abortion is more important than his or her position on the economy or the environment:

One could make the case that all issues affect the sanctity of human life, but none is more basic than the right to life itself. If there is no justice for the most vulnerable human beings, there can be justice for none. Candidates ought not pit “interest groups” against the unborn.

Some say, “If you’re really pro-life you’ll join the [fill-in-the-blank] cause!” But these are often the same people who refuse to also speak for the unborn. Why should the tiniest of little ones be forced to wait at the end of the line behind those with more money or a louder megaphone?

I suggest you download this copy-ready flyer and make it available to your church family before the election.

One other way we can diffuse heat is by building credibility through service. Our president, Tom Lothamer, spent several years serving on his local school board. He had to work alongside others who didn't necessarily share a "Christian world and life view" and succeeded by being prepared, participating fully in discussions, and being respectful. That meant listening patiently and responding calmly. There's no short-cut to civility.

Just as the historical perspective helps -- thinking of what the early church endured and how they responded -- so does the biblical perspective. Our God is in control. Psalm 33:8-11:

Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.

For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples.

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.

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