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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Am I Really Pro Life?

I consider myself "Pro Life." In 2016 vernacular, that means I do not believe in abortion.

I suspect a number of people are conflicted on what, exactly, this means. We are well into the presidential election cycle and every four years we listen to politicians dance around their positions on abortion. Those who consider themselves hard-core conservatives oppose abortion in any circumstance. Some candidates, perhaps seeking to earn that politically advantageous label "moderate" also oppose abortion, but with exceptions for rape, incest and/or danger to the life of the mother.

Although the issue of abortion is critical in and of itself, the question I have been asking myself lately is, "Am I really pro-life?"

As a person who accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord in 2001, it is my honor - and my challenge - to live a more Christ-like life each day. So how do I do that?

The only source we have to draw from, with regard to how Jesus lived, is the Bible. Yet there are those who would have us believe unless we have a doctorate in biblical studies or are at least facile with ancient Greek and Hebrew, we have no chance of understanding what the Bible really means.

In the wise and gentle words of the late (fictional) Colonel Sherman T. Potter:

As I pointed out in our small group this past Sunday, there are atheists who know a lot more about the Bible than I do. They have undertaken an in-depth study of the book, pouring through ancient copies of manuscripts, reading them in the languages they were first written, dissecting various treatises, and so on. They presuppose that by completing a logical and organized academic study of the book, they will be able to fully grasp the meaning of the Bible and thus be equipped to successfully debate anyone, anywhere, on any biblical topic.

Just like that recipe your grandmother used to make. You know the one. Every, single time you make it, there is something missing. You've got the recipe and you follow it exactly. Yet the dish never tastes like you remember when Grandma made it.

Why? Because there was something else she put in to it. She didn't happen to write it down. She just put whatever that extra ingredient was in when she made it.

Biblically speaking, that missing ingredient is the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter said to them (those gathered in Jerusalem), "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself." [Acts 2:38-39]

Although I have digressed, the purpose (and point) is, if we have repented of our sins and placed our faith and trust in Jesus, God has promised to provide us an advocate - the Holy Spirit - to guide us from that point onward.

Now, having established that each of us, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, can rightly determine the truth and meaning of the Bible, what does it say about being "Pro-life?"

Exodus 20:13 is probably the best place to start. "You shall not murder." [NASB]

That seems pretty clear. Unless you are a lawyer, judge, politician or human, apparently. The modern definition of murder is something like: the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law. In the U.S., special statutory definitions include murder committed with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime, as robbery or arson (first-degree murder) and murder by intent but without deliberation or premeditation (second-degree murder).

I tend to gravitate toward a more simple definition: to kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously.

This, I believe, is the definition around which the abortion debate swirls.

But what if being Pro-life was more than just defining your position in the abortion debate? What if it encompassed your beliefs on capital punishment, self-defense, DUI manslaughter, and all the other ways that we as a species have learned to dispose of each other?

Biblical nitpickers might poke an index finger toward the sky and say, "Ah ha! But the Hebrew word (transliteration) 'ratsach' means 'to murder' so, as long as we are not murdering people, we are not killing them in the biblical sense and breaking that commandment."

Ratsach can mean 'murder' but it can also mean 'to slay' or simply 'manslayer'. If I perform an abortion on a fetus with a heartbeat, shoot a burglar who has broken into my home, run over someone when I'm driving under the influence, kill someone by lethal injection or any other scenario you can think of, I have slayed them.

I cannot imagine God thinking, "I'm going to give humanity this vague commandment and just sit back and wait for them to argue about what it means."

Thou shalt not kill/murder/slay.

I don't see any ambiguity there.

"But I'm protecting my family! I'm being a good steward of my home by defending it from the burglar when I shoot him."

Fair comment. I used to own a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. It had one purpose. I am thankful I never had to make the decision whether or not to use it to fulfill its purpose. I don't have the weapon anymore.

However, if we cannot agree on the meaning of the sixth commandment, let's look at something a bit more recent.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount provided some pretty plain behavioral rules. Specific to our discussion, the instructions Jesus gave in Matthew 5:38-48 are pretty clear. Not much wiggle room there, when you consider the examples He provided.

During His ministry, lawyers, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees...seemingly most everyone...sought to trip Jesus up in some way. The Hebrews had a good few thousand years to build on those original ten instructions God provided them. By the time of Jesus, their construct rivaled that of The Matrix.

Those guys are everywhere!

If you want to put a modern spin on it, Jesus was like Neo and all those lawyers, scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees were like the innumerable Agent Smiths trying to capture Him.

One day, as Matthew 22:34-40 recounts, a lawyer asked Jesus the sixty-four thousand drachma question, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"

Unsurprisingly, Jesus gave the correct answer. However, the last part of His answer is where the rubber meets the road in the context of Pro-life. "The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Would you clamp down on your own tender head with a pair of cold, metal forceps and pull yourself out of the womb? Would you shoot yourself as you jimmied the lock on your own front door? Would you push the button to fill your own veins with a lethal cocktail of capital punishment drugs?

I would hazard a guess that most of us would not. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Am I really pro-life?

I've got some work to do, Jesus. Help me.


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