FIRST-PERSON: Life and death, blessing and cursing

by Gary Ledbetter, posted Friday, February 12, 2016 (6 years ago)

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) -- The Bible is a pretty absolutist book.

All through it are uncompromising contrasts between the God who is and gods who aren't, obedience and sin, life and death, blessing and cursing, light and darkness, belief and unbelief, heaven and hell.

To our modern ears, it sounds harsh to offer no third way to blessing and life. But those who find a third way to respond to God must torture the Scriptures to do so. It was not God's intention to offer a third option.

Thus, the world has difficulty understanding pro-life Christians in the context of modern ways of thinking. Florida pastor Mac Brunson recently applied Proverbs 8:36 to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and others who profit from abortion: "But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death." Those who believe the Bible have little difficulty with the application, understanding that love and hate is another biblical contrast.

If you have no regard for God, "hate" is the proper word in this verse, and if you profit from unjust death, "love" is the proper word. Pastor Brunson may be accused of intemperate language by some gentle souls; I think "prophetic" is a better understanding of what he said.

But it's not exclusively a Planned Parenthood problem. A whole culture has evolved toward hate for God and love for death.

Abortion would not have taken hold in a culture that loved life. Neither would physician-assisted suicide have been thinkable or legalized in any U.S. state if we loved the God who is the source and lord of all our days and hours, the one who ascribes value to each individual. Many women and girls are pregnant too early, too often and at inconvenient times because biblical precepts regarding sexual purity are considered quaint. We do not honor our elderly as the Bible instructs but consider them a drain on limited medical resources.

What we believe is evident in what we tolerate, encourage and do.

Yet there is also a culture of life in America. Thousands of churches and millions of Christians do understand that their neighbors, even the inconvenient ones, bear the image of our Creator.

For that reason, we support those facing a pregnancy they cannot handle alone; we support adoption services, foster care for needy children, hunger relief, ministry to refugees, taking the Gospel to the lost of every tribe and a host of institutions and ministries aimed at keeping our neighbors alive while making them whole.

These things are counter-cultural, certainly in their motive, flowing from traits against which "there is no law," as stated in Galatians 5:23. That means we'll always find ways to help the helpless even in a society that scorns our motives and hates our God.

And in this unusually complex election year, we can affect the decision-making process of our communities and nation as part of our service to the God of life. Each of us must decide: Upon what values will we base our political involvement?

You first will have to determine that you will be involved, registered to vote, informed and fortified with convictions worthy of your heavenly citizenship.

I have more than once seen pundits wondering at how middle-class heartland voters vote "against their best interests," meaning that we don't always fall for promises to give us free money and instead try to vote with values both political parties find relatively trivial. Most opinion makers do not understand my "best interests." A candidate who believes that some people have less worth than others or who panders to those who love death will not be my candidate for any office.

I do not have the option of sitting this one out. I continue to work alongside those who love life and will try to be one of that earnest number, but such work takes place in an amazing variety of contexts. We don't need popular acclaim or even permission to live out the life that has been born in us by the Spirit of God. It's as urgent as it's ever been in our world, and our enemies remain the same as in past generations -- paganism, idolatry, our old fleshy selves, and the father of lies and death himself.

We must not be timid to reflect the light and truth of our Creator. Some will be saved from darkness and death as we show forth His light and life.

Gary Ledbetter is editor in chief of the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
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