Pastoral remarks from the biblical standpoint of PEACE to help us navigate the storm.
This past weekend in Mountain’s series called FULL OF IT we tackled the fruit of the Spirit called PEACE.
If you missed the message, I encourage you to listen to it or watch it. As a help for you to find PEACE I shared personally from my own life a prescription for sleep (it’s not what you think) and a song that easily brings me to tears. The song came to me while observing birds near a rocky crag in Portugal recently. I encourage you to take a moment to at least catch the end of the message if you’re pressed for time. You can watch or listen here.
With the theme of PEACE on our minds, it seemed helpful to take a moment to think about the Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe vs. Wade, which sends rulings about abortion back to the states. It is causing quite a storm and many strong emotions out there. This is not just a legal ruling, but one with profound implications for real people. There is so much that could be said, but let me zero in on a few specific aspects of this with some pastoral remarks from the biblical standpoint of PEACE to help us navigate the storm.
It feels important to remember when our PEACE is truly grounded in Christ alone, however glad we may be for this decision – as many are! — we still realize we do not find our ultimate peace or gladness in it. And those who are angry or sad about this decision – as many are – need not be unraveled, because the peace of Christ cannot be destroyed by any government decision.
When we receive the PEACE Jesus gives, we realize Christ towers like a lighthouse above the turbulence of any present storm. Colossians says he is “supreme over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15).
That same passage also says “through him everything was created.” (Colossians 1:16) This is why EVERY human life is precious! Because Jesus made us, crafted and knit us together in our mother’s womb. (Psalm 139) Then he proved his love for EVERYONE on the cross. Now he commands us to love like he did – seeing EVERYONE as a bearer of God’s image, precious objects of God’s love, through us. (John 13:1, 34-35)
If our PEACE is deeply grounded in Christ rather than controlled by partisan politics or newsfeeds, then we are better able to reject simplistic “black and white” analyses that insist everyone must choose: do you love babies and hate women? Or, do you love women and hate babies? Jesus clearly loved, blessed, protected and cared for EVERYONE. Particularly the vulnerable. We know he loves and has a purpose for every baby – born and unborn — and every one of us. We also know he loves and cares for every woman who may find herself in a very difficult situation, perhaps with a pregnancy that is unexpected, unaffordable, or high risk, leaving her scared and alone. We know Jesus has compassion which allows him to see past the politics to the person.
People with deep PEACE are not nervous about seeking the truth of Scripture and acknowledging how the early Christians applied their understanding of Jesus to real life.
So what does the historical perspective tell us?
When ancient near eastern nations practiced child sacrifice to their gods, Yahweh God condemned it and called his people to be different. (Deuteronomy 12:29-31) Later, in the time of Jesus, children – born and unborn – were seen as assets of the family, essentially property to be used for the benefit of the family or disposed of if unwanted.
In stark contrast, Christ followers were driven by the belief that all life is a gift from God and therefore sacred and precious. They recalled times when God was miraculously involved in a life still in utero – the babies of Sarah (Isaac), Hannah (Samuel), Elizabeth (John the Baptist) and of course Mary, the mother of Jesus. As our friend Jon Tyson has pointed out, the early Christians were not known for a judgmental attitude toward others, but for rescuing infants who were discarded or disfigured after failed abortions or exposed to the elements, raising them as their own. Orphanages emerged, often funded and run by Christians, as a way to put compassionate actions behind their beliefs.
So when a decision is made that could mean precious lives will be saved, followers of Jesus can be glad. It marks a higher regard for life.
However, if we are honest about the historical lessons, we must humbly admit that the capital C Church has not always had a consistent vision of the sacredness of life. We have sometimes failed to live out a holistic ethic. Christians are at our best when we care about life, not just birth. When we are consistent with our ethics we care equally about the horrific killing of innocent children in classrooms, people struggling on the margins and the societal structures that keep them there, and for the poor who face unbearable conditions that drive many to feel as if abortion is their only option. Supporting women caught in these painful situations means coming alongside them through organizations that serve them, and by personally opening our hearts, homes, wallets and schedules to care for these women who are often “the least of these” as much as the babies in their wombs. (1 John 3:16-18; Matthew 25:40).
People grounded in the PEACE of Christ will also seek ways to affirm the dignity and worth of women as Jesus did. It seems from the Gospels Jesus was particularly interested in granting his PEACE to women who struggled under the burdens and injustices of life. Today, many women are feeling anxiety in these uncertain times. Women’s rights is not just a political talking point; for Jesus it involved real women for whom he expressed concern. Notice the way he cared for Mary, who sat at his feet. (Luke 10) How he did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. (John 8) How he gave living water to the woman at the well despite her immoral lifestyle. (John 4) His noticing of the invisible but desperate woman with a bleeding problem who reached out to touch his garment after suffering with unbearable, private pain. (Mark 5) These examples and many others call us to uplift women and be a place of hope and healing for weary women in our world, creating a safe place where they are honored and understood and helped to flourish.
Claiming the PEACE of Christ in every circumstance also comes with submitting to the LORDSHIP of Christ in every circumstance. And if Jesus is our Lord, we will seek first His Kingdom so that our hearts are not discipled by a political party or ideology instead. Some Americans feel like this decision is a huge victory, others a horrible defeat. But followers of Jesus remember we are subjects of another kingdom beyond this one. It is well for Christians to be concerned and engaged in the matters of law and social life. But we do so refusing to be defined by any ideology other than the mind of Christ. Rulings, courts, ideologies and nations come and go. But the kingdom of our Lord will always stand, and in the end we must stand most strongly not with them but with Christ.
If the PEACE of Christ dwells within us (Colossians 3:15), then Christ provides our identity. And if our identity is in Jesus, in this highly contentious moment, we will be careful not to sacrifice our public witness or damage the name of Jesus by how we respond. The PEACE of Christ will help us refrain from angry shouting and condemnation. It will also help us refrain from gloating or grandstanding or puffing out our chest.
There are tremendous Forces at work to rip us apart right now. Many will seek to paint a caricature of the “other side” to widen divisions against “the Enemy.” As pastor Dan Meyer said, “In an era when many have forgotten God and his beautiful vision for the whole human family, division, contempt and self-righteousness can easily dominate our social life. We can’t let them. As followers of Jesus, we need to be about not only today’s news story but God’s ultimate story.” The larger narrative, bigger story is that God cares for ALL people, especially those who are vulnerable – as babies and women most certainly are.
So instead of caving to the angry division of the moment, we would do well to recall Abraham Lincoln. As the Civil War was ending he drew upon scripture in his second inaugural address to describe a posture of “malice toward none, charity toward all.” He called people to “bind up our nation’s wounds, to achieve a lasting peace.” Perhaps amidst the current civil unrest, when there is rejoicing by some and despairing by others, our part could be to take that posture, and be part of the binding and sharing of the PEACE of Christ.
What if we treated those with whom we disagreed in such a way that people knew unmistakably we were subjects of the Prince of PEACE? (Isaiah 9:6) What if we not only stood up for a position, but lived up to what Jesus taught when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers”? (Matthew 5:9) What if, in our eagerness to see God’s will be done in our land, we personally obeyed Jesus’ command to love our enemies? (Matthew 5:44) What if we showed up in the comments with gentle empathy, creating space for those who are angry or hurting? What if they could experience the PEACE of Christ through the people of God to the glory of God?
And if we have a deep sense of PEACE that is truly from Christ, then we will not pretend new legislation will do our job for us. We will instead find courage and responsibility to step up our game as Christians. To prove we are completely pro-life – not as a political position, but as a profession of biblical faith. To be not just anti-abortion. Not just pro-birth. Not just pro-some-life. But pro-everyone.
Because bringing the “shalom” of God to God’s world means we may rejoice in the saving of unborn lives because they are created in the image of God. But it also means recognizing the image of God applies also to people after they are born, causing us to be devoted with equal passion to serving and protecting all who are vulnerable, weak, scared, stuck, hurting and alone just as Jesus did. Being completely pro-life means caring also for orphans and prisoners, elderly and those with special needs, the sick and hurting, the hungry and homeless, the immigrants and abused.
In this regard, the new ruling doesn’t change what we need to be about one bit. Some have suggested that with the reversal, now the Church better get busy caring for pregnant women and young moms. They say we better be sure to foster and adopt children, provide counseling and care for vulnerable kids and families. They are right. In other words, we must keep doing the very things we in fact have been doing!
So much has been done in the name of Christ! But now, even more must be done to show tangible support to all who need it. We must double down on ministry to children, women, people of color, struggling mothers and fathers, stepping up our game to foster, adopt, protect and provide for ALL the people Jesus cares about – and that’s EVERYONE — from the womb to the tomb.
Because we all know full well that hearts will never be changed through the laws of the land, but only through the love of our Lord. That as many as possible may be born from on high and come to know the PEACE of Christ.
With a spirit of PEACE,