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What Does it Mean to be "Pro-Life?"

In January our nation remembers two important anniversaries that as Christians we don't want to forget. The first was this past Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The second is January 22nd, which is the 45th anniversary of Roe v Wade. 

As Christians these anniversaries not only remind us of the moral tragedies that mark our nation’s history, but of the ongoing need to consistently live out a pro-life witness in our country today. We must be a pro-life people because our God is pro-life. The Bible teaches us that human life is not a cosmic accident, but that all people are created by God in his own image (Gen 1-2) and therefore carry special dignity and worth, even above the animal creation. Therefore all people deserve to be valued, respected, protected, and treasured as Divine image bearers. Of course, this affirmation of the dignity and value of life must begin with the unborn. As the Psalmist states, life from the very moment of conception is God's handiwork and to be valued as such:   

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Unborn children are human beings made in the image of God, and so deserve dignity, respect, and especially protection, because they are the most vulnerable in our society. As we approach January 22nd, let us pray that abortion will end, and let us continue to speak the truth in love to our neighbors, communities, and nation. 

The passing of Martin Luther King Jr day this week, however, reminds us that being "pro-life" must extend beyond the issue of abortion if we are truly going to be "pro-life" in the full biblical sense. The same principals of human dignity and the sanctity of human life that lead us to oppose abortion also apply to all human life, to all those who are marginalized and oppressed. Our own Larger Catechism gives us one of the fullest expressions of what it means to pro-life in its exposition of the 6th commandment.  In answer to the question: "what are the duties required in the 6th commandment?" The answer follows (summarized and reduced)

The duties required in the sixth commandment are all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by confronting and subduing all passions, practices, thoughts which... which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence... (and by) comforting and succoring the distressed and protecting and defending the innocent.

What stands out here uniquely is the focus of the final sentence on doing everything we can to comfort the distressed, and protect and defend the innocent. Therefore, being pro-life is far more expansive than the abortion issue. 

  • Being pro-life is to be pro-orphan. We don’t merely care for the unborn children, but for those who are born, both unwanted and abused. This is the beauty of adoption and foster care, to take into our homes and care for children who for whatever reason have no family to care for them. 
  • Being pro-life is to be pro- widows & pro-single mothers. Christians should be known as people who do more than merely call women to not abort, but as those who step up to help care for the children they don’t abort and seek to change the many circumstances which would make an abortion an appealing alternative.
  • Being pro-life means being Pro- disability, Pro-elderly. We care for the lonely, the neglected, the overlooked in society, the people that have no power and don’t matter.
  • Being Pro-life is to confront racism and any other sinful ideology that denies the full and equal humanity of any other group of people and therefore treats them as less than an image bearers. It means being willing to challenge and confront any violence or injustice that flows out of such thinking.    

The list could go on, but ultimately a pro- life ethic in the full biblical sense comes down to our obedience to the second great commandment: do we love our neighbors as ourselves, and seek their flourishing as we do our own?

So as we remember these anniversaries this month, let us ask ourselves: Are we pro-life enough? And let us pray that God make us a people, a church, that is known in our community for our love and care for all of life, from the unborn to the elderly. May we be known for our willingness to make sacrifices that answer the call our Father has given us to comfort the distressed, and to protect and defend the innocent.  

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