Changed People Can Change the World
James C. Denison
You and I are living in a day of unprecedented change. Sociologists tell us that 90% of all the changes which have occurred in human history have taken place in the last 100 years; 90% of these have occurred in the last ten years.
•One out of eight couples married in the United States last year met online.
•More text messages were sent and received today than the planet’s population.
•Today’s New York Times contains more information than a person living in colonial America would encounter in his or her lifetime.
•In 25 years, a cell phone will fit in a blood cell.
•In a few years, a computer will exist with the computational capacity of the human brain.
•By 2045, a $1000 computer will possess the computational capacity of the human race.
Changes are occurring across the political landscape of our day as well. The “Arab Spring” pro-democracy youth-led movement in the Middle East is transforming nations from Tunisia and Egypt to Jordan, Yemen and Libya. I was in Israel in March, and can tell you that the Israeli government is both hopeful and concerned about these changes. Who would have imagined that Twitter, Facebook and text messages could overthrow dictators and change governments?
Small things can produce large changes, a fact Jesus made clear in the Sermon on the Mount:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).
How can your life, influence and resources work to support life in these critical days?
Understand the issue
Let’s begin by exploring this issue. Every year, approximately 40,000 people die on American highways. Every ten days, that many abortions are performed in America. Doctors conduct 1.5 million abortions every year in the United States, more than the total of all America’s war dead across our history.
Since the U. S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in January of 1973, more than 48 million abortions have been performed in America. This is a number larger than the combined populations of Kentucky, Oregon, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia, Nebraska, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. Depending on the year, an abortion occurs for every three or four live births in our country.
What is the case for abortion? Five claims contribute to the pro-choice position:
•No one can say when a fetus becomes a person, so only the mother should make abortion decisions.
•The state has no right to legislate personal morality.
•Abortion must remain legal to protect rape and incest victims as well as the health of the mother.
•No unwanted child should be brought into the world.
•A woman must be permitted to make pregnancy decisions in light of her life circumstances. When I studied Roe v. Wade I discovered that this issue was especially compelling for the justices who sided with the majority.
Pro-life supporters such as myself respond to these assertions as follows. First, can we say when a fetus becomes a person? It is a scientific fact that every abortion performed in the United States is performed on a being so fully formed that its heart is beating and its brain activity can be measured on an EEG machine. At 12 weeks, the unborn baby is only about two inches long, yet every organ of the human body is clearly in place.
Theologian Karl Barth described the fetus well:
The embryo has its own autonomy, its own brain, its own nervous system, its own blood circulation. If its life is affected by that of the mother, it also affects hers. It can have its own illnesses in which the mother has no part. Conversely, it may be quite healthy even though the mother is seriously ill. It may die while the mother continues to live. It may also continue to live after its mother’s death, and be eventually saved by a timely operation on her dead body. In short, it is a human being in its own right.
And note that you did not come from a fetus—you were a fetus. A “fetus” is simply a human life in the womb. It becomes a “baby” outside the womb. But it is the same physical entity in either place.
Second, most “pro-life” advocates are willing to permit abortion in cases of rape or incest, or to protect the life of the mother. Since such cases typically account for only one to four percent of abortions performed, limiting abortion to these conditions would prevent the vast majority of abortions occurring in America.
Third, “pro-life” advocates agree that all children should be wanted, so they argue strongly for adoption as an alternative to abortion. They also assert that an unwanted child would rather live than die. By “pro-choice” logic, it would be possible to argue for infanticide and all forms of euthanasia as well as abortion.
Fourth, “pro-life” supporters do not see abortion legislation as an intrusion into areas of private morality. Protecting the rights of the individual is the state’s first responsibility. No moral state can overlook murder, whatever the personal opinions of those who commit it. The state is especially obligated to protect the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.
Fifth, “pro-life” advocates want to encourage the health of both the mother and the child, and do not believe that we must choose between the two. As the rights of a mother are no more important than those of her newborn infant, so they are no more important than those of her pre-born child.
The stress, guilt, and long-term mental anguish reported by many who abort their children must be considered. The legal right to abortion subjects a woman to pressure from her husband or sexual partner to end her pregnancy. Killing the fetus for the sake of the mother’s health is like remedying paranoia by killing all the imagined persecutors. For these reasons, “pro-life” advocates argue that a moral state must limit or prevent abortion.
The Bible views us as God’s creation from the moment of our conception, so that David could say to God:
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed (Psalm 139:13-16 NRS).
Engage your culture
The pro-choice position reflects the current “postmodern” worldview which argues that all truth is personal and subjective. In this view there is no such thing as absolute truth (which is an absolute truth claim, by the way). How is this approach to morality working for us?
•America leads the industrialized world in teenage pregnancy. One out of three girls in our nation becomes pregnant before the age of 20, 81% out of wedlock. Forty percent of the births in America take place outside of marriage.
•Homicide is the second-leading cause of death in America for infants.
•Pornography made more money last year in America than Apple, Microsoft, eBay, Amazon, Google, Yahoo and Netflix—combined. Pornography around the world makes more money than all professional sports combined.
•There are 27,900 gangs in America, with 774,000 members. Last year they made $125 billion dollars through illegal drugs.
Abortion is the moral issue of our day. Mother Teresa was right when she told the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, “I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” Later in her speech she implored the gathering, “Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child.”
How can you and I use our influence and resources for life?
Learning from Jesus’ metaphor of salt and light, first we must choose to connect with our culture. Salt is no good in the saltshaker; light is no help under a basket. How can you use your time, influence and finances to contribute directly to this issue? Can you volunteer to counsel mothers and their children? Can you engage community and cultural leaders in this issue? Can you give financially to help organizations defend and support life?
Second, we choose to serve. Salt disappears in the food it seasons; light disappears as the darkness dissipates. God is looking for selfless servants who are willing to sacrifice of themselves and their resources for children and our future. He is calling us to give more than we can spare in this cause.
Third, we choose to trust. The salt cannot see its influence; the light cannot know the ultimate effects of its work. Great people plant trees they’ll never sit under. You cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness. One life saved may change our culture forever for God’s glory.
You are reading this essay by divine appointment. Before God made the first man and woman, he knew he would make you. Before he created the first hour, he knew he would make this hour. Before he made you, he knew he would call you to become engaged in this cause.
As you consider the depth of your sacrifice, I would like you to consider my favorite declaration of faith. It is titled, Fellowship of the Unashamed. You can find it online in a variety of versions, attributed to a variety of authors.
The version I treasure was given to me by my friend and mentor, Dr. John Haggai, founder of the Haggai Institute in Atlanta. He received it from ministry contacts in Africa, who received it from the widow of a young pastor martyred in Zimbabwe for his faith. After his death, his family found in his journal these words:
I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed.” I have Holy Spirit power. The dye has been cast. I’ve stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by his presence, lean by faith, love by patience, live by prayer, and labor by power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal in heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of compromise, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up until I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go until he comes, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until he stops. And when he comes to get his own, he’ll have no problems recognizing me—my colors will be clear.