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The Struggle for the Sanctity of Life – Can Anything Be Done?

The Struggle for the Sanctity of Life – Can Anything Be Done?

And they murdered us by the millions and you knew, and you stood by, and you did…nothing…”

January 22 marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a court decision which has resulted in the deaths of over 50 million innocent babies. The holocaust is so great that it is currently estimated that one out of every four pregnancies in the United States ends in abortion. This sickens and grieves our hearts; we ache to see it stop. The question for many of us is not, “must we make a difference?” – for we know we must. Rather, we wonder, “can we make a difference?” Hearts are hard, our rulers are powerful, society is selfish and the church has slept so long that we feel helpless. We lament with the psalmist, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

A glimpse into history may answer this question. This vicious attack on life didn’t begin a mere 40 years ago; our generation is but one in a long line which has witnessed the promotion and prevalence of such a culture of death. Infanticide, abortion, and the killing of women, elderly and other various “undesirables” have been repetitive hallmarks in man’s existence. For, as Scripture states, “All those who hate God love death.” (Prov. 8:36). Throughout the ages, wherever God has been disdained, death has danced.  And yet, providentially, the opposite is also true. Historically, as faith in God, the honor of his Word, and the battle cry of His people have invaded a culture, the focus on death has been pushed out and life has taken its place. Ultimately, Christianity has not only snatched mankind from the second death; it has snatched him from the jaws of the first death as well.

Can things change? History tells us they can. Change has providentially occurred again and again when believers have fought for regeneration and for reformation, understanding that we must strive not only for man’s soul, but for culture itself. Though this transformation seems an overwhelming, impossible task, God, through history, shows us that when His church sees life in the light of no other worldview but His, when the church is content with no other law but that which is consistent with His, when the church will lay down its own life to care for those rushing to death, we can make a difference. While all those who hate God love death, wherever God is steadfastly exalted, the sanctity, value and preciousness of life will follow.

History providentially gives example after example of this triumph. We can learn from Nan Mullins, missionary to China. Faced with a society which disdained women and regularly practiced female infanticide, she persevered in faithfully ministering the gospel and teaching Scriptural precepts. As a result, as Nan lay dying, the provincial governor criminalized all forms of child killing, saying, “All her life Miss Mullins lived selflessly for our people. If I could restore her to health and life, I would. But, since I cannot, I will give her what I know she desires even more: health and life for others.”

We can learn from William Carey, who discovered that India’s long standing legal tradition gave parents the right to kill their children – which they regularly did – especially their girls. Laws that forbade killing animals ironically allowed for the murder of newborn daughters. Carey preached the gospel and taught against these practices, and ultimately, despite fierce opposition, succeeded in criminalizing infanticide. Even today, this statute is called the “Carey Edict.”

We can learn from Henry Bicknell, missionary to Tahiti. Though he faithfully preached the gospel and taught righeous living, his efforts were greatly thwarted by the government – King Pompare. This despot delighted in human sacrifice and was responsible for the deaths of 2,000 of his subjects through human sacrifice. Yet, despite his hard heart, King Pompare was ultimately won by Bicknell’s witness and was converted and baptized. This once murderous king then went on to create laws prohibiting abortion, infanticide, abandonment and euthanasia.

The feast of death never limits itself to one course. The society that devours its unborn will kill its elderly, its ill, its undesirables. Culture after culture has done so. Must we do something? We must. Can we do something? The great cloud of witnesses tell us we can…Telemachus calls from the abandoned Colissuem of Rome; missionaries call from abandoned pyres of human sacrifice. There can come a day when history will allow us to call from the abandoned abortion clinics. Death is swallowed up in victory when the gospel of Christ shines forth. We can be encouraged. Christ is the victor in this battle over death. History proclaims that in Him, we not only “must,” – we “can.”

* Credit to George Grant’s excellent book, Third Time Around, must be given for some ideas and phrasing in this blog.