Building a Culture of Life
Building a Culture of Life
Scripture begins: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 ESV) In due course it then says: “[The] Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 2:7 ESV)
So it is that God created a good and well-ordered world that pulsated with life, movement, and the promise of reproduction – to the end that through the faithful stewardship of mankind, the beauty of Eden would expand until it covered the whole earth, all to the glory of God.
But faithful we were not. Our first parents rejected God’s Word and thereby brought sin and death into the world. Instead of exercising leadership as good servants of the Lord of life, we became slaves of sin who operated out of the dark realm of death. Therefore, instead of building a culture of life from the womb to the ages beyond, we build cultures of death: from child sacrifice (including abortion and infanticide) to euthanasia, and all the cruelty, warfare, and neglect that happens in between. Underneath the physical death is moral decay (immorality and greed), and underneath the moral decay is spiritual rot (idolatry and alienation from God).
But God: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6 ESV). Once fastened in the grip of spiritual death, we who trust in Christ have been recaptured and regenerated by the life-giving Spirit of God. Thus restored to fellowship with “the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18 ESV) through the sacrifice of Christ, we learn to live “in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24 ESV) and to love and pursue “all that is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9 ESV). Having been saved by grace, we proclaim Christ’s gracious salvation to a world that is always teetering on ruin. Being loved by Christ, we endeavor to love another in the same way that Christ has loved us. Now alive in Christ, we seek to build a culture of life in our households and in our church family – a culture that is to be displayed and commended to the wider world.
Often enough, our commitment to life and righteousness brings us into pointed conflict with the world at large. It cannot be otherwise: we who believe in Jesus have “passed from death to life” (John 5:24 ESV), but others remain in the realm of death. We, being taught by the Word and Spirit, think one way. They, being blind to spiritual truth, think another way. So there is conflict – sharp conflict.
Within this conflict, we proclaim the truth of God’s Word and call people to re-align their lives with it; we promise the forgiveness of sins for all who trust in Christ; and we practice what we teach. Sometimes, it is also necessary to take practical action in support of public righteousness and against public injustice. To be sure, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV) We must always remember where the real conflict is found. At the same time, love for our neighbor must get expressed in tangible and earthly ways. Love compels us into practical action. And one thing that neighbor-love entails is seeking to defend the dignity of our neighbor’s life.
In fact, we ought to defend the dignity of our neighbor’s life even if he doesn’t want us to defend it! “Death with dignity” is a conceptual contradiction if ‘with dignity’ means ‘on your own terms’. Biblically-speaking, living or dying ‘on your own terms’ is not dignified. To die with true dignity would mean to die in a state of peace with God, trusting Him to shepherd you from this life to the next on His terms. So, the practice of physician-assisted suicide is not good, and codifying the practice into law is not good, either.
Love for our neighbor also entails seeking to defend the dignity of the life of the unborn, for they too are created in God’s image. Abortion is wicked. Funding wickedness is wicked. And requiring others to fund wickedness is wicked. When the state takes its God-given authority and uses it to promote a culture of death, the state is acting in rebellion against the Lord of life.
At our July 28 worship service, you will hear about an opportunity to take practical action in support of public righteousness in relation to these two issues. Some may feel a measure of discomfort about discussing such practical (i.e., political!) action in the context of the worship service. Fair enough. Sometimes it is difficult to know where to draw the line on such practical matters, and let’s all be gracious to one another. But even in situations where we may not know the best course of action, often times some good action is better than no action at all. And as a church family, we should all agree on the necessity of publicly supporting righteousness and tangibly showing love for our neighbors – particularly when the neighbors in question are among the most vulnerable (the unborn, the elderly, the dying). For Scripture says: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27 ESV, italics added)
Brothers and sisters, let us be “unstained” heavenly-minded people who walk closely with God during our earthly pilgrimage. Let us speak His truth, show His love, and build a culture of life among us. Then let us extend this culture of life in and through our spheres of influence, that others might see the glory of Christ, be rescued from their sins, and join us on the path of “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3 ESV).
The Lord’s grace and peace be with you all,