Circumstances change. Laws, courts, and administrations come and go. Elections raise up and cast down the mighty. Popular opinion waxes and wanes. But through it all, the callings and responsibilities of Christians in this poor, fallen world remain the same.
Taking our stand for life wasn’t first thrust upon us by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, and we are not relieved of that duty by its now likely overturning this year. The pro-life movement is not a recent phenomenon or innovation. Rather, it is two thousand years old. It was inaugurated on an old rugged cross, on a hill called Calvary. It is best known as Christianity. Caring for the helpless, the deprived, and the unwanted is not simply what we do; it is who we are. It always has been. It always will be.
Life is God’s gift. It is His gracious endowment upon the created order. It flows forth in generative fruitfulness. The earth is literally teeming with life (Gen. 1:20; Lev. 11:10; 22:5; Deut. 14:9, NASB). And the crowning glory of this sacred teeming is humankind, made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–30; Ps. 8:1–9). To violate the sanctity of this magnificent endowment is to fly in the face of all that is holy, just, and true (Jer. 8:1–17; Rom. 8:6).
Sadly, at the fall, mankind was suddenly destined for death (Jer. 15:2). We were all at that moment bound into a covenant with death (Isa. 28:15). “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom. 3:10–18)
It is no wonder then that abortion, infanticide, exposure, and abandonment have always been a common part of fallen human relations. Since the fall, men have contrived ingenious diversions to satisfy their depraved passions. And child-killing has always been chief among them.
Virtually every culture in antiquity was stained with the blood of innocent children. Unwanted infants in ancient Rome were abandoned outside the city walls to die of exposure or from attacks by wild foraging beasts. Greeks often gave their pregnant women harsh doses of herbal or medicinal abortifacients. Persians developed highly sophisticated surgical curette procedures. Primitive Canaanites threw their children onto great flaming pyres as a sacrifice to their god Molech. Egyptians disposed of their unwanted children by disemboweling and dismembering them shortly after birth—their collagen was then ritually harvested for the manufacture of cosmetic creams. None of the great minds of the ancient world—from Plato and Aristotle to Seneca and Quintilian, from Pythagoras and Aristophanes to Livy and Cicero, from Herodotus and Thucydides to Plutarch and Euripides—disparaged child-killing in any way. In fact, most of them recommended it. They callously discussed its various methods and procedures. They casually debated its sundry legal ramifications. They blithely tossed lives like dice. Indeed, abortion, infanticide, exposure, and abandonment were so much a part of human societies that they provided the primary literary leitmotif in popular traditions, stories, myths, fables, and legends—from Romulus and Remus to Oedipus, Poseidon, Asclepius, Hephaestus, and Cybele.
But thanks be to God, the God, who is the giver of life (Acts 17:25), the fountain of life (Ps. 36:9), the defender of life (Ps. 27:1), the prince of life (Acts 3:15, NASB), and the restorer of life (Ruth 4:15), did not leave men to languish hopelessly in the clutches of sin and death. He not only sent us the message of life (Acts 5:20) and the words of life (John 6:68), but He also sent us the light of life as well (John 8:12). He sent us His only begotten Son—the life of the world (John 6:51)—to break the bonds of death (1 Cor. 15:54–56). Jesus “taste[d] death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9), actually “abolish[ing] death” for our sakes (2 Tim. 1:10) and offering us new life (John 5:21).
The Didache, one of the earliest Christian documents—actually concurrent with much of the New Testament—asserts that “there are two ways: a way of life and a way of death.” In Christ, God has afforded us the opportunity to choose between those two ways—to choose between fruitful and teeming life on the one hand and barren and impoverished death on the other (Deut. 30:19).
Apart from Christ, it is not possible to escape the snares of sin and death (Col. 2:13). On the other hand, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
The primary conflict in temporal history always has been and always will be the struggle for life by the church against the natural inclinations of all men everywhere. This was the case long before Roe and it will be long after, for as long as the Lord tarries.
So after Roe, what’s our job now? It is the same as always: we must be gospel advocates of all that is right and good and true. We must care for the poor, the hurting, and the marginalized. We must speak the truth in love. We must remind our magistrates of their responsibilities. We must disciple. We must be unflinching in the proclamation of the good news, which changes everything. Our intercessions and labors must be unceasing.
Our local crisis pregnancy centers need our support like never before. Our pulpits need to ring out with practical, pastoral, and prophetic urgency like never before. And we need to remember God’s glorious promise like never before: “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isa. 43:19).
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 20, 2022.