Speak Up!

Title: Speak Up!

Text: Matthew 14:1-12

Time: January 22nd, 2011

Today is the day after the 38th anniversary of the infamous Supreme Court Row v. Wade abortion decision, legalizing the murder of unborns.  Today as we stop and reflect on this dark event that has changed our nation for the worse all of these years, we must recommit to speaking out against this evil in still stronger terms. Looking back, I remember in Wheaton College speaking out against abortion – and that was over twenty-five years ago. Sadly, not much has changed; abortions continue as usual. Supreme Court justices have come and gone; conservative majorities have come and gone – yet still, abortions continue. Is the fight against abortion a lost cause? Has the argument against abortion played itself out over these many years? Is anyone seriously discussing it anymore? Or is it now simply an accepted part of American culture, a more or less permanent fixture in Western society? I don’t have the answers to all these questions, because for one, I’m not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet. But in a very real sense, these questions are totally irrelevant to our opposition to abortion. Abortion is wrong, it’s murder, it’s evil, its a sin. Need there be anything more than that to continue the protest? In today’s overly politicized culture it’s natural to be drawn aside to make political calculations – is the cost of fighting against abortion worth the odds of winning the battle? This is how we have all grown to think growing up in a hyper-political and economic society. But I’d like to say that it’s not the way Christians are supposed to make decisions, especially moral choices. Abortion is wrong; it’s murder. The Bible is abundantly clear on that. Right is right and wrong is wrong. As Christians we need to promote what is right and protest what is wrong, whether our labors are rewarded or not. I don’t know ultimately if abortion will ever be defeated here in the United States, or if it is, how long it might take to defeat it. But that really doesn’t matter. As Christians we need to continue to press the argument against abortion for as long as it takes, and if it takes forever, then protest it forever. Of course, as Christians we know that this issue won’t go on forever, because we know from the Bible that eventually Christ will return to the earth and set things right during his reign. But hopefully, we won’t have to wait until even that time, but see something in the way of progress before that ultimate solution. I’m encouraged when I look to the New Testament, particularly in the actions of John the Baptist. Now John is most famous for being the forerunner of the Messiah Jesus, but he’s also known as a prophet who spoke out against immorality in his own day. On one occasion, we read about his prophetic voice against the immorality of King Herod. The King had married his brother’s wife, something both illegal and immoral according to Jewish law. John confronted Herod and said, “It is not lawful for you to have her,” Matthew 14:4. This criticism triggered John’s arrest and imprisonment. Eventually, John the Baptist was executed in Herod’s cold, dark prison. He died a martyr’s death. Now my point in bringing this account up is this – we need to continue to speak out against abortion, against its immorality, no matter what the consequences. Let me explain.

First, John was provoked to speak out against Herod’s immorality. Matthew 14:3, “Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.” Now when modern Christians read this account they often scratch their heads and say, “What a shame that John the Baptist got sidetracked from his primary mission of announcing the coming of the Messiah and got himself killed for speaking out on some secondary issue.” We might think that way because that’s the way we are conditioned to think in our secular, pluralistic world. Even some famous evangelists of today are quoted as saying the reason they don’t ever speak anything about abortion is because that’s not their calling. Their calling is to preach the gospel. They stick with that and don’t comment on other public issues. But here’s the problem with that way of thinking – if something moral or spiritual is in the public being discussed, if the Bible teaches about this very issue, if we are called to preach and teach God’s Word, then we are obligated to enter into the public discussion and bring the revelation of God to bear on whatever the issue. We are not free to sit on the sidelines like so many public Christian leaders, teachers, and evangelists have done in recent years. John the Baptist is our example. Here is a man who was called of God to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah Jesus. This he did. But that didn’t negate all his other responsibilities as a Christian to bear witness for God’s truth in the world. We don’t know exactly how John heard about Herod’s adultery and immoral living, but the news got to him by some means, and it provoked him to speak out. He didn’t take the attitude that many popular Christian leaders take today, which is to play it safe, stick to their own projects and don’t get involved. John heard that the Jewish leader, King Herod, had married his brother’s wife, thereby committing adultery, he heard this and was upset about it. We need to let ourselves get upset about things we hear that aren’t right. Now I’m not saying we need to react to everything we hear in the news, or that all issues are of the same weight and importance. That’s a mistake that some Christians make today. They act as if every political, economic, etc. issue is important and so they basically are shouting, grumbling and complaining all the time about everything. No. We need to pick our battles. Besides, the Bible doesn’t touch on every issue of concern in the news. But sometimes an issue is a clear-cut case of right or wrong according to the Bible. In these cases, we need to let ourselves get upset and let our reaction motivate us to action. We shouldn’t just be silent.

Second, John spoke out against evil, immorality and sin of his day. Matthew 14:4, “For John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’” Like I said before, it would have been easy for John to decide not to say anything, since after all, it wasn’t his primary calling. His calling was to prepare the people for the Messiah. How was calling out Herod for immorality doing that? His friends might have urged him to “stay focused,” or “stay on track,” or “don’t get sidetracked into politics.” That’s what people say to Christians today when we speak out against abortion. They tell us not to mix politics and religion, or they tell us the dangers of confusing church and state. Many Christian leaders, teachers and evangelists actually promote that same attitude of non-involvement. In our secular world and in growing parts of the Christian church it’s seen as wrong for Christians to push for the elimination of abortion because that’s imposing our moral values on others. But if we look at John the Baptist, we see a man, a prophet, who wasn’t getting involved in politics as much as simply speaking out against immorality. That’s what our attitude should be in fighting abortion. We aren’t becoming political; it’s just that a moral issue has become political. I’m totally against Christians making sweeping endorsements of political party platforms as if every issue were a black and white biblical, Christian or moral issue. That’s nonsense. Most political and economic issues are not clear-cut moral or spiritual issues. Most issues in the news can be debated and discussed both ways; there isn’t a clear-cut right or wrong way. But some are clearly moral – and clearly right or wrong. Abortion is clearly wrong, and we’ve got to say so! We can’t be intimidated by our opponents who want to shut off discussion or debate on religious grounds. Nonsense. Christians should speak up, just like John the Baptist did. Will this take us away from our primary mission, which is to explain salvation in preaching the gospel? It could, but it doesn’t have to if we don’t get imbalanced. Sure, it’s possible to take anything to an extreme. I would say that if a church begins to center their services around moral issues in the news, I’d say that would be an imbalance. I believe that some churches have gone too far in the political direction and they are imbalanced in that direction. But that doesn’t mean Christians and the church shouldn’t speak out prophetically against the evils and immoralities of our day. If the church doesn’t speak out, who will? If we keep our priorities right, we won’t get off track from the primary purpose of the church. But we shouldn’t think the Christian life or the church is a narrowly confined box where the only thing that’s every mentioned is the gospel message. The Bible instructs on many things, not just salvation – although that is the primary and main thing.

Third, John paid the price for his outspokenness. Matthew 14:5, “Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet.” Well, as we know, Herod did eventually kill John. The Baptist paid a heavy price for speaking out against immorality – he lost his life. What this shows is there is a price to be paid for speaking out against immorality in public. Are you willing to pay the price? From the looks of things, most Christians aren’t willing to pay the price. Why do I say that? Because while most Christians know that abortion is wrong, and even admit as much in private conversation, few actually speak out against it in public. Most Christian leaders don’t speak out against abortion in public, on record. The sad thing is that most of the most important Christian leaders are silent on the wrongness of abortion also. This is really bad! What is a leader for if not to lead? No wonder why most Christians are afraid to speak out against abortion, their leaders don’t serve as any kind of example for them. How many Christians make it known that they are against abortion, at work, among family members, in the neighborhood, in clubs and organizations? Few. Why not? Because they are afraid it might hurt them in some way, social standing, influence, reputation, status, opportunities for advancement, and so on. And you know what? Speaking out against abortion just might hurt them. In other words, yes, there might be a price to be paid. Are we willing to pay it? John the Baptist was. He was killed for speaking out. We probably won’t face that high price, but are we willing to pay lesser prices? Are we willing to pay anything? Yes, we have to be careful how we speak out, and we have to be sensitive with our words, but these are minor details. The fact is, we are called by God to be witnesses in a cold, dark world. We are called to be lights in the darkness. How can we be lights if we don’t ever show our light? How can we bear witness to the truth if we never speak the truth? It’s not enough to be privately against abortion, we need to make our private beliefs and convictions known in public. Our opponents would love for us to hold our convictions in private. They would love for Christians to grumble privately, yet hold their tongues in public. But John didn’t get into trouble holding his tongue, and neither should we hold our tongues on such an important moral issue as abortion. We need to keep talking about it with others. Never let abortion quietly die, like so many babies in the womb die silently, invisibly. For their sakes we need to keep this issue alive until it changes or until the Lord returns. How many here will commit to speaking out against abortion every chance you get? Do it with love, but do it. Don’t be silent. We are the only voice those unborn babies have. We’ve got to speak up for them as long as we have breath. Amen.

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