Men, we have blood on our hands...

I’ve been deeply troubled for many years as I’ve noted how pastors, elders, and Christian health care professionals don’t bother to educate, let alone speak prophetically to the church about the attacks upon the Image of God multiplying before our eyes. Most of the attacks occur at life’s vulnerable margins—the unborn, the newborn, the feeble, the comatose, the elderly—and they happen in the millions each year. The souls that die are those souls Christians should be most concerned for because, in our time, these are the widows, orphans, and sojourners in distress.

But certain forces conspire to silence our consciences, keeping us blind, passive, and unfaithful to the watchman’s duties as these attacks grow. What are those forces?

Well of course, materialism, love of comfort, greed, selfishness, fear, unbelief, hatred of the gift of discernment, and more. But, for many of us, the critical factor is our own direct and indirect involvement in bloodshed.

Directly, we ourselves have fornicated and, to escape the mess, allowed our girlfriend to hire Planned Parenthood to murder our child. We ourselves have turned away from a pregnancy at an inconvenient age—say forty or forty-five—and secretly driven to the city to have our little one murdered. We have allowed our obstetrician to talk us into killing our unborn child after an ultrasound revealed certain serious fetal anomalies of a genetic origin. We have refused to allow our loved ones to be fed by tube, depriving them of the means of the sustaining of life when death was neither imminent nor inevitable. We have institutionalized our fathers and mothers, declaring our work for the Lord more important than the Fifth Commandment; and, shortly after institutionalization, we were greatly relieved that death came quickly.

Indirectly, we have been silent in the face of changes in medical standards and technology that assault life. We have prescribed and fulfilled prescriptions for drugs we knew worked in a statistically significant number of cases (or normally) as abortifacients. On our visits to the hospital or nursing home, we have turned a blind eye to the pneumonia that is not being treated with an antibiotic...

the feeding tube that’s been withdrawn, the lips and tongue cracking for want of water when no IV is dripping fluids into the arm, the morphine dosage that’s suppressing vital functions. With great excitement, couples in our church have told us of the wonderful hopes they have of conceiving a child through the use of in vitro fertilization, and not wanting to be a killjoy, we’ve remained silent. Similarly, with a whole host of issues including organ transplants, brain death, and pain; we’ve refused to speak against, educate, or even learn of the growing assaults on the Image of God that surround us and grow each day.

All of us are guilty of bloodshed, but our worship never falters.

Yet, even in our worship, there are certain hints someone with spiritual discernment should be able to see. And one of the most telling things is the content of our music. It’s become increasingly subjective, speaking much of me, my love, my worship, my heart for Jesus, my surrender, my joy, my zeal; and yet, little to nothing of God’s holiness, truth, justice, or law. Yes, of course God’s grace, but no songs to define that grace in terms of the great wickedness it saves us from.

Our worship music is huge on the present, but quiet about the future and almost completely silent about the past. Sure, we still sing “Amazing Grace,” but principally as an historical oddity or sentimental remainder left by our grandmother. Imagine a CCM artist releasing a new song with the words 'hell,' 'Satan,' 'devils,' or “a wretch like me,” and you’ll get the point.

Somewhat arbitrarily, let me contrast two songs that are currently used in most orthodox churches and ask which one is an historical curiousity and which an accurate reading on the spirit of even the reformed church today? (If you think the words to “A Mighty Fortress” are wrong, I’ve used an alternate translation to help us see things more clearly.)

A mighty fortress is our God, a trusty shield and weapon;
He helps us free from every need that hath us now overtaken.
The old evil foe now means deadly woe; deep guile and great might
Are his dread arms in fight; on Earth is not his equal.

With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, who is this? Jesus Christ it is.
Of Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God;
He holds the field forever.

Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none, he’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.

The Word they still shall let remain nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife,
Let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won;
The Kingdom ours remaineth.

Then, contrast Luther’s spirituality with that of our own age, using what is one of the most frequently sung worship songs of the past twenty years:

As the deer panteth for the water,
So my soul longs after you.
You alone are my hearts desire,
And I long to worship You.

You alone are my strength, my shield;
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my hearts desire,
and I long to worship You.

I want you more than gold or silver,
Only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy giver
And the apple of my eye.

You alone are my strength, my shield;
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my hearts desire,
and I long to worship You.

You're my friend and You're my brother,
Even though you are a King.
I love You more than any other
So much more than anything.

You alone are my strength, my shield;
To You alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my hearts desire,
and I long to worship You.

Yes, these words are all true, and the song is based on a verse from the Psalter, but how is it possible that such statements peacefully coexist with the bloody hands we bring to worship? Can it really be true that He alone is my heart’s desire if I’m killing my unborn child, or my elderly father? Can it really be true that I love Him more than any other if I’m refusing to allow my father to have a feeding tube inserted, thereby robbing him of the necessary means of the preservation of life? Is it possible that God will hear me sing, “You alone are the real joy-giver and the apple of my eye,” while I’m signing the paperwork necessary to commit my elderly mother to the nursing home when I could care for her at home? Does God hear, let alone receive, the worship of a man who signs or fulfills a prescription for a morning-after pill that will kill an unborn child by denying him the ability to attach himself to his mother’s womb? Is God naïve? Does He have no standards for the worship He receives?

Brothers and sisters, we must face the fact that the reason no one today ever preaches the prophets or Matthew 21-23 is that these texts of Sacred Scripture are too, too pertinent and our people wouldn’t bear them. Or, to quote Richard Baxter, we ourselves won’t bear the hatred and opposition we’d receive from our people if we did preach them.

Rather than a flood of grace-talk, what the church needs today is a tsunami of God’s holiness, His Law, and the coming judgment applied to the lives of those of us singing each Lord’s Day, “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” while the rest of the week we take our birth control pills without suffering a single pang of tender Christian conscience.

Years back, I read this statement by Luther, and realized this is the reason I have found liberal mainliners and Roman Catholics so much more tender and responsive to Gospel preaching than the sons and daughters of evangelicalism:

In regard to doctrine we observe especially this defect that, while some preach about the faith by which we are to be justified, it is still not clearly enough explained how one shall attain to this faith, and almost all omit one aspect of the Christian faith without which no one can understand what faith is or means. For Christ says in the last chapter of Luke [24:47] that we are to preach in his name repentance and forgiveness of sins.

Many now talk only about the forgiveness of sins and say little or nothing about repentance. There neither is forgiveness of sins without repentance nor can forgiveness of sins be understood with–out repentance. It follows that if we preach the forgiveness of sins without repentance that the people imagine that they have already obtained the forgiveness of sins, becoming thereby secure and without compunction of conscience. This would be a greater error and sin than all the errors hitherto prevailing. Surely we need to be concerned lest, as Christ says In Matt. 12 [:45] the last state becomes worse than the first.

So we have admonished them to exhort the people diligently and frequently to repent and grieve over their sins and to fear the judgment of God. Nor are they to neglect the greatest and most important element of repentance, for both John and Christ condemned the Pharisees more severely for their hypocritical holiness than for ordinary sins. The preachers are to condemn the gross sins of the common man, but more rigorously demand repentance where there is false holiness. (From Luther’s “Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors”)

Dear brothers and sisters, the souls under our care are without compunction of conscience. If Luther’s judgment is correct, our present condition is even worse than the condition that prevailed in the Holy Roman Empire at the time of the Reformation.

Will we turn, especially those of us who have been given the calling of guarding God’s flock, and teach the souls under our care of God’s holiness and Law? Will we teach our congregations that morning-after drugs kill unborn children? That it’s murder to withhold food and water when death isn’t imminent and inevitable? That the birth control pill works not only by preventing life, but also killing the unborn? That using morphine intentionally to suppress vital organs is murder?

Remember what the Apostle Paul said about his pastoral work in Ephesus?

And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:25-31)

O, dear Father, have mercy on us and forgive us for the bloodshed of our own homes and families, and the congregations you have called us to serve. We admit we are unfaithful servants. Please make us faithful once again, set apart to the suffering and tears of the ministry You have given us. Father, make us once again able to say with Your faithful servant Paul that our hands are free of the blood of those you have given us to guard and protect. Have mercy on us and the flock you have bought with the precious blood of Your Son, our Lord. We ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Comments

Brother, brother, your words hurt deeply, even though I have not directly shed blood in the ways you describe... but such words should hurt, and they should be preached in every church in our nation, lest our lampstand be taken away.

Father have mercy...

You wrote:

With great excitement, couples in our church have told us of the wonderful hopes they have of conceiving a child through the use of in vitro fertilization, and not wanting to be a killjoy, we’ve remained silent

I have missed something, I know, but what is the precise issue you have with IVF? I have Christian friends who have had a child with IVF they would not have had any other way. Would it be to do with what happened to any leftover embryos?

>>Would it be to do with what happened to any leftover embryos?

Yes, dear brother.

The point being that it is best to submit to God's Will when it comes to child-bearing. IVF kills viable embryos. Simple as that.

Ross, yes. It would.

I see that I'm late to the party.

In Luther's hymn, Christ is Lord of "sabaoth," not of "Sabbath" (although he also is Lord of that). In other words, watch out! He's got the armies to come against all who despise him. [Note from Tim: Sorry, copied from Cyberhymnal without checking. Thanks for the correction.]

"As the Deer" looks anemic in comparison, but we can sing even good hymnody, like Luther's, with "blood on our hands." Besides, isn't "A Mighty Fortress" merely a song appropriate for the end of October?

Bloomington's Planned Parenthood is handing out free "emergency contraception" between February 26 and April 6, to assist students in fornication without so-called consequence over spring break (never mind that break will be well over by April 6). Who will go and stand there and tell the women the truth about EC as they go in for their freebies? If you are not in Bloomington, you would be well-advised to check out your local PP's agenda for EC & spring break. We will be on the IU campus across from Sample Gates next Friday (March 7) from 11:30-1:30, to tell the horrible truth of abortion and distributing material about the truth of EC. Will you come and stand with us and help us tell these students the truth? Will you help us shine the light of truth at Planned Parenthood (here in Bloomington or at your local PP)? I pray you will. Thank you.

I'm a little confused. If I had not been given some morphine, I could not have endured the surgery I had which brought me from being entirely deaf to hearing. If I had not had prednisone (which shuts down the immune system) I would have gone blind.

I take no issue with the other things you mention. But as far as powerful drugs which ought to be used only as extreme intervention are sometimes necessary in this sin-cursed world. It seems barbaric that they would tear my head open, grind my skull and drill holes in my inner ears. But to be honest, it was worth.

Also, do think that all birth control is bad? Only pills? Or are you just talking about the morning-after stuff?

lilrabbi,

I don't think the issue is with the use of morphine, per se. It is with the use of morphine to hasten death.

Prednisone does not "shut down" the immune system. That's too strong a claim, though it does affect immune system function and response - better to say it weakens the immune system.

All chemical/hormonal birth control will have two theoretical actions. The first is to prevent ovulation. Should that fail, the second action is to prevent implantation of the new human life. This goes for shots, pills and "emergency" contraception. They are all properly classed as abortifacents rather than contraceptives. The IUD is also an abortifacent form of birth control.

Kamilla

Dear Lilrabbi:

Is this post so confusing. After a careful rereading, I think you'll see that he is not condemning the judicious use of morphine to treat pain or the use of prednisone to prevent blindness. Nor is he saying that powerful drugs have no role in a cursed world.

The post is about our shedding of innocent blood, and we would do well to not be distracted from our guilt except in our flight to God's mercy.

And yes, birth control pills are bad for several reasons, chief of which is they prevent babies from implanting in their mothers' wombs. No one would support a pill that binds a mother's arms and breasts so that she cannot hold and nurse her baby, but Christians are just plain gaga over pills that prevent wombs from holding and nurturing the newly formed child searching for safe harbor inside his mother.

Yeah, it was a little confusing for me. This is obviously not the presentation of a logical case, but the proper rhetorical imploration from that case. And there's nothing wrong with that. I just wasn't sure of the real thinking behind the morphine jab. If it is about using it to kill, then of course it wrong. I was just unsure about the thinking behind the flourish.

I am with you on some, but not all, of the points you raise.

For example, what's the best way to deal with an elderly parent (or friend, aunt, uncle, etc.) who has a very clear living will about what he or she wants as to end-of-life care and under what conditions, as well as a health care power of attorney that he or she trusts to see that these wishes are carried out. And no, I'm not saying that he/she be allowed to bring in a surrogate Dr. Kevorkian in or something like that. But if even if their death not is imminent although they aren't very healthy any more, I definitely think he/she has the right to decline treatment for pneumonia and just receive comfort care, or not to be treated for cancer or the like.

Don't their opinions about they want done (or not done) count?

On a somehwat unrelated note the local Abortion clinic near where I live has started to employ volunteers who act as "Pro-Choice Escorts" who wear bright yellow T-shirts with that phrase in black on the front. They "escort" the women from a parking garage to the clinic which is in a poor part of town. We have had some run ins with these escorts as they almost act like bouncers to the Pro-Life protesters.

Ben,

Okay, this is gonna sound like bragging because I'm talking about my wife, but I'm boasting only in the Lord here because my wife is a very shy person and the Lord gave her an incredible opportunity, the words and the boldness to say them. So we are all guilty, my wife and I were silent for many years and would still be if the Lord hadn't kicked us through a door we didn't want to go through. It was all by grace, not us.

As you implied, the escours at PP are downright militant at times. A professor at IU came to our local PP to give a talk on free speech with a large class. He'd obviously planned it out with the paid head of the escourts here. The escourt couldn't well describe what their function was there - he kept talking about all the dangerous pro-lifers who pack the streets each week - the students, looking around and seeing no obvious protesters, asked smart questions which made him look foolish. My wife, the dangerous enemy, stood in on the discussion - the students (who were all pre-college freshmen taking some sort of orientation seminar) figuring out that she was the enemy asked her a million questions - she talked candily. Along with her was an elderly Catholic woman, Marcelle, who've we've become friends with through the pro-life movement, she talked grandmotherly in her really cool creole-french accent - and the kids seemed to be really listening.

It was magical - the professor kept trying to get the students to leave with him but he couldn't force them to go without looking as anti-"free speech" as he truly was. So they got an hour lecture from my wife and Marcelle - complete with great Q&A.

The Lord is truly great!

I wish I had been there.

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