Over the past few years, God has been bringing people, circumstances, and media into my life that remind me that silence and inaction is no longer an option when it comes to abortion. Back in 2016 I walked into an abortion clinic in North Carolina and decided to leave before I got arrested—that’s a longer story for another time. Earlier this year Sandy and I joined Stan and Sharon and watched Unplanned, a graphic, moving movie about an abortion clinic manager who left her job and became pro-life. More recently we have been accepted as a family mentor to a young woman at www.expecthope.org in the Bronx, who is living in their home and planning to carry her child to full term and is due the Spring of 2020.
Today we attended a LoveLife prayer walk in downtown Manhattan. It started in a church with worship, prayer, and testimony, and then several hundred of us walked to a Planned Parenthood on Bleecker street to pray and sing. Three women who had been considering abortions chose life. We cheered, the whole group. Much better than a touchdown.
This was end-game warfare. Armor on. Swords out. Battle lines drawn.
It strikes me that the life of an active disciple of Christ could be divided into three categories: godly life-style choices, intervention rescues, end-game warfare. Sometimes all three happen simultaneously.
Godly lifestyle choices include simple things like deciding not to eat that extra helping of food, or drink that soda since my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Or maybe I’ll decide to exercise instead of being a couch potato this evening. Godly lifestyle choices include simple things like teaching children and young people that healthy sexuality before God is found within the boundaries of marriage between a man and woman, for life. Sexuality is a gift of God, and it is only to be explored and enjoyed in marriage between a man and woman, for life. That’s sound doctrine that fits into the back-end, day-to-day living of godly lifestyle choices. Godly lifestyle teaching could provide warnings against illicit drugs, alcoholism, fornication, adultery. It could celebrate the privilege Christ-followers have to become excellent in gratefulness. Holy Spirit-inspired gratefulness fuels an attitude of gratitude, which opens doors to amazing opportunities never experienced by grumblers. How about choosing to tell my wife "I'm sorry," after I respond with frustration to a simple question? That should be a simple godly choice.
Intervention rescues may be self-sought. Active disciples of Christ can engage with the body of Christ, confess sins, and say “Please pray for me. I need help.” These cries for help can range from “I’m feeling depressed” to “I am so angry at my children’s husband I feel like killing him,” and anything in between. The body of Christ has the privilege to provide intervention—to come to the rescue. But intervention rescues may also be initiated by people who care so much for others that they enter into messy lives with offers to help, if possible. These intervention rescues can take the form of Christ-followers approaching a brother or sister to offer a loving rebuke, to offer counsel, or to extend a caring warning. Intervention rescues are needed in the mid-range battles that flare up between the humdrum normalcy of “godly lifestyle choices” and the stress-filled crises of “end-game warfare.”
End-game warfare happens when people have missed the boat in the godly lifestyle choices, wandered on into bad choices and horrible circumstances that warranted intervention, but somehow they have passed intervention and are now in stress-filled crisis situations that are at the end game. It’s life or death here. Endgame battles are won by prayer and fasting. End-game warfare needs faithful, committed, god-fearing believers to stand in the gap for each other, for their neighbors, and for the lost around us all. It’s one thing to tell a woman not to have an abortion. Our recognition that this child within the woman has a right to life is, I believe, rooted in the Word of God and reality. So there is a place for end-game warfare. But if the woman decides to keep the child, the long haul can look big, cloudy, and scary. And this end-game warfare will need to introduce prevention in the form of godly lifestyle choices if it is to be sustainable.
There is also a place for intervention rescues. If we know of a man or woman, boy or girl who is moving towards a relationship with someone that is clearly not glorifying God, an intervention at this stage could keep that person from entering into end-game warfare and facing the false dichotomy of “Shall I control my own destiny and kill the baby, or shall I keep the baby and ruin my life?” We should be prepared to enter into and engage in end-game warfare, matters of life and death. But we need to be at least as prepared to receive for ourselves and, by God’s grace, provide for others intervention rescues.
That leads me back to godly lifestyle choices. I am glad that 300 churches in NYC participated in 40 days for life. I’m glad we had a chance to prayer walk and participate in that end-game warfare. But Oh Lord Jesus, wake us up to the need to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Wake us up to the need for fathers and mothers to teach and model that sex is a beautiful gift of God to be enjoyed within marriage between one man and one woman, for life. And Lord, enlarge the territory and impact of your church in New York City to show children, youth, and adults that fornication and adultery are always wrong. We need Jesus, Lord. We are called by your name. We humble ourselves and pray, and seek your face. We need your grace and power to help us to turn from our sin. Please forgive us of our sins, and come and heal our land. Heal our families, Father. Heal our churches, Lord. Teach us to teach your body how to live godly in Christ Jesus.
We then attended a beach baptism at Plumb Beach in Brooklyn, NY. 35 degrees Fahrenheit in the air, 54 degrees Fahrenheit in the water. We Christians are a kind of weird bunch. We go to the beach in 35 degree weather as a group and dunk one of our friends in the 54 degree water. He comes up sputtering and cold. We all laugh and clap and pray for him, celebrating God's goodness. We then stand around in the sand and talk, laugh, drink Dunkin' hot chocolate, and eat munchkins. Reality is stranger than fiction. You can't make this kind of stuff up.
From there we went on to visit friends in South Brooklyn. These friends have spent the better part of twenty years praying for and intentionally reaching out to Turkish Muslims, in order to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. They gave us a tour of a building that was recently purchased that will be converted into a coffee house. Coffee and the gospel. Sounds really awesome.
We arrived home. A mother and her three daughters dropped by to play games at our house for three hours. It was a good, full day.
I'm tired. But it's a good tired.