Four Ways To Respond As Salt And Light In A Post Roe World

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

The reversal of Roe versus Wade is a moment those of us who affirm the dignity, value, and worth of all human life from the moment of conception have prayed about for years. I unapologetically celebrate the fact that the Supreme Court chose to right an egregious injustice against pre-born humans, but simultaneously recognize the confusion and angst generated among many in our culture by this historic decision. I believe it is more important than ever for those with a Biblical worldview to advocate for the pro-life position in ways that preserve truth and shine the light of the gospel among those seeking to live within this new reality. I’d like to suggest four ways we can faithfully follow Jesus’ commandment to be salt and light as we engage with others on this divisive topic.

Look to the example of the early church.

I’ve watched as the church, the beloved bride of Christ, has been unfairly maligned and inaccurately represented in the days since the Supreme Court ruling. Many voices have accused the church of turning a blind eye to anything except life in the womb and challenged us to “step up and do something” in response to potential hardships created by the reversal of Roe. This ignores what the church has already been doing for decades. I’ve been in faith communities my whole life filled with people who advocate, work, give, and pray both individually and collectively for vulnerable and victimized women, men, and children at every stage of life and in every segment of society. The church will continue to do what it does best…serve as the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken world.

It’s easy to become angry when we are slandered, but the early church gives us a beautiful example to follow when we find ourselves under attack. The ethic of love taught by Jesus compelled the early believers to rescue discarded babies from trash heaps, elevate the status of women, and uphold the dignity of each of God’s image bearers. Despite these positive contributions, they were under unimaginable persecution from the Roman Empire. Ignatius was an early church father tried during the reign of Emperor Trajan on the charge of atheism for refusing to bow down to the pantheon of Roman gods. He was executed, most likely by being fed to wildcats in the Colosseum, but not before he penned these words to believers at the church in Ephesus on his way to trial in Rome:

Pray continually for the rest of humankind as well, that they may find God, for there is in them hope of repentance. Therefore allow them to be instructed by you, at least by your deeds. In response to their anger, be gentle; in response to their boasts, be humble; in response to their slander, offer prayers; in response to their errors, be steadfast in the faith; in response to their cruelty, be civilised; do not be eager to imitate them. Let us show by our forbearance that we are their brothers and sisters, and let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord.

Ignatius offered the antidote of gentleness, humility, prayer, steadfastness, and civility to counter the cruelty of his day. We, too, can instruct others by our deeds as we follow the example of the early church.

Contribute to clarity.

Meme culture has a way of presenting information that is overly simplified and designed to gain the most likes or shares. They are usually created for emotional impact and do not always present the most accurate picture of reality. I think there is wisdom in taking the time to carefully consider the arguments being represented before reflexively clicking the like or share button. This is probably even more important when the content represents our own point of view to ensure that we don’t fall prey to confirmation bias. Why do we feel compelled to share? Is it truthful? Is it accurate? Is it kind? Is it likely to change another person’s mind? Are we just seeking validation?

In my experience, most memes, or tweets, or clever quips present a caricatured version of a position, and do not really get to the heart of the issue. For this reason, I think they do more to muddy the waters and should be put to the test out of fairness to both sides. An emotionally charged issue like abortion requires even more scrutiny because it is simply too important and complex to be summed up in a social media rant, 280 character tweet, or meme. I once heard it said that you only truly understand another person’s position when you can articulate it back to them in a way with which they can agree. In other words, treat other people’s ideas the way you would want yours to be treated. Jesus, of course, said it best, “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”(Luke 6:31)

Take aim at ideas and not people.

The world around us truly is a battlefield of ideas. Some lead to human flourishing, and some represent catastrophic landmines. John Stonestreet, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, often says that ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. Abortion has claimed over 63,000,000 innocent victims over the last five decades in the United States in addition to impacting the lives of survivors and pro-choice advocates. Ideological victims have bought into the deeply held convictions of the sexual revolution that have been promulgated for years. Abortion on demand is a bad idea with knots tied so tightly that it will take time and grace to untangle them.

As we untangle theses knots, we must recognize that other people are not our enemies. Rather, we all have a common enemy who captures hearts and minds with cleverly crafted deceptions. The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Paul admonishes us to aim carefully to destroy the lies holding our fellow image bearers captive. Firearms instructors encourage their students to “aim small, miss small” to increase the likelihood of hitting their intended target, but also to avoid hitting an unintended target. As we push back vigorously against false narratives, it is critical to make sure we are taking aim at ideas and not people so we don’t inflict further harm to those who are already hurting.

Present the pro-life case logically.

In the current emotionally charged environment surrounding abortion, it’s important to be able to offer a logically sound defense of the pro-life position. Jesus instructs His followers in Mark 12:30 to love God with our minds. He follows this up by saying we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We obey both of these commands when we learn to think through the issue of abortion rationally in order to have respectful discussions with those in our spheres of influence. Scott Klusendorf teaches prolifically on pro-life apologetics and offers this simple syllogism:

Premise 1:  It is wrong to kill an innocent human being.

Premise 2:  Abortion kills an innocent human being.

Conclusion:  Therefore abortion is wrong.

In order to defeat this argument, one must prove that at least one of the two premises is wrong. If that cannot be done, then the conclusion is valid. Klusendorf also offers this sixty second defense that is worth memorizing:

I am pro-life because the science of embryology establishes that from the earliest stages of development, you were a distinct, living and whole human being. You weren’t part of another human being like skin on the back of my hand; you were already a whole living member of the human family even though you had yet to mature.

There is no essential difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that somehow justifies killing you at that earlier stage of development. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not good reasons for saying you could be killed then but not now.

Now is the time for those with a Biblical worldview to rejoice over the reversal of Roe versus Wade as a very good, true, and beautiful gift from God. In His goodness God has granted dignity, value, and worth to each of His image bearers. The sanctity of life is a truth worth celebrating. Beautiful new lives will have the opportunity to draw their first breaths in a post Roe world.

Book Review: Faithfully Different

Natasha Crain’s newest book, Faithfully Different, is an essential guide for Christians seeking to navigate an increasingly secular culture. Those with a Biblical worldview have no doubt recognized how much more difficult it has become to live according to beliefs and values that were once considered mainstream. The reason, Crain states, is that Christians are now a worldview minority. She lays out a thorough case by sharing studies and providing statistics demonstrating that while many Americans self-identify as Christians, their beliefs don’t bear this out in the way they live and function within culture. She concludes that, “It’s no longer normal to be a Christian with a biblical worldview in America.”

Crain clearly defines secularism as a worldview that lacks a commitment to the authority of religion or god(s) and instead looks to the self as the ultimate authority. She summarizes the messages of secular culture in the following four statements:  Feelings are the ultimate guide, happiness is the ultimate goal, judging is the ultimate sin, and God is the ultimate guess. In the remainder of the book, Crain provides wise guidance to help Christians respond boldly, yet graciously to nine specific secular pressures related to these messages through clarity of belief, clarity of thought, and clarity for living.

She adds an interesting perspective to her analysis of culture by appealing to her marketing background in a couple of chapters. In chapter three, she demonstrates how the nature of influence works to make secularism appealing to Christians through its relevance and prominence within culture. In chapter eight she illustrates how virtue signaling is utilized to create buy-in for secular morality. Both chapters add a unique twist to her discussion of how secularism is marketed to those with a Biblical worldview.

While this isn’t strictly an apologetics book, Natasha Crain’s background as the author of three previous books on apologetics for parents is evident in Faithfully Different. She has a special knack for explaining basic apologetic arguments (as she does in chapter four) in a way that enables them to be easily grasped even by those with no previous study in this area. Additionally, she provides a list of resources at the end of each chapter for readers who want to investigate topics beyond the scope of the book.

One of my favorite things about Faithfully Different is the hopeful way in which Crain ends each chapter. She strikes a positive tone, encouraging readers with a Biblical worldview to take advantage of opportunities to stand courageously for truth even while living as a minority in a secular culture. She emphasizes that the world still desperately needs the answers and perspective on reality that the Biblical worldview offers. This book is a much needed and timely resource for any Christian seeking clarity in confusing and rapidly changing times.

Three Lenses To Help Make Sense of Suffering

As I think back to painful times in my life, the weight often feels very fresh. Emotions rise to the surface and memories replay in technicolor hues. Because the good world God created is now broken, each of us has a unique lived experience of this brokenness. While God has graciously spared me from agonizing physical suffering, I have at times felt the crushing blows of mental and emotional anguish. During those times, God felt very distant, and it was perplexingly difficult to understand why He chose to leave me in my circumstances. I knew without a doubt that He could reach down, pluck me up, and rescue me if He wanted to, so why didn’t He? I’ve watched friends and loved ones experience tragedy that made no sense to me. Lives cut short, jobs lost, property devastated by natural disaster, bodies ravaged by disease. Why would people who were serving others, loving God, and making His name known be subjected to such pain and sorrow? Why are innocent lives destroyed through no fault of their own? Why does God allow injustice to continue? Why doesn’t He choose to immediately wipe away every tear and eliminate all pain? Isaiah 55:8-13 provides the clearest yet still difficult to grasp answer, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.’ This is the Lord’s declaration.‘For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Wise theologians and brilliant philosophers have attempted to solve the problem of evil with its subsequent suffering and pain since the beginning of time. C.S. Lewis famously said in The Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” God does tend to awaken something in us through suffering. Difficult experiences in my life make more sense to me as I think about them in terms of a visual metaphor and view them through three different lenses: a magnifying glass, a projector, and a telescope. The first helps me look inward to see how sanctification is God’s end goal for me. The second directs my view outward and illuminates the fallenness of the world. The third casts my gaze upward and makes me long for the sweetness of eternity in heaven.

Personal suffering often leads me to focus on myself. My pain can cause me to become introspective and engage in self-examination, reminiscent of how a magnifying glass functions. This type of convex lens causes light rays to be refracted inward in order to enlarge things that may be difficult to see with the naked eye. The Psalmist says in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” God can use painful experiences to help me see my own heart more clearly and understand better how my sin contributes to the fallenness in the world. In his book Why Does God Allow Evil, Clay Jones says that as we encounter evil on earth, we are learning lessons about the stupidity of sin that will benefit us in eternity. If I suffer well through the inescapable consequences of my own sin and the sin in the world around me, God can use these experiences to sanctify me. His ultimate purpose is to prepare me to live in eternity with Him and be free from the repercussions of evil. While they may seem unbearable at times, we can be certain that our light and momentary afflictions are serving God’s greater purposes in our lives as He prepares us to be participants in His eternal kingdom (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

When I think about the fallenness all around me, I’m reminded of how a projector works by using a concave lens to cause light rays to diverge out into the distance. It takes images that start out small and makes them bigger. Looking through this lens, I see how brokenness is not only present in my own heart but is broadcast out into the world. I become acutely aware of the universal problem of sin that infects every person. God’s perfect and good creation was marred by the fateful choice to elevate the will of the creature above that of the Creator (Genesis 3). The effects of that single decision have roared like a riptide through human history ever since, causing unspeakable atrocities among fellow image bearers. Dr. Thaddeus Williams says in his book Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth that this longing to elevate ourselves above God is the root cause of all other injustices in the world. When we fail to give God His due first, the dominoes topple over and we quickly fall short in treating those who bear His image with kindness and dignity. Even the natural world experiences the effects of the fall. The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:22-23, “For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” While we inhabit this earthly realm we will experience the results of brokenness both through our interactions with other people and in the natural world through disaster and disease, but praise God for the redemption and hope we are promised in Christ.

Suffering also functions like a telescope for me. Telescopes have a narrow, but extremely focused field of view. They work by collecting light rays from a distant object and bringing them together into a precisely defined point. As we are sanctified and suffer well through the inevitable consequences of the world’s fallenness, God’s character and His eternal purposes come sharply into focus like brilliant light from a far away star. We experience attributes in Him that sustain us no matter the circumstance. Through suffering I can see more clearly that He is:

  • All-powerful, so I don’t need to wonder whether or not He can handle the pain in my life. Oh, Lord God! You yourself made the heavens and earth by your great power and with your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for you! (Jeremiah 32:17)
  • Good, so I know that He has my eternal benefit in mind, even in suffering. You are good, and you do what is good; teach me your statutes. (Psalm 119:68)
  • Just, so I am assured that evil and wrongdoing will be punished when He sees fit. When I choose a time, I will judge fairly. When the earth and all its inhabitants shake, I am the one who steadies its pillars. (Psalm 75:2-3)
  • All-knowing, so I am confident that nothing escapes His notice. Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me. This wondrous knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it (Psalm 139:1-6)
  • Ever-present, so I am comforted to know that He is with me in whatever circumstance I may face. Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I fly on the wings of the dawn and settle down on the western horizon, even there your hand will lead me; your right hand will hold on to me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night”— even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you. (Psalm 139:7-12)

Speaking to His disciples before He was betrayed and arrested, Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) Pain is promised as we struggle against the spiritual forces of evil that surround us, the sin that resides within our hearts, and the fallenness of the world around us. As followers of Christ, we can be assured that our sovereign and faithful Heavenly Father does not waste even one second of it, but uses it to sanctify, comfort, and prepare us for an eternity with Him.