John the Baptist, Jesus, and Justices: Some Thoughts Regarding the Supreme Court’s Abortion Ruling

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy” (Luke 1:41-44).

A ten-week-old fetus. Photo by Suparna Sinha, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1972. The timing seems like a coincidence: On the church calendar, June 24 is the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. It is the birthday of the prophet whom God appointed to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. I do not know if any of the Roman Catholic justices who wrote the decision were aware of this and consciously picked this date for that reason. Still, the timing is interesting at the very least.

John’s first prophetic act occurred in the womb. Upon hearing Mary’s voice, he leaped in his mother’s womb. Elizabeth knew there was something special about this leap. John’s jumping and kicking convinced Elizabeth that her relative was carrying the Messiah in her womb. John the Baptist was not just a clump of cells. He was a person, filled by the Holy Spirit, chosen by God to minister as a prophet, and he was already doing his work. He recognized the presence of Jesus, who likewise was more than a mere clump of cells. Though still in their mothers’ wombs, they were already acting as persons.

The fetus’ personhood is the essence of the abortion debate for prolife Christians. While pro-choice advocates emphasize a woman’s right to choose, viewing abortion as a medical procedure, Christianity has historically recognized the baby in the womb as a living person. The essential question is, “When does life begin?” Does it begin when the sperm fertilizes the egg to create a new single-celled entity, with a brand-new genetic code combining the parents’ DNA? Does life begin when that single-celled zygote has grown to become an embryo with its own heartbeat (several weeks after conception)? Does life begin when the fetus’ movements can be felt by the mother? Does it begin when the baby exits the mother’s body at birth or sometime thereafter? The Christian church, under the guidance of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, has always held that the baby in the womb is a person whose life should be preserved. The Didache, written ca. 100 AD, referred to those who commit abortion as “child-murderers, who go the way of death, who slay God’s image in the womb.” It adds, “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.”

Fourth-century bishop Basil the Great expressed this view:

“A woman who intentionally destroys a fetus is guilty of murder. And we do not even talk about the fine distinction as to its being completely formed or unformed.”

The choice to commit abortion is very different from the choice to get a tattoo, nose job, or some other medical procedure.

So, now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, has the culture war against abortion ended? Not at all. The ruling merely returned the issue to the states. Some states may ban it entirely, whereas others will introduce a few new restrictions. Some states may even reduce the number of restrictions and offer greater access to abortion than before.

Furthermore, Plan B “emergency contraceptives” may become more readily available. These medications prohibit a conceived zygote from implanting in the uterus to begin development. They do not prevent conception; they merely stop the zygote from developing after the new life has begun. It is, essentially, abortion earlier in the process. Plan B may remain available nationwide by mail order, even in states where its sale in pharmacies is banned or restricted. Women will continue to find ways to end a pregnancy, either through legal means or by finding a way around the system.

So, the prolife movement cannot rest on its laurels. Overturning Roe v. Wade was only one part of the battle. Abortion is primarily a moral and spiritual issue. The Body of Christ must remain completely prolife. Are we willing to take a stand on biblical standards regarding sex: not only homosexuality but premarital sex as well? Will we cherish the family? Are we willing to consider children to be a blessing from God? Will we take a stand for life from conception until natural death for all humans?

We need to consider some of the challenges raised by pro-choice advocates. We are willing to defend the child in the womb. Will we continue to fight for the child after birth? Will we meet the needs of single mothers who have limited resources? Will we feed the poor? Will we donate money and clothing to organizations that serve low-income families? Will we actively assist single mothers that we know: to go beyond praying for them to help them with their financial needs or offer to babysit when the mother needs help?

The Church must assist and actively love single mothers. Will we meet the needs of mothers who have limited resources? Will we feed the poor? Will we provide clothing? Will we help the single mothers in our sphere of influence to ensure that they can provide for their children? “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).

What are your thoughts regarding the recent Supreme Court ruling? Can you think of ways that the prolife community can minister to families and continue to witness in a post-Roe world? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Current events | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ascension, Visitation, Pentecost: A Pro-Life Perspective Revisited

I published the following article three years ago, at which time the three feasts of Ascension, Visitation, and Pentecost coincided much as they do this year. This article seems particularly timely as recent news leaks suggest that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion may soon be overturned.

“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord’” (Luke 1:39–45; all Scripture quotations are from the ESV unless otherwise indicated).

This article is based on a homily I shared yesterday at my church’s monthly Liturgy for the Preborn outside Planned Parenthood in Hempstead, NY. On the first Saturday of every month, a group of us gather to pray for an end to abortion. The liturgy includes prayers from a funeral service, recognizing that the facility’s “medical services” include the murder of helpless preborn children.

An artist’s depiction of the visitation, ca. 1410. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

This weekend’s liturgy came during a busy time on the church calendar. Thursday was the Feast of the Ascension, when Christians commemorate Christ’s return to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. Although many Christians overlook this date, my church believes it is important enough for all Christians to acknowledge, so we celebrate it on the following Sunday. Friday was the Feast of the Visitation, when the newly-pregnant Mary visited her relative Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist). A little over one week later we will celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled the first followers of Jesus and empowered them to fulfill His Great Commission. Thus, we have three feasts within ten days to honor significant events in the life of Christ and His Church.

It is easy to see the connections between Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the Father, ascended to heaven. He brought something with Him that He did not have before coming to earth: a human body. A part of humanity now dwells in heaven. Ten days later, He sent the third person of the Trinity to dwell in and empower His disciples. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, divinity dwells within you! You are now a partaker of the divine nature! The very life of God dwells within you.

This thought brings us to the Feast of the Visitation. Whereas this feast celebrates an event while Jesus was in the womb (before He was born), Pentecost celebrates an event after He returned to heaven. Although they occurred at opposite ends of His earthly ministry, they are intertwined. In each event, we can see the life and power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s people.

The first person to have a member of the Trinity dwelling within her was Mary, when she was carrying Jesus in her womb. The first person the New Testament speaks of as being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is Elizabeth. This infilling is closely intertwined with the fact that her preborn son, John the Baptist—somewhere between the third and sixth months of pregnancy—is the first person to testify that Jesus is the Son of God. Somehow, when he heard Mary’s voice, he recognized the Son of God within her and leaped with such excitement that Elizabeth knew something miraculous was happening.

The Bible declares the personhood of the fetus in the mother’s womb. John the Baptist began his ministry before he was even born. The Holy Spirit was at work in him. As miraculous as that sounds, he was not the first prophet whom God called before birth. The prophet Jeremiah said,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

This is why Christians speak out against abortion. If it were merely a medical procedure, we could be silent. Some of us may dislike tattoos, but that really affects only the person receiving the tattoo; no innocent lives are lost because of them. Some medical procedures, like cosmetic surgery, may feed on the sins of pride and vanity. Yet, we remain silent, since it does not affect other lives. However, true Christians cannot be silent about murder.

Many of our “political” issues are really spiritual issues which have been hijacked by politicians and the media. Abortion is just one of many social ills that have arisen as America has rejected God and ignored the deity of Jesus Christ. For the Christian, our mission remains the same as that of John the Baptist and the apostles. We must proclaim the kingdom of God as revealed in Jesus Christ; we must live by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who empowers us to proclaim His kingdom and continue His work; and we must reveal His presence and power until He comes again. Christ has filled us with His Holy Spirit. He lives in us as He did in Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist. May we always serve Him and share His love with those around us. May it always be our goal for our lives and words to testify to the presence of Christ and the Kingdom of God.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bringing Comfort (Matthew 5:4; Isaiah 61:1-2)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn…” (Isaiah 61:1-2; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image created with the YouVersion Bible app.

Isaiah preached these verses to Jews facing hardship. His audience had been through traumatic times. The people needed hope and comfort, and Isaiah spoke to those needs. Many of the prophecies in the second part of Isaiah forecast the coming of the Messiah as assurance that God will always be faithful to restore and heal His people.

The Jews of Isaiah’s day were oppressed by foreign powers, including Babylon and Assyria. Seven hundred years later, during Jesus’ lifetime, the Roman Empire ruled over the Jews and most of the known world. Political corruption marred Israel’s religious leaders at both times. Some things never change. Eighty years ago, European Jews experienced perhaps the worst oppression of their history. Political corruption still oppresses the poor and the people of God. There are still wolves in sheep’s clothing pretending to minister to God’s people, abusing and manipulating them in Jesus’ name. Sin has enslaved people throughout history. Isaiah announced that a Messiah would come as the answer to our deepest needs. Today, we look back on Jesus’ ministry and seek to reap its blessings.

So, it should be no surprise that Jesus Himself preached from Isaiah’s prophecy early in His ministry:

“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:16-21).

Jesus fulfilled this prophecy in several ways. First, He was the Messiah whose coming was announced by the prophet. His very life—His very presence in their town and synagogue—fulfilled a promise God had made 700 years earlier.

Second, He came to fulfill that calling to the people He met. The Holy Spirit was upon Him, as God had proclaimed when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. He came to proclaim good news to the poor: those who lacked financial means as well as those who were “poor in spirit.” He came to proclaim release to the captives: those who were bound both by Roman oppression and by Satan’s domination. He brought sight to the blind, both those who could not see physically and those who could not see God’s presence in their lives. He came to set free those who were oppressed, particularly those who were controlled by sin.

This was the focus of His ministry. Jesus spoke words of comfort and restoration. He miraculously healed the blind, the sick, and the demon-possessed. He instructed, trained, and commissioned His disciples to minister to these needs in His name.

This should still be the focus of our ministry. Christ calls His disciples to go forth in His name and to make disciples of all nations. How do we make disciples? By condemning? By pretending we are better than others because we do not commit the same horrible sins that they do? By quoting Bible passages and assuming people’s lives will turn around if they simply give their lives to Jesus and “snap out of it?”

We make disciples by imitating Jesus and showing His love to others. He sends us to bring good news to the poor (physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually), those who have lost hope, and those who do not know how to get out of their ruts. We proclaim release to the captives, showing them the way out of the chains of bondage that hold them. We offer sight to the blind by revealing the Light of the World, Jesus, to them. We set the oppressed free by letting them know that they no longer need to live in self-condemnation, for Jesus has released them with His forgiveness.

Part of our mission is to offer hope and comfort. As I mentioned in a previous post, mourning and grief can be a response to any kind of loss. We have all suffered. All Christians have been forgiven; we have all received Jesus’ comfort and mercy. Now, it is our turn to bring that comfort and mercy to others.

Lord, when You lived among us, You brought good news to the afflicted; You healed the brokenhearted; You brought liberty to captives and freedom to those who were imprisoned by sin and shame; You gave sight to the blind; and You comforted all who mourn. Heal us in our time of need, comfort us in our times of sorrow, and anoint us to go forth and comfort others as You have comforted and healed us. In Your name, we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

How have you been comforted and healed by Jesus? How have you comforted others in His name, or how can you do so in the days ahead? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Sermon on the Mount | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Christ’s Ascension: Eternal Hope in a Chaotic World

So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:6-11, New American Standard Bible).

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

He ascended into heaven,
       and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead (The Apostle’s Creed).

As I am writing this post for the Feast of the Ascension, tragedy fills the news. For the last three months, many of us have been horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We weep over the continual suffering of the Ukrainian people. Our economy has suffered: skyrocketing gas prices, food shortages (particularly infant formula), a nosediving stock market, etc. Now, reports and images of a new flurry of mass shootings flood the media, including one on May 24 at an elementary school in Texas. Nineteen fourth-graders and two teachers are dead. I have a grandson who is graduating elementary school this week; his little sister, my only granddaughter, is entering the fourth grade in the fall. This massacre hits close to home.

Where is our hope? Politicians offer false hope: some think we can eradicate mass killings with increased gun control; others say schools need better security. You can read my thoughts about the political and social aspects of mass shootings and gun control here and here.

The Feast of the Ascension reminds us that Christians serve a risen Lord. Jesus has conquered death, is now seated in glory at the right hand of His (and our) heavenly Father, and will come again in power and glory. He will judge the living and dead. His kingdom will have no end.

This is our hope. No matter how chaotic our world becomes, God is still in control. This world is not fair, but God is just. In the end, His justice will prevail.

In the meantime, we mourn for those who suffer. We cry out for change. Christians must be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). We do not use the weapons of this world or fight the forces of this world; our enemies are the spiritual enemies of God. Our weapons are those that Jesus has given to His church (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:11-13). He has given us a mission to change the world one soul at a time: Preach His gospel; make disciples of all nations; bring good news to the afflicted; bind up the brokenhearted; proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of His vengeance; comfort all who mourn; etc.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn…” (Isaiah 61:1-2, New American Standard Bible).

Reach out to somebody today with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.

“Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

What does Jesus’ exalted status, having ascended to heaven, mean to you? Does His promise that He will come again comfort and encourage you? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christians and Culture, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, divine sovereignty | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (Matthew 5:4)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo from PxHere.

My last article looked at mourning in the context of Easter. While all experience grief and mourning at times, Christians are reminded that bodily death is not the final word. Jesus is the first fruits of those who have and will be raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). We also will live again.

Nevertheless, the pain of bereavement is real. We mourn when our lives have been drastically changed. Despite our mourning, grief, pain, and sorrow, the Lord offers us a promise. We shall be comforted.

Grief takes many forms. The most obvious form is when a loved one dies. We shed tears at the wake, sob at the funeral, and perhaps even wail during the graveside service. When a family member or close friend dies, we can be overwhelmed by unexpected waves of sorrow, perhaps for no obvious reason, for months—maybe even years.

However, other life-changing events can bring on feelings of grief. One can lose their job and have no idea how they will pay their bills. Maybe their entire sense of self-identity was tied to that job, and now they not only need to learn how to do something else: they feel like they have to learn how to be somebody else. A person can suffer a debilitating illness and mourn the loss of mobility, strength, and the ability to do the things they loved. A couple may divorce; they may mourn “what could have been” in their relationship. Likewise, their children mourn the loss of a level of relationship with one or both parents.

Some other kinds of mourning are related to our relationship with God and His creation. Christians can and should grieve over the presence of evil. Over the last few months, the world has watched in shock and dismay as Russia invaded Ukraine. People have fled their home country to seek safety elsewhere. Civilians, including women and small children, have been killed. A nation is being destroyed. Its people are suffering. A tyrant seems hell-bent on killing people until he gets what he wants. I grieve for the Ukrainian people. Sorrow and anger fill our hearts when we see evil destroying people’s lives.

We may also grieve over our own sin. True confession and repentance have an element of grief to them. We mourn over how we have squandered our time and energy. We grieve over those whom we have harmed. We regret that we have not loved others according to God’s will. Even as we rejoice in the promise of God’s forgiveness, we mourn that we have sinned against Him.

We need to mourn over our sins if we want to experience deliverance and freedom from our sins. To truly overcome an addiction, bad habit, or other life-controlling sinful behavior, we need to reach a point where we hate it in our souls. Drug addicts and alcoholics may struggle their entire lives against the craving for their substance of choice: it made them feel good or brought some kind of pleasure. To live drug- or alcohol-free, they need to grieve the harm it caused them and others. When that grief outweighs the good feelings, repentance is possible. But, they have to come to that point of realizing the harm their choices have caused. They have to confess. They have to mourn. Only then can they be comforted with freedom and sobriety. The same is true for any addiction, habit, or pet sin.

A Christian lifestyle of mourning will clash with the values of the world. The world tells us to seek happiness at any cost. It encourages us to pursue pleasure. It says, “If it feels good, do it.” Basically, it tells us to ignore “bad” feelings.

Image from YouVersion Bible app.

Feelings are not necessarily good or bad. Sorrow, grief, and mourning are not wrong or evil. God has given us our emotional side to help us make sense of what is happening to and around us. Sorrow, grief, and mourning remind us that there is something painful that we have to confront. When mourning the loss of a loved one, it may hurt, but it is our opportunity to emotionally say goodbye to the one we loved and learn to live in a “new normal” where that person is no longer with us.

Likewise, Christians cannot ignore the existence of pain, sorrow, and evil in the world. When we weep over the world’s evil, it is as if God weeps through us. He hates to see people who He made in His image suffer. We should share that indignation.

We cannot ignore the twinges of sorrow when we acknowledge our sin. We should mourn it. It is okay to have sorrowful feelings over our sins. It is the first step toward deliverance.

In a few upcoming posts, we will look more at the second half of this beatitude: that they shall be comforted. The Greek word here is “paraklethesontai.” It is a verb form of the word “parakletos” (comforter, helper, counselor, advocate), which is one of the titles Jesus gave for the Holy Spirit. When we mourn, the Holy Spirit is there to help us. We do not have to wallow in pity. We admit the pain that we feel, and we can wait on God to heal us.

God may also use other people to comfort us. This is an important reason to faithfully fellowship with a church of believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Eventually, after receiving God’s comfort and healing, we may be the people He uses to comfort others.

O merciful Father, who has taught us in Your holy Word that You do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of all who suffer and mourn. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of Your goodness, lift up Your countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer.)

What circumstances or experiences have led you into mourning and grief? Has God given you comfort? Share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Sermon on the Mount | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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