Life Unites

 

Anne Reed

  AFA Journal
  3/1/2013
 

What do a Catholic priest and an evangelical pastor have in common? It’s not a joke, and it doesn’t involve a bar or a liquor store. Instead, it is a matter of life and death. Two men of the cloth, one in formal, clerical collar and the other in a casual, cotton pull-over, express a like-minded plea concerning the polarizing issue of abortion.

David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and author of New York Times Best Seller, Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream, sat before his congregation and addressed abortion, a subject he confesses to have been “shamefully passive” about prior to July 3, 2011.

In a message titled, “The Children Yet Unborn,” delivered just before Independence Day, Platt said, “It wasn’t the most patriotic sermon but it was in a sense poignant, because I think this is the most morally outrageous, sinfully vicious practice that we participate in, in the name of freedom. ”

Frank Pavone, a Catholic priest who has devoted his life to the pro-life cause, spoke candidly to the AFA Journal at a recent pastoral-theological conference, “Some may say that they do not find the abortion issue in the Bible. But Scripture is very clear about the dominion of God over human life and the prohibition on the shedding of innocent blood. So yes, Scripture teaches against abortion, and we make that clear. Catholics who have been trained in their faith will also be responsive to this issue because of the long philosophical tradition of their church, which draws out the abortion issue quite explicitly, reinforcing the themes that are in the Bible.”

What is at the core of Platt and Pavone’s shared conviction and why does it matter? Perhaps this question is answered at least in part by words held dear to Platt and widely attributed to Martin Luther, Protestant reformer of the sixteenth century: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Platt followed his reference to Luther’s words: “I was in that situation when I wasn’t doing anything about abortion, but I was convicted. I must speak on this.”

Looking back to that break-through sermon, Platt said, “I wasn’t preaching on a topic as much as I was on Psalm 139, and from this text, along with other texts, we see a biblical theology of who God is, who man is, what the gospel is and the way that all of this affects abortion. Abortion is not primarily a social issue, or a political issue, or a women’s issue, or a children’s issue or a health issue. Over and above all of those things, abortion is a God issue.”

At the same time, Platt said, “I wanted to be compassionate to the countless women and men who have been affected by abortion, and to not speak to that is to neglect some of the shepherding responsibilities I have – not just in prevention of future abortions, but in ministry to those who have had past abortions. And it was encouraging to see women who had … some deep scars emotionally and relationally, to kind of bring that to the surface, and for us to have some small groups that actually began bringing some of those women together to help them think through how to really experience the healing that the gospel provides when it comes to past abortions.”

The Church at Brook Hills is experiencing the fruition of the glorious hope expressed by Pavone for those who are called by God to serve the local church. “Pastors want to be pastors,” Pavone said. “They are trained to be good shepherds. They are trained to be compassionate. Paul says that a ministry of reconciliation has been entrusted to us (2 Corinthians 5:18). There are people in your church alienated from God by abortion. Invite them back.”

When Pavone was pressed about whether pastors can overdo it in speaking about this issue, his answer was piercing: “Some people say, ‘It is the same old issue about abortion.’ Now wait a minute. The babies that are being killed today never died before. So, today it is a brand new tragedy. I mean, if we were talking about teenagers being killed every day at a rate close to 4,000 in our country, how often would we talk about that?”

What about going beyond the walls of the local church, working with those from different doctrinal backgrounds in the public square to bring an end to abortion? Is this really the role of a disciple of Christ? Much of Pavone’s work as the national director of Priests for Life is spent doing just that.

Pavone’s position is clear, but how would Platt answer that question? While he provides a comprehensive list of action steps, (See sidebar.) Platt recalls giving specific instruction to the church: “This issue is intense in our culture and the church, so this requires prayer and fasting – calling out to God – and wisdom to know how to relate to the public arena. I want to challenge you to use your democratic privileges of free speech representation and demonstration to press for legal protection of the unborn. That includes crossing a variety of different lines on this issue.”

In words reminiscent of those found in his best selling book, Platt encourages us to look upon our lives as a test of our faith. “The baseline reality is that when we follow Jesus, our lives will look radically different in this world,” he said. “We are living for another world – this world is not our home, and our authority is the word of God and the words of Christ. What He says determines the way we live. We are going to find ourselves going against the grain in so many ways. And that’s certainly clear when it comes to an issue like abortion.”

These two men place a challenge before clergy and laymen alike to boldly speak the truth of what is occurring in our midst. Pavone acknowledges, “We are confessing and professing together, that Jesus is Lord, that He died and rose for us, that He is coming back, that He alone has dominion over human life. We are coming together because we are proclaiming Christ as the Lord of these babies.”

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Platt suggests how to turn faith into action

LOOK AROUND
 ? Learn the facts about abortion
 ? See the pictures of abortion
 ? Listen to the victims of abortion

STEP FORWARD
 ? Share your burdens from the past and struggles in the present with brothers and sisters


SPEAK UP
 ? Before God
 ? Before government

REACH OUT
 ? Through giving to pro-life causes
 ? Through serving unwed and under-age mothers
 ? Through volunteering at pregnancy centers
 ? Through supporting abortion alternatives
 ? Through adopting unwanted children

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Contact information

Priests for Life
www.priestsforlife.org
 888-735-3448

Radical ministry resources
www.radical.net
 205-547-2710