Abhor What Is Evil; Cling to What Is Good - Romans 12.9
Jesus was never "naturally" welcomed by this world. In the Gospel lesson from Luke chapter four, Jesus preached in His home town of Nazareth. Upon announcing that He was the one Isaiah had promised to bring salvation, the people took Him to the brow of a hill intending to throw Him off. When He was a baby, King Herod attempted to murder Him. Finally, at the cross, Jesus received the full rejection of this world. The world has its back turned to God, and it resents anything that comes from God. It just wants to be left alone. Nevertheless where the Holy Spirit breaks through and where Christ is received by faith, the result is always good.
For Christians then there is always a tension between the good things of the Spirit and the evil things of this fallen world. We are pulled back and forth between them. At the end of this third week of January, we are reminded of that tension by the anniversary of the legalization of abortion. We cannot be spectators. We are faced with a choice to compromise with the world that rejects Jesus and doesnít want to be bothered by "morality." Or, we can reject the sinful way of the world and hold fast to what is good.
When Evil Is Tolerated, It Always Prevails
A few years ago I read the book Uncle Tomís Cabin. This is one of those classic books that many people have heard about, but few have actually read. It was written in the 1800s in order to show Americans that it is impossible to compromise with the problem of slavery and to expect any good to come of it. Uncle Tom was a good slave who managed his masterís Kentucky farm profitably. He had a wife and children, and everyone lived together happily. His master was a good man who endeavored to redeem the practice of slavery by treating his slaves well. However bad investments caused his creditors to come calling. He was forced either to sell some of his assets to save his farm. A good slave like Tom could bring $5,000 in those days. It was a heart wrenching decision, but there was only one way to save the farm. Tom was sold, as they said back then, "down the river."
Although torn away from his wife and children, Tom did receive the good fortune to be purchased by another conscientious slave owner from New Orleans. His new master also thought that the evil practice of slavery could be redeemed if he was good to his slaves. Tomís future looked even better after a couple of years when this new master had finally decided that he could no longer be involved in slavery. He had to set his slaves free. Tom was about to go home to his family. But just before the conscience stricken slaver owner could make the matter legal, he was killed in an accident. The estate was settled, and the "assets" were sold. Tom was sold to a Texas cotton planter. In this situation he toiled miserably for a few years and died ignominiously.
That story, which represented the fate of so many slaves, propelled our country to a civil war. People could no longer accept the excuses for slavery. It was simply wrong, and nothing good would come of it in the end. What is most amazing about the slavery issue of the 1800s is that the very same excuses are used today to allow for the evil practice of abortion.
Should We Excuse or Abhor?
God urges us through the Apostle Paul to "abhor what is evil" and to "cling to what is good." If something is evil, there is no excuse good enough to keep it around. We hear people say, "BUT what about women who are raped or are the victims of incest? Are you going to force them to have these children?" First of all there are very few cases of abortion performed for these cases. Second, this question overlooks a very obvious evil. No matter how a child is conceived, it is still a child. Do we really redeem one sin by creating another? Do we really bring about good by killing this unborn child? Many slave owners also stumbled into this faulty logic. Slavery was legal. People honestly thought that they could help by purchasing a few slaves and treating them kindly. Instead they helped encourage the practice of slavery. Today the excuse of aborting children conceived by rape (meant to be a good thing) becomes the basis for the entire practice of 4,000 abortions performed every day in the United States!
Many good people are personally opposed to abortion. But deep down they think that abortion will help our society if some people want to practice it. They think that abortion helps keep the population down. They surmise that abortion even culls out some of the "undesirables" of our society. This thinking totally misunderstands the source of our life and strength. St. Paul boldly taught the philosophers of Athens, "In Him (God) we live, and move, and have our being."(1) God is the source of our life. We donít control or enhance life by trying to suppress it. If we were to follow this evil logic further, we would have to ask, "Why not destroy some of the born children who are taking up space or who are not contributing to society? Why not remove some of the elderly who are a burden to us?" In the 1800s people were convinced that this country could not survive economically without slavery. The fact is that had we continued the practice we would never have become the leading nation of this world.
Some will say, "Personally I donít believe in abortion, BUT, itís not really any of my business. If thatís what someone wants to do in their privacy, who am I to interfere?" Dr. Bernard Nathanson was an abortion doctor who had a change of mind and heart. When he saw for the first time through ultra-sound technology what a baby goes through in an abortion, he completely reversed his efforts. He produced a video showing the "Silent Scream." The ultra-sound showed that a baby undergoing an abortion actually resists the lethal intrusion into the sanctuary of the womb. Then, at the moment of death, the baby opened its mouth for the scream that no one could hear. In the era of slavery, many people tried to avoid cries of mistreated slaves. Some tried to prevent beatings. But everyone knew that the cries of the slaves were still there even though they couldnít always be heard. Jesus was once asked, "who is my neighbor?" by a man who wanted to justify himself (2). Jesus responded with the story of the Good Samaritan. Our neighbor is anyone who needs our helpóeven if they are out in the countryside where no one can see their misery. Our neighbor is especially the unborn child.
Cling to What is Good
You hear people sometimes say that something is "a necessary evil." I have said that about television. But television isnít evil. There may be evil programs, but I have an "on/off" button. I donít have to watch them. A person might say, "Prisons are a necessary evil." But they arenít really. God says that evildoers should be punished. We may not like it, but it is not evil. There is no such thing as a "necessary evil." If something is evil, it doesnít belong. We should avoid it at all costs. Instead we should cling to what is good.
St. Paul must have been reading Amos. Amos also said, "Hate evil; love good"(3). In fact he said, "Seek good and not evil THAT YOU MAY LIVE" (4). Toleration of evil always leads to destruction. Embracing and holding to what is good always leads to life. Solomon wrote: "Fear the Lord and depart from evil. IT WILL BE HEALTH TO YOUR BONES AND STRENGTH TO YOUR FLESH"(5). Toleration of evil will destroy the very thing we hope to preserveóour life and the lives of our children and neighbor. Seeking what is good, even if it is difficult in some ways, will lead to life.
Jesus came into this world to expose what is evil. But more than that He came
to cleanse us from evil. All of us are born with an evil, sinful nature. But
Jesus came to replace that nature with His righteousness through the forgiveness
of our sins. It is almost a certainty today that this sermon will fall upon the
ears of someone who has had an abortion or has encouraged someone to have an
abortion. You need to know that it is for these very sins that Jesus came to
forgive. When He was abandoned to die on the cross, He did so to forgive the
slave trader as well as the abortionist; the slave owner as well as the mother
or father who abandoned their child. In addition to this, everyone needs to
remember that though the tendency of this world is to reject Jesus, and though
we may feel forced to "allow" evil into our lives, Godís word says,
"For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the
works of the devil" (6). Our prayer is that everyone would join with
Christians all over the world who abhor what is evil and cling to what is good,
who bend the knee and pray, "Deliver us from evil." Our Father is
keeping that promise to us. Thanks be to God. Amen.
(1) Acts 17.28 (2) Luke 10.29 (3) Amos 5.15 (4) Amos 5.14 (5) Proverbs 3.7-8 (6) 1 John 3.8
Third Sunday After the Epiphany, January 21, 2001
Michael P. Walther, Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Collinsville, Illinois. Copyright, 2001
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