A Message of Bloodshed
Do you know why some people don't like Life Sunday? Because they think the message today is one of bloodshed. They're right.
Life Sunday is about bloodshed, the most disgusting kind of bloodshed, that of the most helpless, vulnerable, and innocent. The bloodshed of the innocent is a serious matter to God. This is one of the so-called 'crying sins'. Shedding the blood of innocent children cries to the heavens for God to judge it. Psalm 106 says shedding the blood of innocent children pollutes a land. It was one of the reasons that God threw out the Canaanites from the land. When Israel fell into the same practice, she too was pitched out. But in America we're not supposed to talk about shedding the blood of the innocent. It's too gruesome; people would rather not hear it. Yet for 17 centuries the Western church has observed the festival of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents.
Consider that you can put up crosses on highways to remember people who've been killed in grizzly auto accidents and no one says you're being morbid or judgmental. You're remembering the loss of someone. But when my congregation put up 978 crosses in memory of the children aborted each month in Louisiana, we we're morbid and judgmental. It's fine for people not to let us forget someone who died tragically, but we're wrong for not letting people forget the 58 million children who died in American wombs in the last 40 years.
It's not wrong for the church to bring the bloodshed of the innocent upon the heads of the guilty. This is one message of the church, isn't it? Aren't we to preach the Law to people in their sins? Aren't we to bring the blood of the innocent down on the head of the guilty?
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers does that and everybody cheers. How come they can show tender videos of families killed by drunk drivers, and we're criticized for showing an ultrasound of an unborn child? How come M.A.D.D. gets commended for their righteous indignation over the thousands of people tragically killed each year by drunk drivers, and we are called "holier than thou," "Pharisees," "Puritans," "Gestapo," and "the Inquisition" when we are indignant over the millions killed by abortion?
Or how about this? How come People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, can bring the blood of animals upon people's heads, and they're regarded as sincere, noble, selfless individuals looking out for defenseless animals? How come they can bring the blood of animals on people's head and not be considered mean-spirited or self-righteous but we are when we bring the blood of babies on the heads of people?
Some people don't like Life Sunday because it is a message of bloodshed, but if we don't preach it who will? The media will tell us how much productivity we lose due to alcoholism, obesity, and diabetes but have you ever heard them mention the productivity lost by 1 million babies being killed each year in the U.S.?
Or how about this? The media readily reports the increase of wildlife due do environmental efforts. But have you ever heard due to a decrease in abortion between 2010 and 2013 there were 14,462 more kids in Texas? Don't you think it newsworthy that Texas gained almost seven 6A high schools in 3 years? Also worth asking, how come the media doesn't question the State's figures for wildlife? Whenever I have given the media the State's abortion numbers, it has reported, "The church has figures."?
If we don't speak about the bloodshed of babies, who will? The blood of children has always been sacrificed to one god or another, and it's only been the Church who has raised Her voice against it. The OT Church protested continually against child sacrificing by pagans and unfaithful kings of Israel. After the empire became Christian, Rome took away a father's right of life and death over his children, a right fathers used more against girls than boys. "With the spread of the Gospel the first and most decisive discrimination between the sexes disappeared; the right to life was granted to girls as much as to boys" (Women in the Day of The Cathedrals, 20).
Ancient pagan medicine had little concern for the bloodshed of children. Soranus, a 1st century doctor, defines pediatrics as the art of deciding which newborns deserve to be educated and which should be thrown out. Cicero didn't think anyone ought to be disturbed by the death of a child. Seneca said it was reasonable to drown weak and sickly children. Contrast this with the 2nd century church father Justin Martyr who said, "But as for us, we have been taught that to expose newly-born children is the part of wicked men" (First Apology, XXVII).
The pagan attitude once rejected by the church is now the norm in our country among leading thinkers. Partial-birth abortions couldn't be completely banned even though the AMA said the procedure was closer to infanticide than abortion. Princeton promoted a professor who doesn't believe disabled babies or children have a right to life. How did we come to the point of believing shedding the blood of children outside the womb is no big deal? By accepting their blood being shed while still in the womb.
And people hate us for speaking up. Even within our church body, we're criticized for having Life Sunday even though our church body officially promotes it! People are turned off by bloodshed. And they're right, but still we speak about the bloodshed of the innocent. However, we also speak about the bloodshed of the guilty.
The news media and even those within the church assume that this second part is where we speak about shedding the blood of those guilty abortionists. They think our answer to abortion is to line up the relatively few doctors who do them and shoot them. They think we want to blow up the abortion clinics. They think our answer to the shedding of baby blood is bloodshed. And they're right. The Church's answer to the shedding of innocent blood has always been the shedding of guilty blood.
We speak about the shedding of the blood of the guiltiest of all persons, Jesus Christ. Of whom else does it say, "God made Him to be sin?" Of whom else has anyone ever said, "Behold the Lamb of God who is carrying away the sins of the world?" Of whom else does it say that God was pleased to crush Him for sins? Jesus became the guiltiest of all people, so His blood could be shed in our place and even in place of abortionists.
Let me illustrate. A few years ago, I read about twin brothers. One committed a murder, and came home with blood-stained clothes. The police came to get him. He slipped out the window. His twin found the blood-stained clothes under the bed, put them on and walked outside to the police. He was convicted in place of his brother.
This is what Jesus did for all people. He put on our clothes stained with the blood of our hatreds, our prejudices, our bitterness. He stood before the Father and said, "I'm the guy you've been looking for." So, the Father took Him to the cross and nailed Him to it. Our bloodshed has been paid for by His shed blood. But even the blood of babies? Even the bloodstains of abortions? Even the bloodstains on the very doctors who cause the bloodshed?
Yes, this is the Gospel. Jesus' blood is thick enough and rich enough to cover, to forgive, to wash out even this sin. In 1 John 1:7 we're told the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins. Six verses later, just in case there are any doubts about abortionists, women who've had abortions, or men who've paid for them, John says, "And not only our sins but the sins of the whole world." When God says 'all', He doesn't mean 'some.' When God says 'whole', He doesn't mean 'part.'
We all know John 3:16, but we breeze through it as if there wasn't much meat there. But there God says He loves the whole world. God doesn't say, "He loves all churches or all Christians," but the "whole world." And far from God desiring that abortionists be shot or those having abortions be paid back, He says in Ezekiel that He does not desire the death of the wicked, and in Psalm 103 God says He has not rewarded us according to our sins.
The problem is that those outside the church judge God's heart by the size of their own. But there is no Gospel in human hearts. No human would give up his or her only son in place of wretched, hateful sinners. No human could forgive the sin of baby killing. No human has the love to open arms to those stained by baby blood. But our heart is not God's heart, our love is not His love. Jesus, without qualification, says, "The one who comes to Me I will never cast out."
Hands that strangled a baby could come to Jesus and He wouldn't throw them out. Feet that walked into an abortion clinic could come to Jesus, and they wouldn't be tossed out. Minds that have defended their sin against an unborn baby for years can come now to Jesus, and He wouldn't turn away from them at all let alone in disgust.
You see the Blood of Jesus is not like the blood of babies; it doesn't call out for vengeance. It's not shouting to the skies for God to judge. It's as we sing in the Lenten hymn, "Abel's blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies, but the blood of Jesus for our pardon cries." Jesus' blood is calling on your behalf, my behalf, on behalf of all caught up in any sin be it as heavy as abortion or as light as vanity, "Forgive them Father; take their sins away."
I can't get my head around that, can you? I can't get my heart around it either. Part of the difficulty comes from how we approach it. On Life Sunday, we emphasize that God love's life. You hear that and think, "O God loves the unborn, the disabled, the terminally ill." This is true, but it's not really the Gospel. The Gospel is not that God loves life, but that God loves sinful life. In fact, God loves sinful life more than holy life. I mean, God didn't give up His only Son to redeem holy angels but sinful humans. God doesn't call the healthy but the ill to Him for healing. God doesn't seek the seeing but the blind, not the living but the dead, not the righteous but the sinners. God loves sinful life!
Yes, we have nothing but a message of bloodshed on Life Sunday. We speak about the blood of the innocent being shed unto death, and the blood of Jesus declared guilty of our sins being shed unto life. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Holy Innocents, Martyrs (20170122)