Life or death
Recently, I read some statements by an Orthodox Church leader here in America. I won’t use his name but suffice it to say, he is a prominent hierarch within the Orthodox Church. His comments took place at the March for Life in 2022. Now I know that some will say, “He was at the March, what else do you want? He’s supporting the anti-abortion agenda.” Is he?
He made the statement that, “We affirm the gift and sanctity of life – all life, born and unborn. As Christians we confess that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. Every life is worthy of our prayer and our protection, whether in the womb, or in the world. We are all responsible for the well-being of children. We are their “keepers,” and cannot shirk from our accountability for their welfare.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? But then, he made his next statement, “At the same time, we also affirm our respect for the autonomy of women.”
Then he went on, later, to say, “By His incarnation, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ assumed human nature, through His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary. She freely chose to bring Him into the world, and God respected her freedom.”
Now I’m even more confused. On the one hand, he says that Orthodox Christians affirm the sanctity of life but on the other hand, we affirm the “autonomy” of women and that God “respected” the freedom of the Holy Virgin to freely bring the Christ into the world.
Do you see the problem here? This is double speak. This is the same sort of ambiguity and nonsense that we hear out of the Vatican. This is trying to have it both ways; this is trying to please the world. What should have been said is that abortion is murder, and the Church has always condemned murder in any form and has always condemned abortion. Full stop.
The West is doomed, my friends. As a Western man, I don’t say that lightly. My family and I live in the West. But I believe this with all my heart. The West is doomed; our culture, such as it is, has and is disintegrating around us. We live in a culture of death and depravity. That should make us who call ourselves Christians ask some questions. Which culture are we part of? Are we part of the culture of Life or death? We need to examine our lives and the fruits thereof to be able to answer that question. We need to examine our hearts, our passions, our desires, what we fill our minds with. We need to fall on our faces before God and ask Him to show us where we have fallen away and repent.
Another thing that has recently happened that bears on this is the recent “leak” of Supreme Court documents on this issue of Roe v. Wade. It’s interesting that this has happened during the holiest time of the year for the Church. We are in the Paschal season. This is the time when we Christians celebrate Jesus’ triumph over death and Hell. He rose from the dead in order that we may embrace His Life and follow Him in resurrection, that we may be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). If we have been baptized into Christ, the Apostle tells us, we take part in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-11). This is Life, the divine Life that we, by grace may participate in!
Yet, our Western culture so strongly clings to its godless ideology of “choice” and “freedom” that we celebrate a woman’s “right” to murder her unborn child. Our culture clings so closely to death that we demonize the Russian president for what is happening in Ukraine without ourselves repenting of the many times our military has murdered innocent civilians and invaded sovereign countries willy-nilly for made up reasons. We have dropped bombs on a sovereign country every day (just about) for the last almost 20 years, but we stand on our moral high horse and lecture everyone else about morality. Meanwhile, we fail to account for the millions of children that we have murdered in abortion clinics and applaud the “freedom to choose” and “reproductive rights.”
Shame on our government. Shame on our culture. Shame on us who claim the name of God and embrace death. If you claim to be a Christian and support the “right to choose,” you either need to repent or stop calling yourself a Christian.
Long ago, God told His people that they had to make a choice and today, He calls out to us the same,
“Behold, I have set before thee this day life and death, good and evil. If thou wilt hearken to the commands of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to love the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his ordinances, and his judgments; then ye shall live, and shall be many in number, and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all the land into which thou goest to inherit it. But if thy heart change, and thou wilt not hearken, and thou shalt go astray and worship other gods, and serve them, I declare to you this day, that ye shall utterly perish, and ye shall by no means live long upon the land, into which ye go over Jordan to inherit it. I call both heaven and earth to witness this day against you, I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: choose thou life, that thou and thy seed may live; to love the Lord thy God, to hearken to his voice, and cleave to him:” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20a, LXX)
The choice is before us, brothers and sisters.
We cannot be silent.
We cannot go along to get along.
We must choose.
Life or death, blessing or curse.
The joy of death
Death has been all around me my whole life. Many times, I wasn’t aware of it or even thought of it much, until I began my law enforcement career. I’ll never forget the first homicide I responded to and the strange feeling that came over me as I looked into the lifeless eyes of the body lying on the sidewalk.
In that moment, death became very real for me. Again, it’s not like death had never touched me. Three of my four grandparents had passed before then but, somehow, death had been something that I never really thought about. But, in that moment, death became very real to me and an almost daily occurrence. Despite some close calls, I felt, at times, like death couldn’t touch me.
Then my sister died.
My world got rocked. Suddenly, someone that was dear to me had been “taken” far too soon. I remember beginning to ask questions of myself, of faith, of God. I honestly don’t think I had given much thought about it until then, despite the daily violence I witnessed as a police officer. It was only years later that I came to a truly Christian understanding of death.
In our culture, people think that death is the end. So, the way the world lives should be no surprise to us. If you believe that your 70-80 years or so on this plane of existence is all there is, then eat, drink, be merry and do whatever you want. In that scenario, truth is completely subjective, and death and sickness and aging are to be avoided at all costs.
If we are Christian, we know this is not true. If we are Christian, we know that humanity was created by God to be in perfect communion with Him and each other and His creation for all eternity. Death was never meant to be part of the equation. That’s why it feels so unnatural and uncomfortable to us; because it is unnatural. We aren’t meant to die. But just because it’s unnatural doesn’t mean it has to be uncomfortable.
A couple of weeks ago, I went with my wife to a doctor’s appointment. They hooked up an ultrasound and began to scan my wife’s abdomen for signs of life to confirm the pregnancy test she had taken. Sure enough, as I looked at the screen, I could see clearly the placental sack and the small life moving in my wife’s womb. Joy leapt into my heart. God had blessed us with another child! My wife jokingly said, “Only one, right?” The nurse doing the ultrasound said, “Well, let me take a look.” She began to move the little thing around and I saw it the same time she did.
Another placental sack.
I began to smile as I looked at my wife. She was staring at the screen with a stunned look on her face. Then the nurse said, “Hmmm, something’s not right. This one looks a lot smaller.” My body felt like someone had just dumped a bucket of ice water on it and I said softly, “Oh no.” The nurse did some more scans then left, saying, “I’ll be right back.” My wife and I both just stared at the screen until the nurse came back. After another scan, she said something that I will never un-hear. “The other baby doesn’t have a heartbeat. I’m sorry.”
Death in its cold cruelty has again touched my family. My wife wept as I held her hand.
But then, almost immediately, something else happened. I was reminded of the words of our Lord Jesus when He said,
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
And the words of the prophet Job,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I cried also. I cried for the child that we won’t know on this side of eternity. I cried because my wife was suffering such pain. I cried for my living children who will not get to meet their sibling right now.
But I also experienced great joy. The joy I have found is in the knowledge that our bodies will die, just as the physical body of our Lord Jesus died and was buried. My joy is found in the knowledge that Jesus was raised from the dead, being the first fruits of those who will be resurrected like Him one day. When that day comes, I will see my child. Oh, the joy of that day!
But I am also joyful because my child will never know pain. He/she will never know hunger or fear or sadness or disappointment or have scars or be cut from a team or break a bone or have their heart broken in unrequited love.
No, in the arms of the Creator, my child will only know the joy of the embrace of the Savior! Can you imagine?! In one moment, their little heart was beating in the safety of the womb. In the next moment, their eyes opened to see the glorious face of the Creator and Savior of the world! In His presence, there is fullness of joy forever and unto the ages of ages!
I am learning more of what it means to have a truly Christian view of the world and what it means to be human and be united to Christ. I know that my child is united to Christ in a way that I do not yet fully experience. But one day…. oh, one day, I will know full union with my Savior. And then, along with my child, my sister, my grandparents and all our God-bearing Fathers, we will know the glory and eternal rest of being fully restored to the glory we knew in the Garden.
Oh, what a day that will be! Until that day, we grieve for those who have fallen asleep. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Let us rejoice in the hope of resurrection!
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!