Christianity Today is profiling a woman who was nearly aborted in 1989. Claire Culwell’s mother had an abortion at twenty weeks that killed Claire’s sibling. Soon thereafter, she discovered that she was still pregnant (she had not known she was carrying twins). She returned for a second abortion, but it never took place due to complications from the first.
Claire is now a wife, the mother of four children, and an activist for the cause of life.
In 1989, there were reportedly 1,396,658 abortions in the US. When you read Claire’s story, do you resonate with gratitude that she was not one of them? That sentiment is a God-given belief that every life is intrinsically valuable, a fact Christians call the “sanctity of life” doctrine.
We see this doctrine on display every day. For example, nationwide grief over the deaths of George Floyd and Daunte Wright continues to make headlines. We have seen tributes to Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier on this day in 1947.
We have seen the good news that a federal court has upheld an Ohio law banning abortions on babies with Down syndrome. And we have seen the tragic news that a father drowned last Saturday while rescuing two sons from a riptide on the Texas coast.
Each story is another reminder that, as St. Augustine noted, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
Remarkable good news about faith
I have been making a case for Christian optimism in recent days based on these facts:
- It is always too soon to give up on God’s grace.
- Jesus is as active in our world today as when he first rose from the dead.
- God’s capacity to change our fallen world depends not on our finitude but on his omnipotence.
- Secularism fails to keep its promises, demonstrating our need for faith in a transcendent God.
Today, let’s consider a fifth factor: our lives are lived best in relationship with our Maker, a fact that demonstrates the abiding relevance of our Lord to our broken world.
As you may know, Gallup recently announced that church membership in America has fallen below 50 percent for the first time. The Boston Globe is responding with two paradoxical reports. One is that “the unwavering faith and passion of true belief is increasingly being channeled not into religious observance but into identity politics and the culture wars.” This can be problematic on a variety of levels.
The other part of the article is far more positive. It states (with links to substantiating research) that “regular worshipers tend to live longer, to suffer lower levels of stress, to have fewer symptoms of depression, and to have better cardiovascular and immune function. Similarly, the data suggests that religious worshipers tend to be happier, to drink less, to have lower rates of drug abuse, and to give to charity and donate blood at above-average rates.”
The article adds: “Amid the uniquely difficult circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, a survey of self-reported health conditions found that Americans who attended religious services regularly were the only demographic group that appeared to avoid a decline in their mental health in 2020.”
It then offers this sobering response: “To the extent that religious practice across America is weakening, it seems only too likely that those benefits will fade too.”
They “recognized that they had been with Jesus”
It stands to reason that those who experience the “abundant life” of Jesus will demonstrate the results of that life to the world (John 10:10). For example, I was drawn to the Christian faith by the faith of Christians. I did not ask my tenth-grade Sunday school teacher how I could be saved, regenerated, or justified—I asked her how I could have what she had. She sat down with me and led me to Jesus.
When the Spirit fell at Pentecost, Peter declared the word of God just as his Savior had earlier (Acts 2; Matthew 5–7). When he and John met a “man lame from birth,” they cared for him just as Jesus had earlier cared for a lame man (Acts 3:1–10; John 5:8–9). When Peter and John refused to stop preaching the gospel, the religious authorities saw their “boldness” and “recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
If others don’t see the difference Jesus makes in our lives, they have the right to question whether Jesus will make a difference in their lives. Conversely, if we are controlled by the Spirit who empowered our Lord (Ephesians 5:18; Acts 10:38), Jesus will fulfill his promise that “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do” (John 14:12).
Here’s the bottom line: if God’s people will seek the power of God’s Spirit to speak God’s word and share God’s love, our lives must inevitably impact our secular culture in ways we can see and ways we cannot.
“Death couldn’t handle him, and the grave couldn’t hold him”
I was honored to bring the keynote address at the 57th Annual Louisiana Governor’s Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday. It was deeply moving to hear Gov. John Bel Edwards describe his faith so personally and to join legislators and Christian leaders as they prayed for their state and our nation.
The purpose of my address was to invite those present to a deeper commitment to the kingship of Jesus than they had ever known so God can use their influence to shape their culture in transformative ways. I closed with quotations from one of the greatest sermons of the twentieth century, a message delivered by Dr. S. M. Lockridge on the kingship of Jesus. The brilliant preacher said this of our risen Lord:
“He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s preeminent. He’s the loftiest idea in literature. He’s the fundamental doctrine of true theology. He’s the key of knowledge. He’s the wellspring of wisdom. He’s the doorway of deliverance. He’s the gateway of glory. He’s the pathway of peace. He’s the roadway of righteousness. He’s the highway of holiness.
“The Pharisees couldn’t stand him, but they found out they couldn’t stop him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in him. Herod couldn’t kill him. Death couldn’t handle him, and the grave couldn’t hold him!”
The pastor closed with this declaration:
“He’s the master of the mighty. He’s the captain of the conquerors. He’s the head of the heroes. He’s the leader of the legislatures. He’s the overseer of the overcomers. He’s the governor of governors. He’s the prince of princes. He’s the King of kings, and he’s the Lord of lords. That’s my king!”
Is he your king?