A FUTURE LIKE OURS
Written by Doug Ponder on April 4, 2013
Disclaimer: This article is a call to action, not a call to condemnation of the people you disagree with. Regardless of who you are or what you’ve done in your life, you need Jesus as much as the next person. The good news is that his death and resurrection are more than sufficient to forgive us and give us new life. It is that same good news that has, in every generation, found ways of empowering God’s people to do God’s work. Let’s pray that happens again with us.
A Baby, His Future, and My Hope
A little over two months ago my wife gave birth to our first child, Athanasius (we call him “Ash” for short). He was named after a very important figure in the early history of the church. Though he’s only been with us for a short period of time, it’s already hard to imagine life without him.
As I was changing his diaper one day the thought occurred to me that my parents had once been where I am now. This is obvious, of course, but the force of it strikes you differently when you first step into the role of being a parent. Then another thought occurred to me. One day my son would be where I am. (Even if he never knows the joy of being a father, he will still become an adult.) Though tiny, helpless, and in need of constant assistance, the only essential difference between my son and I was one of time. I had been where he was; he would one day be where I am. He has a future like mine.
The Beginning of Our Future
It may seem odd, but I reflected on that idea for quite a bit that day. It became clear that as long as the normal course of life were not interrupted (by death, for example), my son would grow to be an adult just like every other human being who lives to adulthood. He has a future like ours.
But when did his future like ours begin? Did it begin on January 17th, the day he was born? That seems strange to say, since the only difference between my son on January 17th and January 16th was a matter of a location. He was no more alive on the 16th of January than he was on the 17th. He was no smaller (how much difference could one day make?). He was no more helpless and needy than he was after birth. So when did his future like ours begin?
This question has significant implications for discussions about a baby’s right to life. To interfere with the natural course of life (by abortion, for example) seems to terminate a baby’s future like ours after the possibility for that future has already begun. In other words, terminating the life of a baby, even very early in the womb, deprives him or her of access to the same kind of future that you and I have obtained.
The End of a Future Like Ours
That abortion prevents a baby from obtaining its future is undeniable, since abortion by definition means “to stop” something. In this case, what is being stopped from occurring is a baby’s future like ours. Had we done nothing to the developing baby in the womb, the natural course of life would have brought into the world a human being who has no essential differences from you or I except for the matter of age or time. When simply refraining from acting allows a developing baby to obtain a future like ours, the burden of proof rests on those who think they have the right to interfere with the natural course of life to stop what would otherwise come to fruition.
Please don’t misunderstand. I do not mean to suggest that this idea alone can answer the question of how best to handle the issue of abortion in our country (the United States of America). There are many people who would agree with what has been written here but who, for various reasons, still disagree about the best way to reduce the number of abortions every year. Some believe that laws restricting abortion will not help the situation, while others strongly believe that such laws are the best way to help. I suspect we will still be arguing about these things until the day when all people everywhere agree that depriving a baby of a future like ours is fundamentally wrong.
What we must not overlook in the meantime, however, is that what we have been talking about seems to have serious implications for Christians who believe that God is actively involved in the development of every human being from the moment when their future like ours begins to the moment when their life comes to a close (Psalm 139:13-14). It simply won’t do for Christians who take God seriously to act as if protecting a baby’s right to a future like ours isn’t important. It truly is.
God’s Heart And Our Calling
Christians throughout history have always understood the importance of life. That’s why when other cultures actively engaged in abortion, they refused to perform abortions themselves. And when other cultures left their unwanted babies on remote hilltops to die, Christian couples would rescue the babies and adopt them as their own. But their respect for human beings didn’t stop there. Christians popularized hospitals in an era when you went to the hospital because you were dying, not because you hoped to get better. Their treatment of the sick and the poor caused one Roman official to exclaim, “They care for our own people better than we do!” Christians were also known for their radical love for all people, even their enemies. More than a few times Christians went to their deaths praying for the well-being of the people who were about to kill them.
God’s people have always had a heart to help the helpless, defend the defenseless, and speak up for those who have no voice, because God’s call to promote the well-being of others is a theme throughout the Scriptures: “Learn to do what is good; seek justice; alleviate oppression; take up the cause of the fatherless; and plead the case of the widow” (Isa. 1:17). And again, “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place” (Jer. 22:3). And, “A religion that is pure and faultless according to God the Father is this: to take care of orphans and widows who are suffering…” (James 1:27). And the verse that covers all these with one simple command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
What You Can (And Must) Do
An honest look at the world today must conclude that there are many, many people being deprived of a future like ours—which is actually true in more than one sense.
First, there are nations like China and India where the number of babies who are deprived of futures like ours is utterly astronomical—and many of them are deprived of a future like ours for the simple reason that they are female. The Chinese government admits to having deprived more than 336 million babies of futures of like ours since 1971. That’s more than all the people killed in 10 deadliest wars combined. And most of these babies were little girls. It is a truly tragic irony when the people who claim to be fighting for the rights of women endorse practices that decrease the number of women in the world. Christians who care about the right for all babies—including unwanted little girls—to have a future like ours need to have serious conversations about what we can do to help the not-yet-born wherever they are.
Second, there are many places where children already born are being deprived of a future like ours in another important sense. In underdeveloped countries children have little to no access to basic human necessities like food and water. Many of them die early deaths as a result, being deprived of a future in any sense of the term. Others live to adulthood only to contract AIDS or some other preventable disease because they lack basic the medical attention that we take for granted. There is much work to be done here as well. Christians must see issues of justice as essential to the full-orbed proclamation of the gospel in a sick and dying world.
Finally, I pray that you will see that this is not an exclusively political issue. It’s so much more important than that. This is a matter of love and justice. Out of love for those who have futures like ours and out of a desire to give them the same kind of life that we have enjoyed, we can’t let political disagreements stop us from taking action. To do so would be counter to the gospel itself. For our God is the one who said to his people, “I know the plans I have for you: plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). God gives us that in Jesus, who is the author of every future like ours. Let’s honor him with the future that we’ve been given by giving a future to those who have little hope for one.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.