So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;male and female he created them.– Genesis 1:27
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. – Psalm 139: 13-16
When I visited Tunisia in the Fall of 2010, one of the places our group visited was ancient Carthage. Carthage was one of the most powerful and prosperous nations in ancient history, until they were finally defeated by the Romans. The Carthaginians were seafaring, adventurous types who originated from Phoenicia, modern day Lebanon. When they settled and eventually made their kingdom in Carthage, near Tunis, they established a center for the pagan worship they brought with them. This heinous form of worship involved the sacrifice of children. In the Old Testament, Israel was warned not to take part in this type of gross idolatry. Sadly, the Israelites abandoned the God who had loved and chosen them, and had blessed them by delivering them from bondage in Egypt in order to dwell in the land of promise. If you visit ancient Carthage today, you will see scores of small monuments and ossuaries, silently and hauntingly marking the place where an innocent life was snuffed out in the fires of depraved worship. These markers are called Tophets.
Today in America, 40 million lives are snuffed out each year, through abortion. While we do not bow to idols of Baal or Ashera, we must confess that we as Americans are a deeply idolatrous people. We have rejected God, and as Paul states in Romans 1, we have worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator. In America we have fashioned a god in our own image. Man is the center of our worship. We live to serve and to please self. In this way, the atrocity of abortion is our Tophet. Children are sacrificed on the altar of self-worship. A life created in the image of God, is violently ended, so that another may not be inconvenienced.
What do we as Christians do? One danger of living in a culture that has legalized murder for over 40 years now, is to accept it as normal. This we must not do. The following are just a few suggestions.
First, live as God’s people.
Like the Israelites in the Old Testament, we must be different. We must prize life. We must reject first that life originates from anything other that the Almighty God. Human life, whether young or old, born or unborn, healthy or sick, is a creation of God and bears His image. We must teach this to our children, and we must live this out daily as we seek to not only love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, but also our neighbor as ourselves.
Second, pray as God’s people.
It would be appropriate to cry out to God like Isaiah, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” When Isaiah saw the holiness of God, he immediately recognized his own sin and unworthiness. He didn’t see himself as any more worthy to be in the presence of the Almighty than the idolatrous Israelites. This type of humility before our holy God, causes us to call out for mercy and grace. And, our hearts are filled with awe and gratitude beyond measure when we consider that God would choose to save us.
Pray for your own heart, and your own holiness. We cannot expect of others what we do not expect of ourselves. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:20-24
Pray for Christ’s Church in America, that we would be holy and pure, salt and light, bringing praise and honor to our Savior.
Pray for our nation, that God would grant repentance leading to life. The manifestations of idolatry that we swim in everyday in America, are simply the overflow of hearts that are dead in sin, and in need of salvation. No election, no campaign, no legislation, can bring life to a dead heart. Only the gospel implanted in a heart made ready by the prompting of the Holy Spirit will bring life and transformation that manifests the author of life.
Pray for God’s leading for practical ways to demonstrate a life committed to the truth that all life is sacred. This will be as various as the varied gifts that God supplies. Some may choose to adopt a child. Others may serve at a crisis pregnancy clinic, or visit a shut-in. Another may help a teen mom graduate from high school, or reach out to a woman who is struggling with the guilt and remorse of an abortion in her past. While we pray and wait for the day when abortion no longer plagues our land, we can honor life today.
Third, proclaim the life-changing message of Jesus. We are not committed to moralism. We have no interest in making 21st century Pharisees who look good on the outside, but on the inside have no heart for God. The gospel explains the truth of our ultimate reality, namely, that apart from Christ we are sinners without hope and objects of the wrath of God. But, to as many as received him, he gave the right to become children of God. – John 1:12
The New Testament church did not live in a culture that was supportive or encouraging to its values. The culture in the 1st century Mediterranean world was immoral, idolatrous, and often violently opposed to Christianity. Yet our older brothers and sisters in Christ counted the cost. They were not trying to transform culture, they were trying to live lives obedient to their Master. So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” – Luke 17:10