Ask RC: Should Churches observe Sanctity of Life Sunday?
It is a legitimate and important question- the appropriateness of celebrating the incarnation, the celebration of Christmas. I believe it fitting and appropriate, but am in turn always uncomfortable disagreeing with brothers to my right. I understand their concerns, and appreciate their passion for the regulative principle of worship. On the other hand, one can not rightly argue that the birth of the Savior is off limits in the pulpit. The Bible talks about it, and so we may preach about it. Given that, I cannot embrace a position that suggests we can preach about it, but not in December. If we are allowed to preach the promises in Genesis, in Isaiah, if we are allowed to preach the first few chapters of Luke, it seems we ought to be allowed to preach them at any time of year.
The same, it seems to me, applies to not only the church calendar but to church history. That is, we can preach on the Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and in turn about the resurrection, and so ought to be allowed to preach consecutive sermons on these events each spring. In like manner, if we are right that the Bible teaches the solas of the Reformation, it seems that it would be safe to preach on them the last Sunday in October. One is not, in so doing, becoming Romish in imposing a church calendar, or constructing holy days without biblical warrant. One is instead remembering the grace of God in space, and in time.
While the choice of December 25 as the anniversary of Jesus’ birth is rather dubious, we do know with certainty what happened on January 22, 1973. On that day the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case Roe v. Wade. The nine men determined that every state had the duty to give women unfettered access to abortion up until the birth of the child. It was a day whose infamy overshadows December 7, 1941 in the memory of the church in America. Since that time perhaps 50, 000, 000 babies have been murdered in the womb with the full protection of the state and the knowledge of the church.
Abortion in America is, in the judgment of my very wise father, the greatest evil in our history. The American holocaust dwarves the evil of Nazi Germany in both numbers of the dead, and the numbers of we who know what is happening. Can we then impose an obligation that every pulpit should speak against this great evil on the third Sunday of every January? Of course not. The pulpit, like the bearers of God’s image, is sacred. We can not rightly impose any obligation not explicitly found in Scripture. We no more ought to impose Sanctity of Life Sunday on the church than we should impose the observance of the birth of Jesus.
On the other hand, Sanctity of Life Sunday is as fitting, as sensible, as reasonable as observing the Incarnation from the pulpit. Just as we must preach the glory of the incarnation, sometime, if not in December, so we must preach the horror of this evil sometime, if not in January. To be silent is to be complicit. It is to tell our children and grandchildren that we are as guilty as those Germans who knew, and were silent. Of course our pews are filled with the guilty. The same is true of every sin we preach against. Of course the grace of God in Christ trumps even this great evil.
But the same Jesus who died for our sins calls on us to suffer the children to come unto Him. When we are silent, when we treat abortion as a mere social problem, a mere political issue, we expose our complicity. So preach faithfully. Proclaim not the sanctity of life, but the holiness of God, whose image the least of these bear. Call for repentance from the pulpit God placed under your care. Preach the same good news that He preached, that the captive are to be set free, that those marching toward death are to be rescued. Preach, and take the heat. For Jesus says such will make you blessed. Walk by faith, and preach by faith, in season and out of season.
Ask R.C. December 30, 2010
Ask R.C. January 4, 2011