A Real Savior for Real Sinners

by Matthew C. Harrison 

When Roe fell last June, 63,000,000 babies had been aborted in the U.S. since a “right” to abortion was coerced out of the Bill of Rights some 50 years earlier. That’s an astounding number, given the widespread, even ubiquitous availability of contraceptives in the same period. (I’ll leave aside the issue of abortifacient drugs for the point I’m making.) Not counting women with multiple abortions, that means 63 million women have tragically opted to terminate the lives in their wombs. It takes two to tango, so they say, so that means an additional 63 million men have been complicit. Sin, death and the devil have taken 63 million lives, and had their way with 126 million more in the U.S. alone. And make no mistake, the U.S. is a huge global influence through government, media, entertainment, non-governmental organizations and more. We have spread our pro-abortion culture worldwide.

While The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has gone on record dozens of times at its national conventions, opposing abortion with nearly unanimous votes, one of our greatest challenges is reaching our own people with the truth of God’s Word and the compassion of Jesus. The world presses its pragmatic lies. Quality of life. Potential disabilities. Likely mental illness. Limitations on the mother or parents. Who will raise such a child? And those lies are driven right into the hearts and minds of our LCMS people. (Please think about abortion while reading the account of Elizabeth’s visitation of Mary and the interchange where John the Baptizer leaps in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb [Luke 1:41].) Why are these lies so deceptive in our world, and even in the lives and minds of people who have been taught the opposite by the Word of God? “Did God actually say?” (Gen. 3:1) Satan asked Eve in the garden.

Why did a state like Illinois, which was once completely pro-life — the state had a pro-life trigger law from 1975 that was repealed in 2017 — become the abortion capital of the Midwest? The answer is in part in the human conscience. The conscience bears the law of God, “written on their hearts,” as St. Paul says.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom. 2:14–16)

The “law is written on their hearts.” You don’t have to be a Christian to realize killing unborn children is wrong. The conscience causes millions (126 million?) to continue to advocate abortion with few or no limitations. By that I mean, if the Supreme Court or politicians or popular culture or the nation supports abortion, the pangs of conscience over the sin of an abortion are soothed and buried and the act justified. “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (Eph. 4:19).

Abortion will continue. The numbers have decreased since the Dobbs decision. But states like Illinois have been busy removing any and all impediments and inviting out-of-state abortion providers to locate in the state as surrounding states (like Missouri) have eliminated or restricted abortion.

We know a better way for burdened consciences. We know it because we confess it every week about ourselves. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (LSB, p. 151). As Luther once begged a friend:

Join us truly great and hardboiled sinners so that you do not diminish Christ for us, who is not a saviour for imaginary or trivial sins but rather for real sins. … In this way Staupitz used to comfort me in my melancholic periods, saying “You wish to be a ‘painted sinner’ and to have a ‘painted Christ’ as your saviour. You must get used to the fact that Christ is a real saviour and that you are a real sinner.”[1]

Who of us has not been deceived by the devil, the world and the flesh? Even daily our thoughts, words and actions convict us. We try to cover our sin by suppressing our consciences, ever justifying our thoughts and actions. “Well, he started it!” “I’ll forgive her when she comes and apologizes to me first!” “He had it coming!” “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. … Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:19, 24). Christ. Christ comes only for sinners.

We will advocate for life. We’ll act responsibly in the public realm. We’ll march. But the greatest thing we can do is speak forgiveness in Jesus. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The deception of abortion and its practitioners has wounded the lives and hearts and consciences of millions upon millions. We have the only true cure for the conscience: “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

We will act on behalf of the unborn. As I’ve gotten to know the pro-life community over the past two decades, I have seen overwhelming compassion for children and for women who have had abortions. I’ve seen organizations and individuals provide money and support for women and babies in crisis by the thousands upon thousands. During the third century plague in Carthage, North Africa, Bishop Cyprian led his people in caring for the sick and dying (Christian or not) and burying the dead. The testimony of love that gave to the world was overwhelming. So also we are called to do the same in this continuing plague of abortion. We shall forgive in the name of Jesus, and love and care in the name of Jesus. I’m delighted that the “Million Dollar Life Match” (see the Snippets in this issue) is doing just that all over the LCMS.

[1] Martin Luther to George Spalatin, August 21, 1544. Translated by Elmore Leske, edited and revised by Stephen Pietsch. Available at doxology.us.

–Pastor Harrison

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