Kevin DeYoung / Jan 22, 2017 / Exodus 21:12-36
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Sermon Summary / Transcript
Let’s pray. Dear Father, what a privilege it is to be your children and to open your word. What an amazing blessing it is that you have adopted us and spoken to us, and that you continue to speak to us through the Scriptures. Help us to learn to listen and love you more, and to know your love for us. In Christ we pray, amen.
Our text this morning comes from Exodus 21. We’ve been moving, section by section, through this book since we started this series a year and a half ago. We’re coming into a section of laws which can look scattered and random, but there’s definitely a pattern to them, as we’ll see.
Even in the midst of all of these laws, some of which sound strange (or frankly harsh) to us, my prayer has been that you’ll find them surprisingly relevant for our day—today in particular.
“Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.
“Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.
“Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.
“Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.
“When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed.
“When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.
“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
“When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.
“When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him. If it gores a man’s son or daughter, he shall be dealt with according to this same rule. If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
“When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.
“When one man’s ox butts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and share its price, and the dead beast also they shall share. Or if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall repay ox for ox, and the dead beast shall be his. Exodus 21:12-36
This section of laws directly after the Ten Commandments is called “the Book of the Covenant” in Exodus 24:7. There are a number of factors which make this entire section difficult for us. First, it’s simply not about the world we inhabit. It’s about a world of slaves, oxen, and donkeys. I don’t know if any of you rode your donkey here today, but there’s a nice bike rack out front where you could park it! Second, it can seem overly harsh. It hands out the death penalty for all sorts of infractions. Third, you might think to yourself, “We don’t really follow these rules, right? They may be historical curiosities (and I might be a little embarrassed by them), but they aren’t our commands. We don’t do these things anymore, so we don’t really need this part of the Bible. It’s not like the Ten Commandments.”
How do we interpret and apply sections of Scripture like this? That’s a large question that could take up a whole sermon, but let me just give you a three-minute aside. Particularly within the Reformed tradition, there’s a long history of distinguishing between different kinds of commandments. Traditionally, the Old Testament law has been broken down into three divisions: the ceremonial law, which has to do with sacrifices, the Tabernacle, and priestly rituals; the civil law, which deals with penalties for crimes and other infractions; and the moral law, the abiding moral principles which last for all time, which are summarized in the Ten Commandments.
We see that Jesus and the apostle Paul referenced the Ten Commandments as possessing abiding authority. We also know that Jesus pronounced unclean foods clean (and that Peter received a vision of that pronouncement), so the ceremonial laws find their fulfillment in Christ. We don’t need a temple, because the Holy Spirit indwells us. We don’t need sacrifices, because Christ was the sacrifice. We don’t need priests, because he was the last high priest.
Then we have perhaps the most confusing category—that of civil laws. The Westminster Confession of Faith says that, though these are not our laws (per se), we do benefit from the “general equity” of these commandments. What does that mean? It means that these are still a kind of analogy, or reference. There are still principles in all of these laws that we can learn from and apply to our lives.
For example, we see in this passage a number of capital crimes: “If you do this, then you’ll die.” Interestingly, when you look at the New Testament, capital punishment is not completely set aside (we see that in Romans 13). But so many of these laws are transposed to a different key. We’re no longer dealing with civil infractions, judicial crime, and punishment, but with the spiritual realities of the church.
For example, in 1 Corinthians 5:13, Paul is talking about church discipline. There is sexual immorality ongoing in the Corinthian church, and he says that if this person didn’t repent, they needed to expel him. He ends that chapter by saying, “Purge the evil person. Purge the wickedness. Expel the evil person from your midst.”
Fascinatingly, that very expression occurs six times in Deuteronomy in reference to capital punishment. In other words, the language of capital punishment in the Mosaic covenant—where you’re living in a theocracy, so if you sin in these egregious ways, you are to be put to death—is no longer how the New Testament expects us to apply these commandments. We are now strangers and aliens, scattered in the world. We are the Israel of God. There is no theocracy except the church (in a way). These commands to put people to death for various crimes are now transposed in the New Testament to speak of life together as a church. Who can belong to the covenant community? Who needs to be set aside? Who needs to be purged and expelled—not by death, but by the duly administered discipline of the church?
I want to walk through these laws to understand what is going on. Then in the second half of the sermon, we’ll look at three abiding principles (the “general equity”) that we can draw from this section of Scripture. I hope you have your Bibles open, because we’re going to move through this quickly. I said before that this section looks haphazard, but it’s not. It’s divided into three smaller sections: the first deals with capital crimes, the second with personal injuries, and the third with criminal negligence.
Laws about Capital Crimes
The first example we see of a capital crime is murder. Verse 12 speaks of premeditated murder: if you murder someone intentionally, you are to be put to death.
Verse 13 goes on to give some exceptions to this. It describes a murder that’s not premeditated. When it says “God let him fall into his hand,” it means that (in the providence of God) there was an accident. Maybe an ax head fell off its handle and hit the man in the head. Maybe he was in a battle, and friendly fire killed him. Either way, it was not intentional. It was an involuntary homicide. In that case, God says, “I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee.” What’s that talking about? Well, later in the Mosaic law, God stipulates a number of cities of refuge.
See, you have to keep in mind that the ancient Near-Eastern culture was an honor culture: “If you dishonor my family, I’ll dishonor you. If you curse me, I’ll curse you. If you slap my momma, you’d better watch out!” This actually helps make sense of what the Lord says to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse…”
Often, if someone was dishonored or hurt, someone from the aggrieved family (called “the avenger of blood”) would immediately go to avenge him as part of defending their good name and honor. If you killed someone, whether accidentally or not, the Lord appointed cities of refuge for you. In other words, before that enraged family member could come and defend his honor by putting you to death, there were six sanctuary cities scattered throughout Israel that you could flee to. It was a place for cooler heads to prevail—where a trial and judicial sentencing could take place, so that you wouldn’t just get killed on the spot. The Lord was providing for different kinds of homicide.
Go to verse 14—back to willful, premeditated, cold-blooded attacks: “ You shall take him from my altar, that he may die.” The ancient world commonly considered the altar, where sacrifices were burned, as the holiest place. You couldn’t be killed if you were there. So, some people thought, “Even if I murder someone in cold blood and the city of refuge doesn’t apply to me, I can run and grab the horns of the altar.” It’s like saying, “You can’t hurt me or arrest me, even though I committed a crime, because I’m in a church.” The Lord says, “No, that doesn’t give you safety from your crime. Remove him from the altar, that he may die. He’s not safe just because he’s clinging to the altar.”
Look at the next paragraph (verse 15): “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.” Now, “strike” is not a fist bump, or even a slap (as egregious as that would be). This Hebrew verb means something like “to beatdown”. It’s translated in Genesis 4:15 as “to kill”. This is more than just a hit. It’s a beatdown of your parents, even if they don’t die. So parents are set at a higher threshold. The other commandments involved killing someone, but here, if you beatdown your parents, you’ll be put to death.
Next, verse 16: “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” As I’ve said before, even though the Old Testament restrains and regulates the system of slavery without completely outlawing it, the whole Trans-Atlantic slave trade should have been outlawed from the very beginning in a Biblical worldview. As it says here: “If you steal, sell, or if you are in possession of one”— so you can’t just say, “Well, what was I going to do? They had already been stolen, and I wanted to give them a good home—“you are to be put to death.
Finally, verse 17: “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.” This is not a reference to a quick mumble under ones breath, or even saying “Mom and Dad, I hate you” (as bad as that would be). This speaks of a formal denunciation of your parents, or even a public oath rejecting them in YHWH’s name.
So what we have here are three kinds of capital offenses, rooted in three violations of the Ten Commandments. You’re put to death if you egregiously violate the sixth commandment (murder), the fifth commandment (honoring your father and mother), or the eighth commandment (stealing—and not just stealing things, but stealing a person). Each of these particularly heinous violations are to be met with capital punishment. That’s the first big category.
Laws about Personal Injury
The second category begins at verse 18: laws that relate to personal injuries. In the first paragraph, it speaks of a fight “with a stone” (an expression for any kind of weapon) “or with his fist” (meaning “without a weapon”). There was no compensation for mental anguish, as we sometimes have. It’s strictly paying for the loss of time.
If you beat someone, but he hasn’t died—he’s taken to his bed, and then he’s walking around outdoors with a staff. This isn’t even just a bar fight where you punch somebody in the gut. This is somebody who is beat down and laid waste to. He’s in the hospital, as we would say, but he’s going to make a recovery. You have to pay him for the time that he is losing.
It goes on to beating slaves in verse 20. If you so severely exercise discipline or corporal punishment on your slave that he dies, “he shall be avenged.” That’s another way of saying that you will be put to death. Someone will come as an avenger of the slave to do that. Notice that: capital punishment was not just to be administered if a free man or woman was put to death, but also if a slave was put to death. In the ancient Near East, it was radical to have laws that applied to free and slave alike.
It goes on to say that if the slave survives, he is not to be avenged, because “the slave is his money.” That sounds a bit crass to us, but it’s simply saying that the master needs to be compensated for his loss, but he can’t pay himself for the lost productivity of his own slave. That’s normally how it would work. If you injured a person, you’d need to pay compensation for him. But this is his own slave. It’s his economic investment. It wouldn’t make sense for him to pay himself, since he’s already shot himself in the foot. He’s already had to do without his slave because he’s treated him so severely.
Move on to the next paragraph. In verse 22, two men are striving, and in the midst of their rage, one of them strikes a pregnant woman. Again, this isn’t just an accident, where a stray arm or something else happens to glance off a mother. It’s a serious word. The idea may even be that the pregnant woman is killed—we can’t be sure.
Then there’s a phrase which commentators struggle with: “…but there is no harm…” You see that in verses 22 and 23. The question is: to whom does the harm phrase refer? Are we talking about no harm to the woman, or no harm to the child that she’s carrying? I think that it’s clearly speaking of harm to the child. I say that because verse 22 makes it clear that the man has already hit a pregnant woman—again, this a strike. It’s an aggressive, horrible kind of abuse from a man to another man’s wife. The wife wouldn’t have escaped without any harm. That’s a given. The question is: is there is additional harm to the child?
When it says “so that her children come out”, “children” is plural. Why plural? Does this just apply to women with twins or triplets? No, it refers to the child that she may be carrying or any subsequent children that she might have. If it was found out that the child that she was carrying had some sort of damage because of this, there would be one set of laws. If it was found out that, because of this assault against her, she was unable to have children, there would be a further penalty to be paid. That’s what it means by “her children”: the child she is carrying or any future children.
But if there’s no harm—the baby is okay, and there is no damage to the woman’s reproductive system or her future childbearing years—then the woman still must be avenged—not by death, but with a penalty. The husband would impose a fine, and the judge would determine it to compensate for the offense against the woman.
Then it goes on to say (verse 23): “But if there is harm…” It stands to reason that if the first harm clause dealt with the child, which we think it does, then this harm clause also deals with the child. If there is harm inflicted upon the unborn child, “then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth…” I’ll come back to this at the end. You’ll see clearly that an unborn fetus is not treated as a mass of tissue, a potential life, or an incidental injury, but as a human person. We’ll come back to that.
Laws about Criminal Negligence
In verse 28, we have the third category: criminal negligence. Here, it has to do with animals. If your ox (and, by extension, any sort of animal) gores someone—if someone is killed by the animal—then you don’t get to eat the meat, but you’re not liable. Animals do crazy things and you can’t be responsible for them always. But the animal is put to death, and you don’t get to sell or eat the meat. That’s the penalty.
Now if the ox or other animal has a habit of doing this—if this is known crazy bull—and you didn’t lock him up, then the animal is killed and so are you. You’re responsible, because you should have known better. In fact, you did know better. You’ve seen this happen before, and you still didn’t care enough for your neighbors.
It’s the same for someone’s son or daughter, but the death penalty will not be inflicted if the ox gores your slave. You aren’t killed, maybe because it’s hard to tell who’s at fault when you are a master giving instructions to a slave. But you still have to pay a fine.
It goes on then to explain what happens if an animal gets hurt. What if you dig a pit and he falls into it? You need to pay for the dead animal. It’s almost as if you’re purchasing the meat at market price, since you’ve carelessly left a pit open in your field, and the animal has fallen in and died.
Finally, verses 35-36: what happens if an animal hurts another animal? Similarly, you sell the live animal. If one animal gores another, you sell the live animal and split the proceeds (and the meat of the dead animal) between the one who is the victim and the one who owned the animal. But if your animal has a habit of doing this, you exchange your live one for his dead one.
It’s like taking care of your car. The law says that you have to have insurance. If you are going to drive a car, you have to have insurance, so that if something goes wrong, you can provide for those who may be harmed. You have a responsibility, as a driver and an owner of a vehicle, to ensure that the car is working properly and not a danger to others.
I don’t know how all the legal system works, but I imagine these principles are still at play today. If something spontaneously combusts in your car, someone will be blamed. It may be the manufacturer. But if you’re driving around with open propane tanks in the back seat of your car while you’re smoking, then you’re going to receive another level of criminal punishment. You should have known better and taken care of your vehicle, just as the Israelites had to think of others while taking care of their animals.
I won’t say what my very first car was, but it wasn’t a GM or a Ford. It turned out to be a lemon. I’d like to say that it taught me all sorts of things about taking care of cars, but no: it taught me all of the things that I don’t know about cars. But sometimes, this car would just stop. It would be in a parking lot, and it just wouldn’t start; or I would get to an intersection, and it would just stop.
I learned enough to know that something was loose in the alternator. All I knew how to do, so that I didn’t look like a complete doofus, was to get out of my car and open the hood. By that time, I was feeling really good. “I found the hood latch!” I always hate that when I go for an oil change. “Pop the hood? Why don’t you do it for me? I’m just testing!” Then I’d have a ratchet, and it might look as if I were doing something with the alternator. Actually, I was hitting the alternator. When Trish and I were dating, she wasn’t happy that I had this car. She wanted me to have a pickup truck or something cool. But whenever she borrowed my car, I had to tell her: “Just so you know, here’s the ratchet, and here’s the thing that you hit when it doesn’t work.” It was not a safe car, so we were very glad to get rid of it. I’m sure somebody sold it for dysfunctional parts.
You have to maintain the safety of your home and your vehicle, just like they had to look out for the safety of their animals, to that you won’t be guilty of criminal negligence. That’s what’s going on.
The Abiding Principles
Let’s quickly move through three abiding principles. We’ll spend most of our time on the last. This is where I hope you’ll see the relevance of this text today. The first principle which we see is that the punishment should fit the crime (verse 24): “eye for eye, tooth for tooth…” It’s called “Lex talionis”, which is Latin for “the law of the tooth”. The punishment should fit the crime.
We have a hard time with this, because we’ve heard the saying of Gandhi: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” More importantly than Gandhi, we know that Jesus says (in the Sermon on the Mount), “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” We think, “What is Jesus doing? Is he saying that he doesn’t agree with this part of the Old Testament?” No. In that section of the Sermon on the Mount, he was correcting a misapplication of Lex Talionis. People would use it as an excuse to exchange cruelty for cruelty. He said, “No, it doesn’t give you an excuse to seethe with rage in your heart. Love your enemies and pray for them.” The intent, even in the Old Testament, was not to be cruel.
But it sounds cruel to us, until you realize a couple of things. First, this was not usually a literal law. It’s true that if you killed someone, you’d be put to death, but just look at the rest of the examples here: eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn doesn’t happen literally. It’s applied to a child in the womb, but that child was not being burned.
Later, when a slave is injured, it doesn’t say, “If you’re beaten, but you live, then you get to get up and beat them.” No, there’s a fine imposed or some other system. It’s not literally like someone pokes out your eye if you poked out theirs. Don’t you see that with the law about slaves in verse 26? “…strikes the eye of his slave…” Then, in verse 27, “…knocks out the tooth… That’s exactly what we are talking about: eyes and teeth. But it doesn’t say the slave then gets to turn around and destroy the eye and tooth of his master. No, he gets to go free. This is not a literal eye for eye. It’s an expression of “the punishment should fit the crime”. That’s the first thing to keep in mind.
The second thing is to remember that this was an expression of moderation, not of cruelty. What’s the alternative to an eye for an eye? It’s “your head for an eye”, “your neck for a burn”, and “your whole family, clan, and village because I was dishonored.” Far from being excessively cruel, Lex talionis was meant to prevent personal vengeance and curtail excessive punishment. Metaphorically, if someone lost an eye, you lose an eye. If you knock out a tooth, you lose a tooth. The punishment fits the crime. Nothing more. Nothing less.
That’s still the principle that we have in our own judicial system. There are different levels of punishments for different kinds of crimes, based on intentions, habits, and how many times it has happened. If you’re going 10 miles over the speed limit, you might get one sort of ticket. But if you’re going 50 over, you’ll get another sort of ticket. How seriously you have violated the law?
We know this as parents. There are certain things that get a timeout. There are other things that make for uncomfortable sitting for some period of the day. There are other things that make us say, “You’re grounded”, and still others where we say, “Come here right now. I never want to hear that from your mouth again.” The punishment fits the crime. It’s still a principle that most of us instinctively do, and it’s written in a hundred different ways into our laws.
Here’s the second principle: careful responsibility is a way to love your neighbor. You’ve got to love how practical the Bible is. “Love your neighbor as yourself!” There’s probably not a person in the country who doesn’t like the sound of that. “Yes, that’s very good. Love your neighbor as yourself. What does it mean?” Well, the Bible tells us: “Keep an eye on your ox.” It’s one thing to say, “Oh, I love my neighbor. I just want to love, do mercy to people, and be in social justice.” Okay, can you keep an eye on your own ox so that he doesn’t hurt people? Don’t dig a big pit in your field and allow other animals to fall into it because you didn’t mark it off with a fence. Put a railing around your roof, so that when people are out there, they don’t fall. Build a fence around your pool. Shovel your sidewalk. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t text and drive. Keep your dog on a leash—what looks like a big puppy playing to the owner feels quite different to an eight-year-old child—or sometimes to people like me!
We love our neighbor by doing a hundred little things to think ahead, follow through, show up on time, and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes—making sure your house and car are safe, and a thousand other things. Careful responsibility is a way of loving your neighbor.
The final principle is that life is precious. Some of it seems cruel when you first read it, but what underlies these rules? It’s the rock solid conviction that life is precious. Human life is not based on class. If you kill a slave, you’ll die. It’s not based on gender. The protection for parents is for both mothers and fathers. That could be revolutionary: “Don’t curse your father, but your mom can get it all the time.” “No, no, no. You’ll face the penalty.”
In some other ancient Near-Eastern literature, capital punishment was only warranted if you murdered someone of the same or higher class, not of a lower class. We see here in the Bible that all human life is precious. Why? Because it’s all made in the image of God! Back in Genesis, after the flood in Genesis 9, we have this principle:
And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. Genesis 9:5-6
We can debate whether capital punishment is administered effectively, and how we should think about it politically, but (as a principle) there’s no doubt that it’s in the Bible, and it’s there precisely because of the preciousness of human life. That’s the argument of Genesis 9: every life is made in the image of God, and if you snuff out one of those image-bearers, you deserve to be snuffed out.
Life is precious. It’s not based on class, gender, or your position inside or outside of the womb. Today, as you may know, is the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Even if they disagree with them, many people think that our abortion laws are fairly mainstream compared to the rest of the world, but that’s not the case. Though the laws differ from state to state, the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade handed down one of the most extreme abortion laws (or lack thereof) in the world. The United States is one of only ten nations that allow abortion after 14 weeks of gestation, and one of only four countries (Canada, North Korea, China, and the United States) that allow abortion for any reason after viability.
In 1862, the Battle of Antietam was (and still remains) the bloodiest single-day bloodiest battle in American history. 23,000 people died in a single day. Over the last 43 years, we have had an Antietam every week. It hasn’t been front page news, but almost 60 million unborn children have died.
If you’re thinking, “Pastor, why are you getting political?”, it’s not primarily political. It’s exegetical. It’s in our text. We see the intrinsic value placed upon human life in the womb in this text. You’ve all heard of the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth principle, whether you like it or not. Did you know that it’s here in the Bible in reference to children in the womb? “If someone strikes a pregnant woman, and there is harm to the child…” We’re talking about the baby’s eye, the fetus’s tooth—the life of an unborn child.
It is life. The textbook “The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 8th Edition” says, “Human development begins at fertilization, when a male gamete (or sperm) unites with a female gamete (or ovum) to form a single cell, a zygote. This highly-specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” The 5th Edition of Langman’s Medical Embryology, which is (I think) the textbook used at MSU (though maybe they use a later edition which no longer has this), says, “The development of the human begins with fertilization, the process by which the sperm from the male and the ovum from the female unite to give rise to a new organism.” We did not come from embryos. You and I were embryos! We didn’t used to be anything else. That was us, at that moment of conception.
At 18 days, the baby’s heart begins to beat. At 21 days, it pumps its own blood with its own blood type through its own circulatory system. At 28 days, its eyes, ears, and respiratory system begin to form. At 42 days, brain waves can be recorded and reflexes are present. At 7 weeks, you might see an image of your baby sucking its thumb. At 8 weeks, all body systems are present. At 9 weeks, before most women show (or maybe even know) that they are pregnant, the baby can squint, swallow, move its tongue, and make a fist. At 11 weeks, there are spontaneous breathing movements, and it has fingernails. At 15 weeks, the baby has an adult’s tastebuds. At 16 weeks, the genital organs are clearly differentiated, and it can grasp with its hands, swim, kick, turn, and do somersaults not even felt yet by the mother. At 17 weeks, the baby can dream when it sleeps. At 18 weeks, the vocal chords work, and the baby can cry. At 20 weeks (the time you’re having your ultrasound) it has hair on its head, weighs a pound, and is a foot long. It can recognize its mother’s voice. At 24 weeks, 56% of babies (maybe more now, since this site was pretty old) survive premature birth, and the number goes up exponentially every week thereafter.
Many people have used the SLED argument when thinking about abortion: Size, Level of development, Environment, and Dependency. Are bigger people more deserving of protection than smaller people? Does your three year old have more rights than your three month old because she can talk? Does a teenager have more rights than a four year old because he can drive? Do your rights as a human person change when you’re in your car, in your home, in a suit, in your bathrobe, or underwater? Does your environment change what sort of rights you have as a person? Why should those inches down the birth canal change the rights that child has as a human person? “Well, the baby is completely dependent upon the mother.” Does the person who relies on daily insulin injections to live have less of a right to do so? What about the person who has to go multiple times a week for dialysis, or they will die? Do they have less of a right to live? What if you have to take pills every morning to keep your cholesterol down so that you don’t die a premature death? Do you, because you are dependent upon those, have less of a right to live?
I know this can be an incredibly painful issue. Whenever you talk about children in this way, it is. Some of you perhaps have had (or even now have) a different way of viewing these things. I call you to search the Scriptures and see what God says. Many of you have lost children, whether in this life or in the womb (because of miscarriage). Some of you aren’t able to have children. Some of you are trying to have them. Whenever you bring up children, it’s emotional.
There may be women here who have had abortions. There may be men or family members here who pressured them to have abortions. You need to hear clearly from the foot of the cross that that is not the unforgivable sin. It is a sin that the Lord Jesus Christ died to forgive, save, and heal.
This is why I said that you may find it extremely relevant on this anniversary of this Supreme Court case to see that all of life is precious. Unborn life is precious. Children with special needs are precious. Aging parents are precious—even when they don’t remember because they’re suffering dementia, they’re still made in the image of God. Children or parents who are non-verbal, those in a wheelchair, and those who are completely dependent upon you or doctors are precious. All of life matters to God. If we have our eyes open, we can see this in even the most surprising places in the Bible, like Lex talionis. You see it here in the Mosaic law. You see it in imago dei. You see it in the incarnation. God himself became a baby.
Protect, honor, and give thanks for life—both of yours, your children’s, and your parent’s. May we all pray, work, and labor, no matter what political party we’re a part of or who we voted for, so that all of human life, made in the image of God, is considered precious and has a right to live.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, these are heavy things. Your word leads us into heavy things. We thank you for children, and for life. We thank you for the miracle that is each new organism, which all of us were at one time. We pray that you would give us a heart, a mind, and a will to love, defend, and celebrate life. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.
Transcription and editing provided by 10:17 Transcription
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