Some stories make me really angry. Some make me really sad. This one accomplishes both. First, the part that makes me angry.
State Delegate Bob Marshall of Manassas, Virginia says disabled children are God’s punishment to women who have aborted their first pregnancy. He made that statement last week at a press conference to oppose state funding for Planned Parenthood.
“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” said Marshall. “In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”
This particular Christian would suggest nothing of the kind. Mr. Marshall’s declaration of God’s intent is staggering in it’s arrogance. Is every child born after the mother has had an abortion delivered with handicaps? Of course not. Are some children born with handicaps to moms who never had an abortion? Of course. Joni and I are the parents of a little girl who was born with a profound birth defect. She lived eighteen months. Joni never had an abortion. But we did have a Christian “friend” who suggested that there might be sin in our lives that led to her birth defect. That was really helpful. Some of the events surrounding her birth and life led to my first book, When Bad Christians Happen to Good People.
The accusation did cause me to examine what a more reliable source said about who is to blame when hard things happen in life. Jesus was asked about some tragedies that had occurred and it is interesting to note that He did not establish blame…
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. (John 9, The Message)
There was another time when Jesus could have let us know how judgment is dispensed here on earth.
About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were sacrificing at the Temple in Jerusalem. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than other people from Galilee?” he asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will also perish unless you turn from your evil ways and turn to God. And what about the eighteen men who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will also perish.” (NLT, Luke 13)
If Jesus had a chance to establish blame and did not do it then I am pretty sure that a politician cannot decipher where God’s judgment might fall. Jesus did call for repentance as individuals. But He did not tie their spiritual condition to the tragedies that happen in life. My God disciplines as an act of grace but He does not punish. There is an incredible difference.
I do not question Mr.Marshall’s heart to protect the unborn. I share that desire. I do disagree strongly with his casting shame and doubt instead of stating his case for the value of life with grace and truth. That is the part that makes me sad. The comments that accompanied the article were typical and heartbreaking like this one from Sarah.
“These people call themselves Christian???? No wonder Christians are disliked often by the secular world.”
That would be my response if I were an unchurched person and I heard comments like this. You can stand firm for your convictions and still demonstrate grace. People are repelled by high-handed moralizing but they are drawn to grace. Tim Keller wrote this in his amazing book, The Reason for God.
God’s grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior.
Those who realize their need for a Savior are humbled by that grace. I have made the point many times that it is easy for unbelievers to dismiss the hypocrite. No problem to ignore the angry and judgmental religious types. But I remember being troubled when I saw some Christians who displayed something different in their lives. I could not dismiss so readily the joy, peace, strength, courage and love that they modeled. They were “troublesome” Christians to me. I could not ignore them because their lives were authentic and different (different good, not weird). I want to be that kind of Christian.