Monday, January 21, 2013

'An Open Letter to the Beloved Opposition' on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

(Listen to this sermon online here).

To My Dearly Beloved Unbeliever, 

Greetings. First of all let me say how much I love you, and miss you. There should never be any question about my affection for you. You are and always will be held dearly in my heart, and I pray for you daily. Nothing I write in this letter will compromise my love.

I am writing today because it has been so long since we have spoken face to face, and I felt that some correspondence was urgent. Some real dialogue. So much of what you have to say to me, and what I have to say to you has been reduced to the lowest forms of modern communication—Facebook posts, YouTube clips, bumper stickers, and rally posters. 

The last time we talked you mentioned to me “how much I had changed” in recent years; that you hardly know me anymore. I think you are right, and part of my reason for writing is to explain how that change has happened and why even more is yet to come. If I could only explain to you how my experience with Christ has changed my life, my thinking, my worldview, my ethics then perhaps we could understand one another better.

Therefore I am writing this letter to you today to respond to a few of the misconceptions that it seems you may hold about our beliefs and convictions as Christians.  I hope (and beg you) to listen with the open-mindedness and the tolerance that you so often accuse me of lacking.

1. First of all, you said we are ‘growing apart’ and don’t have much in common anymore. It pains me to say it, but I completely agree. I’m noticing it too; the gap between us is widening daily! And I am not surprised that we both feel this way. My master the Lord Jesus Christ told us that this would happen. He said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34-35).

Now, before you go off again accusing us Christians of trying to establish some kind of ‘theocracy,’ –jamming our religion down people’s throats-- let me explain what Jesus meant when He spoke of 'peace' and 'the sword.'

Let's not take this verse in Matthew out of context. Jesus did come to bring a kind of peace. He came to bring the ultimate peace that can ever be had—peace with God through the forgiveness of our sins. The Apostle Paul said, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). 

I have that peace with God now that I am a believer, and it has totally renovated my entire life. I cannot tell you how freeing it is to have my guilt, my shame, my regrets, my pain all wiped away in His blood!

The division that Jesus speaks of here (the sword He came to bring, vs. 34) is a division of ultimate allegiances. A division of worldviews. A division of values. A division of convictions. Most of these differences run so deeply that—by way of analogy—it is as though we are on opposite sides of a war. Not a literal war, of course, but a cultural, spiritual, moral war. You might say that we are serving two different ‘kings’ with completely contrasting claims of sovereignty.

As one of our great writers J.C. Ryle once explained, “So long as one man believes and another remains unbelieving, so long as one is resolved to keep his sins and another to give them up, the result of the Gospel must needs be division. For this, the Gospel is not to blame, but the heart of man.”[i]

That “growing apart” that you described, is us both growing closer to our respective king.

2. And that leads me to answer the second question that you posed to me in your letter, i.e. to explain why it seems that I have become so radical these days. I think the exact words that you used were “religious nutcase.” Or was it “Bible thumper?”  I can’t exactly remember, and in any case, I’m getting used to it now. I’ve been hearing it more and more often lately.

Please let me explain that when Jesus saves a man—snatches him up by the power of His irresistible grace--He intends to redeem  the entire man, not just to make him “religious.”  In fact, Christ makes exhaustive claims over his life. Jesus said in this same chapter, 'And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it' (Matthew 10:38-39).

Do you see how all-encompassing His claims are over me? That I cannot just give Him a part of my life? He did not give us that option. If anything, to my own shame, I am not yet radical enough! 

So please don’t be astonished or startled when I choose to live my life in sharp contrast to yours. For instance, when I don’t laugh at your jokes, or enjoy the same films, or treat women as sexual objects to be used, or smirk at your porn addiction. I’ve “lost” those things (vs. 39).

Please don’t be offended when I refuse to go golfing or boating on the Lord’s Day anymore. It’s not that I don’t value our time together. I do. But I’ve found something so much greater in Christ.

And when I do unexplainable things that seem crazy to you—like give away a tenth of every paycheck before I even cash it, even if I have to drive this Chevy Prism for ten more years— it’s because I’ve come to see that I owe everything ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING to Christ!

In fact, the further I “carry the cross” of obedience, giving up the things of this world, the more joyful it becomes to me. This is the great paradox of obedience, and I can’t expect you to understand fully—yet.

And now, my Beloved Friend, let me take up a specific ethical issue that has deeply divided us. Jesus’ warning that 'A man’s enemies will be those of his own household' have proven true for us. It would seem that the chasm separating us cannot possibly be wider than here.

3. You asked me how I could possibly believe something as ‘judgmental,’ ‘narrow,’ and ‘backward’ as I do in regard to abortion.  To my great sadness, you even called me a ‘bigot,’ and alleged that I ‘just want to take away women’s rights to choose.’ Let's be honest: we both know that's a terrible lie.

Oh how I beg you to hear me out! How I plead with you to set aside the media’s caricature of Christians, and listen to our convictions for once!

If you would understand me at all, you must first see how highly we value the Word of God. Our position on this matter, is not our own. We believe it represents the very mind and heart of God as it is revealed in Scripture. And it is after all, God’s view alone that truly matters as Creator of Life.  

Everywhere we turn, we see the Bible underscoring the sanctity of human life. In fact, today is a day that we Christians call “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.” This principle, that God created, loves, and values human life is everywhere in the Bible:

  • "But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:31-32). If God values my course, graying and receding hairline, does He not value the soft tender locks of the unborn child in the womb?
  • And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42). I ask you, is there any “little one” littler than the unborn child? More defenseless? Helpless?
  • 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 (Psalm 139:13-14).
  • 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 millennia now (literally two thousand years) Christians have been the one people on this planet who have striven--often at the cost of our own lives--for the preciousness of human life. It was the early Christians who ended the cruel ancient Roman practice of infanticide by exposure. This was the terrible act of leaving newborn children to die because of their gender, appearance, or handicap. We Christians rescued thousands of abandoned Roman children and raised them and loved them as our own. This is hardly “judgmental.”

It was we Christians who helped to end the horror of African slavery in England and America. Can I remind you that William Wilberforce was an evangelical, as I am? That the Quakers and Moravians--fellow Christ followers--led the charge on our own shores to end slavery? That Martin Luther King himself was a Baptist pastor? I cannot imagine what this society would look like today without the constant witness of the “sanctify of human life” from the mouths of Christians.

And since you, Dear Unbeliever, have not been shy to point out our failures and inconsistencies (for we have regrettably given you many opportunities), would I be too bold to point out one inconsistency of your own? Why is it that you who so highly value the “god” of scientific inquiry and empirical science have so obviously abandoned the consensus of that same scientific community as it relates to the the tiny embryo in the womb having all the genetic wonder of a fully mature adult?

But please don’t be mistaken. Our greatest difference is not abortion, or homosexuality, or the films we enjoy. It is  in our view of Jesus Christ. Let me close this letter with one more quotation. 'So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven' (Matthew 10:32).

Let me remind you again how dearly I love you, my Enemy, my Friend. I have always insisted that I truly love you, and I will plead my case again with this ink. I have wept many tears for your soul. Would you do the same for me if you believed in such a thing? 

That peace that I described in having my sins wiped away can also be yours in Christ. The blood of Christ is sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world (even yours). But I must remind you that it is efficient only for those who repent and believe.

Unbeliever, I can say without hesitation that I would walk through fire for you. I would walk over broken glass for you. I would swim the deepest sea for you if I could. But I can’t. And I don’t have to. Christ has done all for you already on the cross.  

In conclusion, if I ever stop loving you, Unbeliever, you have every right to question everything I claim to stand for.   

Sincerely and affectionately yours, 


Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville Fl.

[i] J.C. Ryle Commentary on Matthew 10:34.

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