Planned Parenthood at the CrossWednesday, July 22, 2015
Many of us were horrified and repulsed as we saw Planned Parenthood Federation leaders in undercover videos negotiating the sale of body parts from aborted children. The cavalier conversations, over lunch, about such things ought to shock every conscience. For Christians, this atrocity ought to drive us to reflect on the literal crux of our faith, the cross of Jesus Christ.
The most ghoulish aspect of these videos is, after all, not simply that children are losing their lives. We knew that already. Beyond that is the way these children’s bodies are being used, divided up for parts, in order to enable clinics to “do a little better than break even.” And, of course, there is the callousness of the consciences involved. How could one talk about where to “crush” a baby or how “crunchy” the tearing mechanism ought to be in such breezy casual terms?
Every human person naturally ought to recoil from such language. But for a Christian, especially, such language ought to trigger in us thoughts of Jesus of Nazareth, who identified himself with human nature, taking on flesh and dwelling among us (Jn. 1:14). Jesus is human—not “was,” mind you, “is”—meaning everything it means to be human. Jesus demonstrated his solidarity with the human race by sharing with us every stage of development.
He was an “embryo.” He was a “fetus.” He was a nursing infant. He was a child. He is an adult. An attack on vulnerable humanity is an attack on the image of God. And that image is not abstract. The image of God has a name and a blood type. The image of God is Christ Jesus himself (Col. 1:15). Every human image-bearer is patterned after the Alpha and Omega image of the invisible God.
And at the Cross, Jesus stood with and for humanity in suffering. We are often told that abortion is ethical because the “products of conception” aren’t “viable,” that is, they cannot live outside the womb. This suggests that the value of a human life consists in its autonomous power. But Jesus was conceived in the most vulnerable situation possible in the ancient world—as a fatherless orphan. He lived as a migrant refugee outrunning with his family the Planned Parenthood of his day, the King Herod, into a land hostile to his own. He died helplessly convulsing on a cross, dependent on others even for hydration. Even in death, Jesus counted himself with thieves and was buried in a borrowed grave. In his humanity, Jesus wasn’t “viable” either.
Moreover, like the dead orphans of Planned Parenthood, Jesus was seen as valuable only in terms of his “parts.” The soldiers cast lots for his clothing (Mk. 15:23). With the very King of Israel standing before them, the Roman soldiers could see his value only in terms of how much money they could fetch from his garments. That should shock the conscience.
And yet, at the Cross, we do not simply see Jesus standing in solidarity with those suffering. He stands also in the place of sinners. He is counted with thieves, one executed on his left, and one on his right. One thief reflected the culture of death. He saw Jesus only in terms of what Jesus can do for him, temporally: “Save yourself and us!” (Lk. 23:39).
But there were two thieves, remember. The other saw his own desperation, crying out for mercy. Who knows what this man had done? The word “thief” in this context doesn’t connote a petty pickpocket. This mean was more akin to a murderer, a pirate, or a terrorist, to use contemporary language. Jesus forgave him, not because his actions were excusable but because he was hidden by faith in the punishment Jesus bore for him.
The cross should remind us that Jesus hears the cries of the suffering, even those whose cries are unable to be heard. But the cross should also remind us that Jesus saves sinners. The actions of Planned Parenthood are horrendous, both in terms of social injustice and in terms of personal sin against God. What can wash away such sin? Nothing. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
We should work for justice for the unborn, and for their victimized mothers. And, at the same time, we should speak to the consciences of those who see them as little more than pieces to be bartered. What Planned Parenthood is doing, let’s be clear, is violent and murderous. But the gospel can convict consciences, even consciences darkened by violence. And, when God saves such sinners, he often uses these trophies of grace to speak up for justice for those persecuted and mercy for their persecutors, through faith in Christ and newness of life in him.
Planned Parenthood is a killing field. We should groan inwardly, and work outwardly, against such evil. But, as we do so, let’s remember another killing field, a Place of the Skull, where peace came to the violent, through a cross of both justice and justification.
Please join us January 21-22, 2016 in Washington, DC for Evangelicals for Life. You can find more information here.
Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of several books including Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway)