Regarding Abortion, Jesus Christ, Joseph And Mary: What If Mary Had Chosen Abortion?
Posted by Job on February 23, 2009
This powerful post on the topic of abortion from brother Laz caused me to ponder on the whole anti – abortion political movement and its influence on evangelical Christianity, particularly the fact that a great deal of tolerance is bestowed by evangelical political leaders upon those who profess to be Christian so long as they are sufficiently pro – life no matter what other flaws these “Christian pro – lifers” have in their doctrinal systems and lifestyles. Truthfully, other than perhaps the work of Billy Graham (and before him John Wesley), nothing has been more effective at uniting evangelical Protestants with Roman Catholics and (lately) Mormons and not to mention the wealthy, powerful decadent “Christian in name only” personalities active in politics and politiically driven media than the pro – life movement, which itself is but a part of the “family values theology” which again is part of the “Christian culture/Christian nation theology.”
So, I recounted during Election 2008 that presidential candidate John Edwards (who despite his support for abortion and homosexuality and – more important – his personally being an adulterer, making him no different from plenty of abortion and gay rights opponents who are also adulterers and fornicators, claims to be a devout Christian of Southern Baptist leanings) hired viciously anti – Christian atheist Amanda Marcotte to publicize his campaign. Among many of the “witty gems” that Marcotte produced was something to the effect of: what if Mary was on Plan B (the abortion pill) when Jesus Christ was conceived. (Actually, Marcotte’s words were much more mocking of God and vulgar.) Yet, this evil woman’s point was a good one: that the agenda of the “religious right” was not religious at all, but a cultural and political agenda. Now it is true that many of these people have indeed integrated culture and politics into their theological worldview, but the result is something that teeters on being a false religion that rejects the reason why Jesus Christ came (to die on the cross for our sins) and before then why Israel and Judaism were formed (so that Jesus Christ could come to die on the cross for our sins) in the first place.
After all, Marcotte was somewhat correct in her mocking: abortion pills and other modern forms of contraception were not available to Mary at the time that Jesus Christ was conceived and in the nation and culture that Jesus Christ was born into. Now from the perspective of a political (worldly and carnal by definition) Christian, the response would be to imagine if it had been and gasp with horror at what might have been were our abortion pill culture had been in existence in Mary’s Roman Empire, and had Mary availed herself of it. And you know what? That is not only a perspective that rejects faith, but also history.
For the Roman Empire that Jesus Christ was born into was not a “Christian nation” and it was also not a “moral family values” one. Instead, there were multitudes of religions and bizarre abominable practices. For instance, homosexuality was commonly practiced, and if a man did not want his family, not only could he easily receive a divorce, but if he did not want to bother with divorce proceedings provided that he was a Roman citizen he could simply have the entire family – his wife and children and everyone living in his house – killed. So, the world, the western culture that Jesus Christ was born into was not a family values culture. Furthermore, it was still not a family values culture when He finished His work and ascended into heaven. It was wicked before Jesus Christ came, was wicked when He departed, and will be wicked when He returns. Jesus Christ stated that this world and its cultures would always reject Him and those who truly know and represent Him. The “family values/Christian culture” theologians get around this by claiming “oh, Jesus Christ wasn’t talking about OUR culture and nation when He said that … He was only talking about the Pharisees, Sadduccees, and the rest of those wicked Jews.”
And so, in the decidedly “anti – family” that was the Roman Empire, do you know what else was available? A primitive form of abortion, along with infanticide and primitive contraception. So what if Mary had decided to avail herself of what was available and commonly practiced in the culture and gotten an abortion? After all, though betrothed, she was still technically single. She was also impoverished, belonged to a marginal class even among Jews, and her being pregnant would ruin practically any chance of getting married, which was her only practical hope of financial security and/or social mobility. Oh yes, there was also the fact that under Jewish law, she could have been killed by stoning. So, Mary had every reason to furtively seek out the Romans to receive an abortion, a decision which of our last several presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama have stated that they would have fully supported. (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush made no such statements, but Bush was on record as opposing the overturn of Roe v. Wade and Reagan for his part signed America’s most liberal abortion bill into law as governor of California, and, as he himself was a divorcee, signed a no – fault divorce bill into law as well.) But Mary did not.
Joseph for his part had his options as well. He could have handed Mary over to be stoned. Or he could have divorced and abandoned her and the child. And keep in mind: there is no scriptural evidence that Joseph had the full benefit of knowledge that Mary did. The Bible does not relate Joseph being told that Mary’s child was the Son of God and the Messiah. The Bible only records Joseph being told that the child was of the Holy Spirit. (And keep in mind this context: Judaism taught that ALL conceptions were the work of the Holy Spirit.) Also, Joseph was not given this information in an awesome angelic visitation as was Mary. It came to him in a dream that would have been very easy to later deny and reject as part of justifying his decision to rid himself of responsibility for a child that was not his, and of the woman who became impregnated with such a child while she was engaged to him. After all, consider this fellow’s plight. The fact that Mary was pregnant before they were officially married with a child that was not his … how do you keep something like that secret, and prevent being the subject of gossip, scorn, ridicule and rejection, especially from your own family? But like Mary, Joseph did the right thing.
And why did Mary and Joseph both do the right thing concerning Jesus Christ, ensuring not only His birth, but that His birth that would fulfill prophecies that would demonstrate to the Jews and to the world His identity? Simple: they were righteous people that obeyed God. Their righteousness was not the product of growing up in a “Christ honoring culture in a Christian nation with Christian values encoded in their system of laws.” In other words, it was not due to abortion being unavailable to Mary, not an option for her legally or practically. Mary had every opportunity to do wrong, but chose to do right.
For Joseph, the opposite was actually true. For him, the right thing to do according to the Torah would have been to take Mary to the priests and other religious and legal authorities to be stoned to death. Even though many who have studied Jewish history during the period state that stonings for adultery and other violations of the Sinai code had become exceedingly rare during that time, by taking Mary to the priests, Joseph would have fulfilled his own responsibility under the law. And further, it can be argued that Joseph’s plans to divorce Mary secretly without exposing her to public shame – or threat of death – qualified as his understanding Jesus Christ’s teachings of the weightier matters of the law, which are judgment, mercy, and faith.
But instead, Joseph and Mary did the right thing, which was to trust and obey God. Mary did not need a “Judeo – Christian set of laws” or a “values based society” in order to keep her from sinning by abortion or anything else. She merely needed to be righteous, to love God by keeping His commandments. And Joseph would have actually been conforming to his Jewish legal and cultural context, righteous according to the externals of the law, by turning Mary over the authorities. The fact that he was pondering how to exceed the external righteousness of his religious and cultural systems in the first place, that he was trying to do more than what was required of him to be counted as righteous and just in the eyes of man, was evidence of his love for God, and the fact that he heeded the dream and made Mary and the child his responsibility was evidence of his faith.
Mary and Joseph did not obtain their righteousness and faith from being born into a nation that loved and honored Yahweh and had a system of laws that reflected His nature. This would not have been possible, as the nation and culture that was the Roman Empire was as bad as our own of today, if not worse. Instead, they obtained their righteousness and faith from God. Consider the plight of Elijah, who was running from Jezebel and Ahab, the latter two of whom had led Israel into pagan idolatrous apostasy and killed the prophets. God’s statement to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:18: Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
In the midst of the wickedness of the nation and culture, God preserved for Himself a people for His Name. These people were not righteous because of the world, because they were called out of the world, just as Israel was chosen from among the nations. They were called by God, predestined and elected to righteousness by God, and placed in that particular place and time by God for the purposes of serving Him and bringing glory to His Name.
The same is true of this Mary and Joseph. No matter what sort of culture or nation that they were born in, they would have still fulfilled their duties that came with bringing Jesus Christ into the world. Regardless of whether their external environment was good or evil according to its laws, culture and religion, Mary and Joseph were inevitably going to do the right thing because they were righteous. The reason is that their righteousness was not due to governments and cultures – which are the works of men – because if they were, then men should be able to boast about contributing to their own justification. Instead, their righteousness was due to God’s making them so, and predestining that they would be so. And where man’s nations and systems will inevitably fail, God’s divine sovereign decrees cannot and will not fail. This is with respect to man’s salvation and everything else. That is the meaning of the doctrines of grace.
Make no mistake. Abortion is a great abomination, a great evil, that should be outlawed in any society that considers itself civilized. The same is true of homosexual marriage. However, it was not the absence of legal abortion that prevented Mary from aborting Jesus Christ. (And as stated earlier, Joseph actually opposed the religious and cultural views of the day to obey his dream from God to make Mary his wife and to adopt Jesus Christ as his son.) Instead, it was the fact that Mary – and Joseph – was righteous. Mary and Joseph were not righteous because they were born in a Christian nation. They were not righteous because they were born to a church going family. They were not righteous because they were baptized as infants. They were not righteous because they raised their hands or came forward in response to an altar call (not that I in any way oppose invitations; I support them 100%!), said a prayer, or had their names added to a church roll. Instead, they were righteous because God made them so by virtue of His divine predestination and election. They were righteous because God called them out of this world to be part of His ekklesia. And their righteousness was not demonstrated or proven by their nationality, religious or political affiliation, cultural norms, or even their stated beliefs, but by their behavior, which was unyielding obedience to God and His Word in the face of all obstacles and in spite of all opposition.
So, despite the evil that goes on in the world (or perhaps because of it) our goal is not to transform the world, to change the culture. In “The Visitation”, the Frank Peretti novel, the protagonist informed a young naive pastor that the job of the church was not to “take the town for Christ” because not even Christ Himself “took a town for Christ!” No, not only did Jerusalem reject Jesus Christ, but the place where Jesus Christ had the least honor, the fewest followers and believers, was His own country, and even His own brothers born in His house did not believe in Him! Instead, our job is to evangelize. To spread the gospel. To preach, teach, minister, disciple, and to baptize. Our job is to be the vessels for the sovereign God to use to call others out of this wicked world just as He called us out of it. And anything that distracts or hinders or redirects us from that task is just that: a barrier erected that opposes the will and righteousness of God. It must, by definition then, be considered sinful, evil, a work of Satan, the adversary, and not of God.
Christians are not called to transform the world into Christ’s image. Christians are called to reject the world so that we might be fully effective in being used by Jesus Christ to go after His lost sheep. The sad fact that this world is sinful, that people are born in sin, and that people are going to sin. However, the joyful fact that opposes this is that if we would just obey God, He will use us to bring people out of sin and into salvation so that He will transform them, transform His people, transform His church, into righteousness. The issue is not to transform a sinful world, but rather to go after the people that God will conform into the image of His Son. If you profess yourself to be a Christian, please, go about the business of that issue today and every day. Maranantha!