And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived (Numbers 21:9).
If you have a Facebook account, you may have had the following experience. Someone “tags” you in a discussion that turns into a controversy and a list of comments from people you have never heard of appears on your “wall.” Since I have hundreds of conservative Christian and pro-life activist “friends” on Facebook, this happens to me occasionally. Over the weekend, I found the following comment on my wall concerning pro-life activism. It is a perfect example of what I call “pro-life idolatry.”
I, frankly, don’t care how we get there, but I’m going to save every baby I can, I’m going to close every abortion mill, I’m going to crush the enemy in every way I can, and if y’all think its wrong, stupid, or immoral I could care less. Maybe Jesus will send me to hell, but I’ll be okay as long as I kick the “rear” of the baby killers. I’m here for one reason: to win! Period end. I’m going to win by hook or by crook. And I refuse to stand on some fictitious moral high ground as long as babies are being murdered. I’ll leave the moral high ground and wallow in the mud with the pigs — as long as the babies win.
I can only hope that this person was being sarcastic and that this does not truly represent his view. I post this quote because it speaks volumes about the spirit behind a certain segment within the “anti-abortion” movement. (I used that term because I hesitate to even call them “pro-life.”) Over the years, I have had long conversations with people who believe in so many words that “the ends justify the means” in ending the abortion holocaust.
Thankfully, these people do not represent the viewpoint of the vast majority of pro-life street evangelists. But we need to be on guard against this. Perhaps I too have been guilty of exhibiting this spirit of pride in my zeal for defending the unborn. But there is no excuse for it. I am shocked (although I should not be, considering that I believe that human beings are utterly corrupt) that so many “pro-lifers” are willing to jump on the bandwagon.
I asked a few friends of mine to comment on this. Dan Becker of Personhood USA had this to say.
The current “pro-life” movement is currently composed of King Sauls who have sought to spare the idols for destruction (1 Samuel 15). It is not Christ-centered or Gospel-oriented. The Word of God is not its guide and the ways of God are despised. It is not focused on the full counsel of God, it is only “anti-abortion” in part.
I could not have said it any better. The reason we ought to stand for the sanctity of life is because human beings are created in God’s image. If Jesus Christ is not in the forefront of our sanctity of life zeal, then we aren’t standing for life, we are standing for death.
What follows is a longer article by Rusty Lee Thomas of Elijah Ministries. It serves as a companion piece to another excellent article: Pro-life Pitfalls, which is also a “must-read” if you are involved in pro-life street evangelism.
– Jay Rogers
By Rusty Lee Thomas
And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived (Numbers 21:8,9).
Israel was well on their way in the Exodus adventure. God’s promise to bring them out of bondage and into the Promised Land was coming to pass. True to form, however, at the slightest provocation, Israel griped, complained, and resorted back to the slave mentality of Egypt. God, in His vast patience, endured these numerous outbursts of unbelief time and again. In this particular incident, His longsuffering ended. The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” fell. Israel crossed a line they would soon regret.
As their souls were discouraged along the way, they “spoke against the Lord.” God answered. Nature turned against them as “snakes on the plain” bit the people and many died (Numbers 21:6, 7). There is nothing like God’s judgment to cause people to reassess the situation and jar them back to reality. God’s Word states, “Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people (Numbers 21:7).”
Though God’s anger is for a moment, thankfully His mercy endures forever. As God’s people repented, the Lord instructed Moses to fashion a brass snake and place it on a pole. Those who looked upon it were healed. To this day, the snake on a pole remains the symbol of healing in the medical profession. Our Lord Jesus seized upon this Biblical example of God’s healing to declare His once and for all sacrifice for the sins of the world. John 3:14, 15 states, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus promised that if He would be lifted up from the earth, He would draw men unto Himself (John 12:32). Through Him, God’s ultimate salvation and healing amongst the nations would be established.
Old Testament Israel, however, underwent a dreadful transition. Initially, the snake on the pole was a reminder of God’s great mercy of healing. Through the years, the nation turned it to an object of veneration. This was something that went beyond the scope of honoring God’s deliverance. Thus, it became an idol fit for destruction. Israel had taken something good and turned it into something evil in God’s sight. Like some in the Church today, we can be tempted to exalt the gifts, instead of the Gift-giver. We can foolishly have faith in our faith or we can corrupt God’s worship by worshiping our worship.
Deliver us from Nehustan!
Nonetheless, it was left to King Hezekiah to make amends with God. Under his administration, he instituted many righteous reforms. God’s Word declares, “He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan (bronze thing)” (2 Kings 18:4).
By now, some may question how this teaching relates to the provocative title, “Pro-life Idolatry?” Glad you asked. As one who has been in the pro-life battle since the fall of 1988, I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the really ugly. In recent days, it seems the last twenty years has come to a head. Perhaps, God is at work, if we have eyes to see and hearts to obey.
Although there was a pro-life movement before 1988, it was the Christian ministry of Operation Rescue that birthed genuine repentance amongst God’s people. God’s word was like a hammer and a fire (Jeremiah 23:29). Christians of all stripes and colors beat their breast, came low to the ground, and finally pointed the finger in the right direction. This authentic heaven-sent brokenness produced fruits meet for repentance as tens of thousands of Christians stormed the gates of hell. To those who had the privilege to participate in this movement, Rescue was God’s answer to the many prayers that faithfully cried for revival. When it finally came, there was nothing we would have held back from God, not even our own lives.
As the years progressed, the Rescue movement underwent a similar dreadful transition. This modern day “snake on the pole” of true repentance, degenerated from something that once honored God (and I say this with tears) to something that has brought disgrace and shame to His name. The early pictures of Rescue displayed Christians united in the cause of Christ. We wept, humbled ourselves before God, and turned from our wicked ways. We beseeched God to forgive our sins, the sins of our nation, and to heal our land. Today’s news, however, makes public something quite different. The images have changed and none for the better. Much of it reveals a splintered pro-life movement at each others throats.
Idols for Destruction
How did something so good and godly become such a travesty? Sin! God’s Word states, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:14-16). Our sins of pride, lust, greed, envy, covetousness, and jealousy turned a sincere godly movement into another idol fit for destruction. Flip Benham, National Director of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America, concurs. He stated in his article, “Dealing with the Sin of Operation Rescue” – “It was not because of FACE, RICO, lawsuits, justifiable homicide, timid pastors, weak churches, ad nauseam, that we failed. It was our own sin.”
Through the years, I have seen many Christians start well, but end terribly in this battle against the culture of death. Whereas the majority of the American Church professed love for God, most did not seem to care enough to love their neighbor as themselves. Many who named the name of Christ remained silent and inactive as babies were (and still are) targeted for slaughter. Rescuers, however, not only took serious our professed love for God, but also our duty to love our neighbor as well. Yet as the battle was prolonged and intensified, some in our movement became more pro-life than Christian. Subtlety the commandments of God became inverted.
Instead of first loving God and then our neighbor, love for our neighbor eventually surpassed the first and greatest commandment. It seemed the more our nation and the Church ignored the dead babies, the more obsessed many in our movement became. Tragically, in the midst of this debacle, some became so embittered that they lost their first love. They ended up leaving the Church and abandoning their first works. Revelation 2:4, 5 warns, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”
God’s Word is clear. The love of God is absolutely essential to keeping all His commandments (John 14:21). We do not have the option to pick and choose which commandments to obey based upon a pro-life agenda. This is why we must be Christians first, then pro-lifers. Jesus is the source of life. Indeed, apart from Him, there is no life in pro-life. Thus if we do not reconnect with Him and reestablish this divine order, we will continue in the Machiavellian “the ends justify the means,” strategies that have caused more harm than good.
I would dare say that it has been this philosophy that is responsible for leading so many astray from the straight and narrow. At what price? Let me count the cost. It’s produced murder, bombings, jockeying for position, plagiarism, taking unwarranted credit, lying, cheating, theft, usurpations, gossip, false accusations, Christian cannibalism, and a host of other evils. Yes, we have all learned too well in this battle how to bite and devour one another (Galatians 5:15). And what is the response, while these scandals take place? We smile at the cameras, justify ourselves, and invoke the name of Jesus upon our feigned lips.
The Weightier Matters of the Law
In the midst of this duplicity, does anyone stop to consider what has happened to our hearts, the very ones that were once broken for the cause of Christ and the little ones made in His image? Have they become so hardened by the deceitfulness of sin that we can’t see the mess we’ve made (Hebrews 3:13)?
Tragically, this appears to be the case. Thus most of us remain blinded and do what is right in our own eyes. When confronted with our misdeeds, we simply convince our embittered minds that all is fair in love and war. And besides, we still hold to the noble goal of ending the holocaust in America, right? Wrong! We can do a good work in a bad way. We can have a great motive to end abortion, but our actions can still be condemned as evil by God.
God’s Word states, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). We shout from the mountain tops that God hates the hands that shed innocent blood and yet conveniently ignore that this same God hates those who sow discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). How much more division, bitterness, hatred, variance, strife, contention, wounds, hurts, and broken fellowship must come before we repent? How many more lambs will be fleeced and devoured as we seek to glorify ourselves instead of the God we claim to serve? We seek names, titles, funds, recognition, and our own legacies, while babies still die, the Church languishes in a state of denial, and America is going to hell in a hand basket.
To state that these things ought not to be, is the understatement of the century. Though we may have started out to love God and our neighbor as ourselves, many of us have ended up giving the enemies of the Lord reason to blaspheme Him. Jesus stated, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23).
Yes, it is right, just, and true to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death (Proverbs 24:11, 12). This we ought to do, but we should not neglect the other weighty matters of God’s Law-Word. Virtues like humility, servanthood, faithfulness, courage, truthfulness, integrity, and godly character, must be yoked with our pursuit to rescue the lost and perishing. God help us to return to pleasing, loving, and serving His purposes and not our own.
I Have a Dream: Revisited
Recently, I was reading from our OSA Bible reading schedule in the Gospel of John. It inspired my own version of “I have a dream.” As our Lord was preparing for His departure, He stripped Himself, donned a cloth about his waste, got on his knees, and washed the feet of His disciples. Yes, He washed the feet of the one who would betray him, the one who would deny Him, and all who would forsake Him.
In my mind’s eye, I imagined what God would unleash from heaven if we who once were united in the cause of Christ against child-killing, came together, humbled ourselves, took ownership for our many sins, and repented. What would happen to the gates of hell if we got on our knees, washed each other’s feet, and sought to make things right with God and with each other? What would occur in this battle for the souls of men, the lives of children, and the future of America? This, I believe, is a dream worth dreaming but how many have the courage and humility to bring it to pass?
King David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24).
Assuredly, it is high time for the Christian pro-life movement to come back and make sure we are more Christian than pro-life. For the sake of our love for God, our preborn neighbor, and our bloodstained nation, let us end our pro-life idolatry and smash the “snake on the pole” in our own wicked hearts. Let us, instead, cling to the cross on which our precious Savior died. Perhaps, God would then be pleased to birth another movement of repentance amongst His people that will finally end the American holocaust.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols Amen” (1 John 5:21).
IN KING JESUS’ SERVICE,
Rev. Rusty Lee Thomas