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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Cutting Room Floor: Abortion and the Cities of Refuge

Last Sunday, in looking at the cities of refuge in Joshua 20, we saw that one of the lessons they teach about God is how highly He values human life.  In Gen 9:6, after the great flood, God gave this law: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”  God values human life so highly because He made man in His own image.  Therefore, to kill a human is to sin grievously against the image of God.
The cities of refuge demonstrate this in at least three ways.  First, the existence of a sanctioned avenger of blood shows that it is good and right that a life be required for a life.  Second, that the avenger of blood was well within his rights to kill the manslayer if the manslayer ever ventured outside the walls of the city of refuge shows that even in the case of an unintentional killing, it is good and right that a life be required for a life.  Third, that the manslayer was required to stay in the city of refuge until the death of another – the high priest – could be substituted for his own shows that God requires a life for a life…even in the case of an unintentional killing.
As I prepared the message for last week, it occurred to me that this passage offers strong commentary on the abortion debate.  As you know, many in the pro-abortion lobby assuage their consciences by arguing that an embryo or fetus is not a human being, therefore it does not have the rights of a human being, therefore it has no claim to life, therefore it is lawful and morally permissible to terminate a pregnancy.  Some concede that at some point in the gestation period, the mass of tissue becomes a human, although no one is able to put a finger on when that is.  Others who support late-term abortion argue that the baby isn’t human until it has fully exited the birth canal. 
But it really makes no difference what they say or what we say.  God is the ultimate judge so it really only matters what He says.  So what does God say about unborn children?  Are they human?  Should their lives be valued as highly as yours and mine?
Exodus 21 is helpful here in that it prescribes the appropriate restitution for various crimes.  Regarding the crimes that we studied Sunday – murder and unintentional homicide – it says this: 12 "Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. 13 But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee.”  So this is perfectly consistent with Joshua 20.  Murder carries the death penalty, but for an unintentional killing, the killer may flee to a city of refuge.  That is how the killing of a man is to be handled, but what about the killing of an unborn child?
  22 "When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine.
 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life,
 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:22-25)

What is described here is clearly an unintentional crime.  It involves two men fighting with one another, not with the pregnant woman.  There was no intent to harm her, nor to harm her unborn child.  Yet, if the violence results in harm to the unborn child, the perpetrators must pay accordingly.  If the child dies, the perpetrators must die.  When we take these verses and compare them to the earlier verses regarding the killing of a man, we must come to the conclusion that God values the life of an unborn child as much as the life of a man.  The penalty in both cases is death.  In fact, it could be said that God desires a greater recompense for the killing of an unborn child than for the killing of a man – for even though the killing of the child was unintentional, there is no mention of a city of refuge for such an offense
So if God made no provision for the preservation of the life of a person responsible for the unintentional killing of an unborn child, how much more then does God desire vengeance for the intentional killing of an unborn child?  For this reason, I believe those who participate in the abortion industry are storing up wrath for themselves.  God clearly considers an unborn child to be a human being, and the killing of an unborn child to be an act worthy of severe judgment.
Let me make a couple of points to help us keep this in the right perspective.  First, the grace of God can and will and does cover any sin, even sins of this magnitude.  We have all sinned in countless ways that make us worthy of eternal damnation, and yet for those who repent and believe, those sins are all forgiven.  If you have ever had anything to do with an abortion, God beckons you to repent, and if you do so, He will forgive you.
Second, that God values so highly the lives of unborn children does not sanction any kind of vigilante justice against those involved in the abortion industry.  Romans 13:4 teaches that God has instituted human government to be “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”  We are to leave such things to the governing authorities.  Further, all those who die without repenting of their sins, will receive a judgment far beyond any that you or I could administer.  “'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:19b).
That being said, let us continue to be vocal defenders of the lives of all humans, including the unborn. For they too are made in the image of God.
Posted by Greg Birdwell

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