The Perfect Text for Little Ones
I recently told someone that I thought the perfect text for Life Sunday would be Herod's slaughtering of the babes of Bethlehem. I might be wrong. This text could be better. It's about 2 kinds of little ones that have to do with one another in the matter of abortion.
This text clearly states the law of God that little ones are not to be despised. This chapter opened with Jesus taking a little child and setting him in the midst of the disciples. This Greek word for child means someone under the age of 7, and in the New Testament it's used for an infant. "See that you do not despise one of these little ones," commands Jesus. He forbids it be done at all at any time. Yet, we do it all the time, don't we?
Sure we do. When speaking of abortion, we must not think it's someone else's sin. It's ours. We're guilty of despising children. The lowest paid jobs in our society are those caring for children. The prejudice against raising children that led the ancients to use slaves to nurse their children for them is alive in us. Raising children isn't sophisticated enough for our society. A woman who does is a "just," just a housewife, just a homemaker, just a mom.
Of course, there is no greater way to despise than that to kill. But please see that killing as horrendous, as heinous, as horrible as it is, is not a difference in kind from our subtle despising of little ones. It's a difference in degree. Seeing children as a burden is the first step in seeing them as a burden that can be removed. Seeing children as something that can be wanted or not is the first step in seeing them as unwanted. Seeing children as a choice we make leads to the so-called Pro-Choice position which despises little ones to the point of killing them.
But again, it's our sin too. And what a scary sin to be involved in. It's scary on many levels. Here in the United States we abort 30% of our babies. Our society puts up with this because collectively we don't view children as an asset but a liability. Neither cattle ranchers nor farmers willfully destroy 30% of their cattle or crops. That would be foolish, and it's scary that we've gotten to the point of believing that doing that with children is not.
Over 44 million babies have been aborted in the US since 1973. 44 million babies God put here in His wisdom men have taken away in theirs. Sure some of those 44 million would've been criminals, serial killers; one might have been the next Hitler. But statistically speaking the number of criminals is smaller than the number of productive people. And while the next Hitler may have been aborted, he might not have been. Maybe we aborted the next Churchill, Patton, or Madame Currie instead.
Despising little ones by abortion is scary because we don't really know the full consequences to society or to the mothers. Not even modern medicine can remove the baby God has so well protected in the womb without putting the mother at risk. While we are much more efficient now then in the days when they used poison, abortion still radically impacts the mother's body setting her up for complications later in life. And even if the mother manages to escape the physical complications the emotional ones remain. When you abort a mother's baby, you don't remove her motherhood. You remove her baby making her the mother of a dead baby.
But none of these consequences are why Jesus says we aren't to despise little ones. The reason He gives is, "Because their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven." This is a threat. You despise little ones, you answer to their angels. This goes for little ones in the womb. The angel Gabriel knew both John and Jesus in the womb. Angels know the unborn. God knows the unborn. Only men in their wisdom are ignorant of them.
The law of God says, "Thou shalt not despise little ones." The will of God is pro-life. That's what Jesus says. "It is not the will of My Father who is in haven that one of these little ones should perish." Pro-life is not a political position; it's God's position. So, if you're pro-choice, I'm not saying rethink your position. I'm saying, "Repent of it lest the judgment of God via His angels break out upon you." You know that's what happened in the case of Egypt, don't you? The Egyptians despised God's babies by throwing out the boys and in the end God sent an angel to destroy their first born sons. God is seriously pro-life.
God's more seriously pro-life than any of us think. He's serious about saving the lives of the despised little ones and even the lives of the little ones who despise them. You can be little in the sense of age and you can be little in regard to the faith. When Jesus says it's not the will of the Father that one of these little ones should perish, He speaks of the physical death of babies and of the eternal death of those who willfully despise them. God is not willing that any should perish eternally. He wants all to come to repentance, says Peter, and it's amazing to what length, what depth, what height, what breadth He will go to bring this about.
Many of us can work ourselves up into a fine lather thinking of the just judgments God will bring upon the abortionists and the women who dare to destroy their own babies. But how many of us can do likewise thinking of the salvation Jesus wants to bring to them? Do we cry over them as Jesus cried over the Jerusalem that would crucify Him? Do we yearn for the salvation of murderers as Jesus did?
That's partially because we think the parable of the lost sheep makes sense. It makes sense for a shepherd to leave 99 sheep on the mountains for the sake of one lost one. No, that makes no sense. Which one of you having a 100 dollars in 1 dollar bills leaves your stack of cash on the store counter to chase after the 1 bill that blew out the door? That makes no sense. That's giving up not just 2 birds in the hand but 99 for the one that you might get in the bush.
It makes absolutely no sense for God the Father to love us who despise little ones the way we do. It makes even less sense for Him to give up His only beloved Son, just so He could claim us. Yet that was the choice. God the Father could claim us renegade sons and daughters or His reverent Son. He could claim us who bite the hand of the One who feeds us, or He could claim His Son who stretched out His hands to be nailed to a cross in obedience to Him.
And the Father says, "I choose you. I choose you who've despised the little ones, hurt the little ones, aborted the little ones." And so the Good Shepherd, contrary to all reason, set out to find us lost sheep. He did this by becoming a holy, spotless Lamb. He became one of us. He took on our flesh and blood. He took on all our obligations. He lived our life in this fallen world where sin, death and the devil lurk around every corner waiting to devour us. But they devoured Him instead. While never being guilty of committing a sin, God the Father made Him to be sin. While being the Lord of Life in our flesh and blood, death devoured His flesh and blood. While being able to withstand every temptation of the devil, His own Father, nevertheless, handed Him over to the devil on the cross.
Jesus, the sacrificial lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, including the sin of despising and aborting the little ones, didn't open His mouth on the cross to protest but only to forgive. This is crazy. This is the Gospel. The Gospel is not that God loves life, though of course this is true. The Gospel is that the Father redeems real sinners. He doesn't redeem good people. He doesn't redeem pretend sinners. He doesn't redeem, or buy back, people who have nothing to be bought back from. He doesn't redeem the 99 people who don't need it but the 1 who does. The Father sent Jesus to the cross to pay for sinners guilty of shedding the blood of babies, and so bought back people not just in bondage to sin and death but to the Devil himself.
Now, if that's whom God the Father redeemed by the holy precious blood and innocent death of His Son, you can be sure that's whom the Good Shepherd is seeking now through the Church. He's not in search of the 99 who don't think they need finding. He's not in search of those who think they know the way back to the fold. He's in search of the lost. The Good Shepherd strides out from us in every Word of Law that confronts people with their sin and in every Word of Gospel that shows them He's their Savior. The Good Shepherd is at work when a lost soul sees the blood of a little one on his hands and the blood of Jesus washing that blood forever away. The Good Shepherd is at work when a lost soul sees the sin she thought unforgivable, forgiven for His sake.
The Good Shepherd is at work when people who thought they were big enough to despise little ones, big enough to handle the consequences of abortion, big enough to go against the will of the Father, see that they really are the little ones whom the Father doesn't want to perish eternally.
There's the "solution" to abortion. It doesn't rest on who gets picked to the Supreme Court. Abortion predates the Supreme Court and the United States. It dates to the Fall. Men and women aren't delivered from the Fall into sin or from particular sins like despising little ones by laws. If God's Law can't do that, as St. Paul says it can't, then certainly no law of men is going to do it either. Only the Gospel delivers sinners from sins. Only by leading men, women, and children to see that they are the little ones for whom God the Father gave up His Son will they be able to see the value of little ones. Once they see that for Christ's sake they have a guardian angel that always beholds the face of the Father, then they're able to see that little ones do too. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Life Sunday (20060122); Matthew 18: 10-14