Freedom to Choose

November is a time we honor our veterans and cast our votes so it seemed appropriate to address a couple of hot topics that relate to freedom, the very thing that our veterans have served to protect. In our country, freedom is a cherished value that has defined our nation ever since the first settlers came so they could experience economic opportunity, political liberty, and religious freedom. Our constitution recognizes and protects our freedoms such as free speech, freedom of religious practice, freedom to bear arms, etc. Freedom is woven into the collective fabric of our society. And while the Bible doesn’t overtly advocate for a society to establish and defend personal freedoms, it assumes and demonstrates a respect for personal freedoms. Some examples include:
  • Corinthian believers were asked to give a freewill offering to support their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ living in Jerusalem. It wasn’t a command, but rather an appeal. (2 Corinthians 9:1-7)
  • Even though Paul was an Apostle and strongly urged Apollos to visit Corinth, he left the decision up to him. Apollos decided it wasn’t the right time and would go when he had the opportunity. (1 Corinthians 16:12)
  • Paul encouraged bondservants to gain their freedom if they are able to do so. (1 Corinthians 7:21)
  • And of course, not withstanding the Calvinist’s argument, Scripture affirms our freedom to choose to follow Christ. (Romans 10:10, John 3:16-17)

Two issues that face our country have been postured by their advocates as an issue of freedom. Pro-choice abortionists want to protect the rights of women to make decisions concerning their own bodies and those who oppose vaccine mandates want to protect their rights to choose what to do with their own bodies. On the surface, it seems like their arguments share the common denominator that would compel a fair-minded person to support both or neither, but not just one. The knot gets even more tangled when we consider that some who oppose getting the vaccine do so because of its connection to abortion. Therefore, for some, it is a moral issue because they do not want to indirectly condone abortion by taking the vaccine. As Christians, our guiding light isn’t the constitution but God’s word, so we need to think biblically about these issues. Before we look at these issues from the standpoint of our freedom, we need to consider the morality of the issues themselves.

The issue of abortion hinges on our understanding of God being the author of life, when that life begins, and what can be termed ‘the greater harm’. Scripture affirms that God is not only the one who created the world in such a way that human beings are able to procreate, it also reveals that He is involved in the process of creating each life in the womb (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 139:13-14; Jeremiah 1:5). From the moment of conception, God determined our gene combination that would express our traits. Therefore, since God is the author of life who actively creates each life, that life should be protected. While a woman should have the right/freedom to choose what she does with her body in most cases, when it comes to pregnancy, there is another life to consider – the life of the baby. In other words, taking the life of the child is a greater harm than limiting the choice of the mother.

One common argument against those who place the life of the baby above the choice of the mother is that God Himself is not pro-life. The argument goes something like this: In the Old Testament, God commanded the slaughter of not only foreign armies, but of entire cities including women and children (Deuteronomy 2:34, Joshua 6:17-21). God commanded the death penalty for murder (Exodus 21:12), bestiality (Exodus 22:19), kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), cursing parents (Exodus 21:17), sorcery (Exodus 22:18), sabbath breaking (Exodus 31:15), adultery (Deuteronomy 22:22), and rape (Deuteronomy 22:23-25). How can Christians claim that God cares for the life of the unborn when it seems He cares so little about the life of those who are already born?

To begin to understand how God can still be thought of as pro-life even though He commanded these things, we must first acknowledge that God has the right to do whatever He pleases and to determine when killing is justified. He is always just and sinful humans can never hold a standard in which to judge the righteousness of God. We must also recognize that the way God acted in the Old Testament had much to do with His purposes for the nation of Israel that is much different than His purposes in the New Testament for His people, the church. Israel had an ethnic and political dimension to it that the church does not have. God used Israel as His instrument of justice against wicked nations (Deuteronomy 9:1-5). Also, the command to annihilate entire people groups was given to protect the Israelites from adopting the religious practices and foreign gods of those people (Deuteronomy 12:29-31). Other commands for such things like keeping the sabbath were part of God’s calling to them into a unique relationship apart from all the other nations. In addition, when God made these determinations to exact judgment for sin, He did so because He is the author of life and this judgment is left in His hands, even when the instrument of His judgment can be through people. Abortion usurps God’s authority to take a life and places it in the hands of people. To be pro-life protects the most vulnerable person in a literal life and death situation while maintaining God’s authority to give and take a life. One could argue that medical attempts to preserve life goes against God’s authority to take a life but Scripture has many examples and commands to do good (e.g. Luke 10:25-37).

While supporting a pro-life position is consistent with the tenor of Scripture, we must also acknowledge that there are complex issues if abortion is totally outlawed or restricted. For example, what should be the consequences if an abortion happens? Some advocate that the abortion providers be the ones who suffer the consequences instead of the mothers. Should the father of the baby also be held accountable if he supports the abortion? What if he doesn’t want the abortion but also refuses to help raise the child? What about a situation where the mother self-induces the abortion, would that also warrant consequences? Admittedly, these are weighty issues, yet the right to life and protection of the unborn child can’t get lost in the maze of all the perplexing consequences.

Not surprisingly, many pro-life Christians oppose the COVID vaccine because of its link to abortion. Tissue from an abortion in 1973 in the Netherlands has multiplied thousands of times into fetal cell lines that have been used in the development of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna). Fetal cell lines from an abortion in 1985 in the Netherlands was used in the production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. None of these vaccines used recently aborted fetal tissue in their development or production. These facts do not justify the tragedy of the original abortions, but it does remove any reasonable complicity of supporting abortion by those who take the vaccine. If God could use Judas' sin of betrayal to bring about our salvation, He can certainly bring something good from the sin of abortions that happened decades ago. In addition, there are several other common medications that use fetal cell lines in their research and development, including aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Motrin, Tums, Maalox, Benadryl, Sudafed, Preparation H, Lipitor, Prilosec, Zoloft, and Claritin. Refusing to take the vaccine because of its association with abortion while taking these other medications is inconsistent. When you add the fact that taking the vaccine can not only protect the health of a person but also contributes to the protection of other’s health – a tangible way to love our neighbor, there are good reasons to take the vaccine. However, if a Christian has a sincere concern that by taking the vaccine they would be committing a sin, then their decision should be respected (Romans 14:1-23). There could also be other reasons why people may not want to take the vaccine or cannot take it that are unrelated to abortion, yet are legitimate.

Should our government protect the lives of its citizens by making it mandatory for people to get the vaccine? Wouldn’t a consistent pro-life stance be one that advocates that the life of both the born and the unborn be protected? A significant difference between death from COVID and death from abortion is the risk of death. According to Our World in Data (https://ourworldindata.org/mortality-risk-covid), the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) for the United States is roughly 2%. The CFR is the ratio of confirmed deaths to confirmed cases. (By contrast, nearly 100% of all abortions result in a fatality.) Is a mandatory vaccine policy warranted for a virus with such a low fatality rate? Living in a fallen world, there are no easy answers.

But my main concern isn’t how to find political solutions to these issues, it’s how we in the body of Christ should treat one another. We need to support those who may be losing their jobs because of their vaccination status. Those who are vaccinated should not shun those who are not but continue to welcome them and connect with them. Those who aren’t vaccinated shouldn’t judge those who are. Those burdened to protect unborn children can volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center. Men and women can commit themselves to refrain from sex until marriage. Support groups can be started for those who have had abortions. While some may focus their efforts on political solutions, there are other ways we can exercise our freedom to make a difference.

1 Comment


Anonymous - December 2nd, 2021 at 12:51am

I like the direction. Thank you pastor Joe. The world is speaking loudly while the churches are silent and even welcoming the wolves.