Rev. Jonathan B. Leach
Ruling Elder, Reformed Presbyterian Church in San Antonio
At least to my own “Baby Boomer” generation, a Fourth of July parade down the village Main Street stirs the patriotic heart: to see and hear the national color snapping in the breeze, the marching bands, the uniformed citizens ranging in age from the local Cub Scout pack all the way up to the desiccated old veterans—I speak as one of them now!—haunting the local American Legion or VFW post. The nearest National Guard armory likely sent a detachment of volunteers for the occasion, either to march or to man a static display of their unit’s military hardware. It’s all very impressive! As the popular 1930s musical comedy, Soldiers of the King, expressed it, “There’s something about a soldier that is fine, fine, fine . . . ”
And fair enough! Soldiers may be that. But they’re not recruited, and trained, and paid simply to be “fine.” Soldiers—those earning their pay and benefits—fight! As an army—as a team—they fight. And the teams most proficient in the fight—obeying the lawful orders of good officers appointed over them—tend to win.
For twenty-seven years I served in the uniform of a US Army chaplain. I raised my right hand in the last year of the Reagan administration, then went to war under the first Bush administration, and endured—as a good soldier must!—the several subsequent political administrations. I’ve been in a position to witness the changing military culture over a very interesting quarter century, stretching from Desert Storm’s smashing “hundred-hour” victory in 1991 all the way to the abject surrender of Kabul and Afghanistan thirty years later, after nearly two decades of US military occupation and investment.
But to the point. The good soldier fights. In our own context as the United States of America, for the past 250 years the soldier has fought for a set of ideals once considered “self-evident.” That is, these ideals stood on their own; they needed no further apologetic.
For what ideals then did those first US soldiers fight? They fought in order to secure “certain unalienable Rights,” among which—notably the very first one listed!—was the unalienable right to Life. Our “Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled” without equivocation announced to the distant, scoffing tyrant that
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men . . .
On the incontrovertible basis of a divinely-endowed right to life, then, these United States were first founded and defended.
o “alienate,” or separate, anyone from his own life without very good reason and due legal process is self-evidently wicked and therefore intolerable. To do so—according to the assembled representatives in Congress at the time—is a national crime to be speedily and decisively answered, even, if necessary, by force of arms.
Now certainly the Lord Jesus Christ—to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given—hasn’t delegated that power of the sword to the church. He’s entrusted that power to the civil magistrate, whose central function—according to our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain—is to secure the full range of rights with which men are endowed by our Creator. The state’s role, then, is to secure for us our rights. To neglect this central role of civil authority—an authority to be enforced even by the sword—is dereliction of duty and virtual abdication.
The church, however, does not—and must not—resort to arms or physical violence as we bear before kings, and other social influencers, a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ and his righteousness. That Biblical testimony is, in itself, the awesome power that destroys cultural “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.”
“The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh.” Yet those weapons we do receive as good soldiers of Jesus Christ are “divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” Fighting the good fight—calling upon God and employing the Biblical resources at our disposal—these weapons of our warfare work. They accomplish the mission. They prevail in the fight before us.
What strategy must the church and congregations of the Lord Jesus Christ implement, then, if we’re to prevail in these persistent cultural wars for the right of every human being to life? Certainly not a “Kabulesque” strategy of disordered withdrawal. It’s an offensive campaign with several coordinated prongs:
First, we attack this issue of life in our homes. Let mothers conscientiously teach and model for their daughters, from birth onward, a more Biblical motherhood. Let fathers assert their right, and their duty, to be actively present in their own homes to safeguard all who live there.
Second, we attack the issue of life in our schools and seminaries. If your own children in their schools aren’t drinking in daily the inestimable beauty of human life as an endowment of God the Creator, then find for them another school. Enroll them in one that exudes the sweet savor of life! And if local pastors and elders in their discipleship fail to guide their young theological students-under-care in their choice of seminaries, their failure endangers the spiritual well-being of future generations.
Third—and obviously related to this—we attack the issue of life from our pulpits. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Will pastors in their exposition and application of God’s Word actually shoot straight, or will they bend to accommodate a lost and straying culture? We’re the watchmen on the wall. Let our people hear no uncertain blast of the trumpet.
Fourth, we attack the issue of life in our public and private discourse as citizens. Let the great issues of life occupy our minds! Let these things shape the content and direction of our daily chats with family and friends. Resolve never again to be lured down those bypaths of public polls and unsubstantiated human opinion down which the news and social media typically lead us. Instead, in every social interaction, “be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong.”
The weightiest issues of our day include that of properly discerning God-given human rights, and the compelling duty of governments to secure those rights to their citizens.