(Ginger's comments: Although this sermon was given more than 10 years ago, sadly its message is still relevant today.)
Twenty seven years ago, the Supreme Court of the United Sates legalized abortion, a decision which has had a dramatic impact on our view of life in this country. What does it mean to be pro-life? Hear now God’s word.
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. (Ephesians 5: 8-11)
It is an old story. Kitty, a 28 year-old manager of a bar in Queens returned to her quiet residential neighborhood, parked her car in a lot adjacent to her apartment building, and began to walk the 30 yards through the lot to her door when she was violently attacked. Her assailant stabbed her. She screamed. Lights went on in the apartment building across the way, a window even opened and a man called out, “let that girl alone.” The assailant shrugged and walked away. Windows closed and lights went out. The assailant returned and attacked her again, this time she screamed, “I’m dying. I’m dying.” More lights went on and more windows opened—the assailant walked to his car and drove away. Windows closed and lights went out. Kitty crawled along the street, reached her apartment and dragged herself inside. The assailant returned once more, found the woman and this time succeeded in killing her. During three separate attacks that spanned 35 minutes not one of the neighbors tried to intervene, not one of them picked up the phone to call for help. Not one. “I don’t want to get involved. I was too tired. I turned the lights off and went back to sleep.”
This is not an option for the people of God. We are called to involvement. Look at verse 11. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them, bring them to light. This is not a suggestion, it is a command—the command of God to expose the deeds of darkness. When we refuse to do so, when we choose to ignore the cries, turn the lights off and go back to sleep, we are breaking God’s command and therefore we are sinning. Too often, our lives are so comfortable that we do not wish to rock the boat or make people angry, we do not wish to become involved or to stand up and say, “No. No. No.” How different are we from the people who refused to call the police? Do we care, or will we too turn our lights off and go back to bed while lives are destroyed all around us?
What are some of these fruitless deeds of darkness? You have heard me speak a lot about gambling over the past several weeks. Many believe that in March the Missouri Gaming Commission will decide to allow a Gambling Boat to enter South County, probably at the site in Lemay. Many will still wonder “Why is this so important pastor?”
God commands: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” The Casino industry is shrouded in lies and deception. As you drive alone the highway you cannot help but see the billboards for the Casinos. What do they say—what is their implicit message? You will win. You will win enough money to buy the Blues, well almost, says one sign. That is a lie—and the casino executives know it—those boats are not there to give people money or benefit the community they are there to take as much money as they can. I want you to consider these facts: When Missourians decided to legalize gambling in 1992 it was clear, as least it seemed to be, that these casinos would be boats that would cruise up and down the Mississippi every 2 hours and that the casino would pay a $2 tax on every person who entered and there would be a loss limit of $500. Whatever happened to the excursion boat idea? An initial exception was made for the Admiral, because after all, it doesn’t have engines and one could not expect these poor casino owners to spend the money to conform to the law and then just as one politician predicted, once an exception was made for one, it would eventually apply to all—because the casinos never wanted to be cruise boats in the first place because that increases their cost—now you don’t even have to be on the river, a land based casino is fine if you build a moat and fill it with water. The casinos have continued to fight the loss limit and have used deception to do so: “Loss limits are bad for the customer,” they say, “for a gambler will not be able to recover his losses by making bigger bets and one who is winning will not be able to go for the big kill by betting the houses money.” Do you believe that? This is what they say! If the casinos were so concerned that their customers would win, why don’t they just give them money as they leave? Now they have just recently sought to reduce the $2 tax because it is unfair and excessive. Casino executives want more and more ability to take and take and take and take. Yet they clearly imply in their advertising that they are here to give you money. Lies and deception. To make matters worse, our government is in on it too. Not only do politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike take big money from the casino lobby; the state of Missouri through the institution of the lottery lies to the people with this “Lucky Town” image. Our government now has a vested interest in people in losing money.
Consider what this does. God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves and gambling is a gross violation of this command. Tom Grey, a national leader in the fight against legalized gambling has noted that the problems with gambling can be summarized as simply as A-B-C-D. Addiction. The number of compulsive gamblers will double to triple in a community that introduces a casino. Bankruptcies: in St. Louis they have more than doubled since 1993. Crime will increase on average about 8%. Death from suicide will increase as people lose hope. Gambling destroys lives. A man in his 80s became addicted to gambling when the boats opened in St. Louis area. To gain bonus points that would earn him free drinks or meals, he received a card from the casinos. The casinos used this card to track his attendance and the amount he gambled or I should say lost. When he had not been on the boat for a while they would send him a letter, “Oh Mr. Jones, we miss you so much, will you place come back and when you do, please use these coupons to treat yourself to a free meal on the house?” Mr. Jones eventually gambled away his entire retirement and was later arrested at the grocery store for shop lifting. Gambling had turned this man into a criminal. Sadly his story is not unique. There are many people like Mr. Jones who are crying out, many like Mr. Jones are elderly, others are poor, for this is whom gambling preys upon the poor and the elderly—do you care or are you going to turn your light off and go back to sleep as gambling enters our back yard? We must expose the fruitless deeds of darkness.
Since 1973, nearly 40 million babies have been aborted in the United States. As we read in Psalm 139, God is the giver and sustainer of life and thus abortion is a great sin against God. Gambling preys upon those who are vulnerable. So does abortion. It is absolutely true that the most dangerous place to be in America today is in the womb. These children do not have a voice to speak. We must be their voice. But they are not the only victims. Think about the mothers. For they too are vulnerable. Why would a pregnant woman enter an abortion clinic? Many are scared or lonely. Maybe she has been encouraged to go by her parents or husband or boy friend. What will she hear at the abortion clinic, a place that has a vested financial interest in her choosing an abortion? Carol Everett in her book, Blood Money, shares her story of how she had an abortion, and then became an active part of the abortion industry in Texas because of the money involved. Women would come into the clinic for “Counseling” that was nothing more than a sales pitch as to why they should abort the baby, for after the clinic would not make any money if the woman chose against abortion; they had even performed abortions on women who were not pregnant; any complications from an abortion procedure would be kept under wraps and the woman needing emergency treatment would be sent not to the closest, not the best, but to a friendly hospital who would cover up for the abortionist. All in the name of “helping women” but as Carol shares, she knew the truth, “We were in business to make money and lots of it.” Her salary eventually exceeded $10,000 a month. This is the testimony of Carol Everett as to the lies and deceit that is the abortion industry.
Please understand that the victims here are not only the 40 million babies whose lives have been taken, but the millions and millions and millions of mothers, women who are probably lonely, uncertain and frightened, who have been taken advantage of. Earlier in her life, Carol Everett had an abortion. She was fearful her husband would leave her if she didn’t. Her doctor said, “It’s not a baby yet, it is only a blob of tissue.” After the abortion though, guilt and depression overwhelmed her like a flood—she knew she had become yet another silent victim of the big lie: she’s not a baby, just a blob of tissue; abortion is all right—it will be much simpler this way, everything will be back to normal in a few days.” It was all a lie which she knew now full well—yet there didn’t seem to be anything she could do about it - what kind of mother am I? She carried that hurt, that shame around for years. There are millions like her today, millions. They were sold a bill of goods which they realized was fake only when it was too late. The baby was gone and their lives would never be the same. Maybe you have had an abortion; maybe you know someone who has—and you know that all the rhetoric of the pro-abortionist cannot cover up the truth. That night, Carol Everett cried herself to sleep. Children of God do you care? Do you care or are you, as you hear the cries going to turn the light of and go back to bed? We must speak out. We must uncover the fruitless deeds of darkness: “No, this is wrong.” We must be willing to let those in politics know our positions and to hold them responsible for the votes they take.
You might say, what is the point? Abortion has been legal in the United Sates for 27 years, gambling is gaining greater and greater momentum and acceptance. Even if no one listens we must speak. Even if we are figuratively run over and made to look like fools perhaps because of our political naiveté, we must speak to expose the deeds of darkness.
But we must do this not only with our words but with our actions. Someone sent me a note that said, if gambling is going to destroy lives, the church must be ready to minister to such people and this person is absolutely right. Look at verse 9. The fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth. Lives have been broken and families destroyed because of gambling and abortion. God is calling us as children of the light to minister to the broken and shattered—to demonstrate by our actions that the gospel is real—that there is hope in Jesus Christ. The guilt that compulsive gamblers feel after they have gambled away their children’s education fund and eventually money for their shoes and clothes is overwhelming and leads many to try suicide; women who have had an abortion may be haunted by the pitter patter of little feet. A young teen ager is pregnant and she is so scared. Their lives have been devastated by darkness. Where do they go? Sadly, the church is sometimes the last place they would because there are those in the church who because of their imagined self righteousness want to condemn the pregnant teenager, to humiliate and embarrass her. But not you—you, the beloved people of this church, have shown love. You have been pro-life. No, we are not perfect. We’re learning. We are all learning. We must expose the fruitless deeds of darkness for what they are, and love those who have been ventured into that darkness and been badly wounded. This is what it means to be pro-life. Do not turn the lights off and go back to sleep but live as children of the light. Let us pray.