Abolitionism and the Great Commission

There are not a few within the institutional Protestant church today who raise an eyebrow when confronted with our message of abolition.  ”It is all fine and good that you work to fight abortion” they may say, “but the work of the church is to fulfill the Great Commission, plain and simple.  We have to keep the main thing the main thing.”  And by such reasoning we have many professedly “pro-life” churches that spend substantially more time and money running their programs, paying the salaries of their professional clergy, and keeping their grounds tidy, than they do exercising true religion (Jas. 1:27).  The visible and professing church of Jesus Christ in America in this present day, by and large, does little more than offer token expressions of opposition to the greatest and most dehumanizing evil of our age.  And one recourse for justifying this abandonment of true religion is to hide behind the supposed “work of the Great Commission.”  But if we are faithful to examine the Scriptures, we will find that just as faith without works is dead, so also a “Great Commission” without the work of abolition is dead.

The text of the Great Commission is as follows:

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:16-20, ESV)

The Great Commission certainly includes the work of evangelism, as well as discipleship. But this discipleship entails teaching the evangelized to obey all that Christ has commanded. And what has Christ commanded? Christ has commanded a number of things, but if we were to begin somewhere, we should probably look at what Christ called the two greatest commandments, upon which depend all the Law and the Prophets:

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:34-40, ESV)

Certainly, if Jesus has anything in mind in the Great Commission, regarding which commandments should be taught, He has these in mind. After all, these are the greatest!  And not just here, but throughout the Gospels, we see that our obligation to love our neighbor was of the main emphases of Christ’s teaching ministry (Matt. 7:12, Luke 10:25-37, John 15:12-14,Matt. 25:31-46).  So, if in the Great Commission, Christ commands that these commandments be taught, the question then arises: what do these commandments entail?

If you love your neighbor as yourself, will you stand idly by while he is legally dismembered, and torn limb from limb, even though he has committed no crime, and done no one any wrong? Will you stand idly by while two of your neighbors in this country are so butchered every minute? While 3500 are ripped apart every day? Or will you simply be content with token expressions of opposition to this great evil? If you simply listen to one sermon a year from your pastor on the sanctity of life, what good is that? If you are a Christian, do you not already know that life is sacred? Have you not read that human beings are created in the image of God (Gen 1:27)? Are you so dull of mind and spirit that you need to be reminded once a year that tearing a child apart limb from limb is wrong? Do you not rather need to be exhorted to action, and that on a frequent basis? Where is the frequent and thunderous call from the pulpits to rise up as the Body of Christ and put an end to this great evil? Where is the resounding call to love justice, correct oppression, and take up the cause of the fatherless (Isa. 1:17)? Where is the rebuke of the carnal, the slothful, and the worldly church-goers who fill the pews every Sunday?  Where is the call for such to repent of their sins and begin the exercise of true religion (Jas. 1:27)? The silence of our pulpits is so deafening that it could shatter every stained glass window, flip every pew, and wake every dead man from his grave.

You, who claim to follow Christ – do you love your neighbor as you love yourself? If you were in the place of your preborn neighbor, being led to the slaughter, to be ripped apart piece by piece and limb from limb, would you find what you do for the preborn sufficient?  Is simply “voting pro-life,” attending pro-life rallies, listening to sanctity of life sermons, and occasionally donating to crisis pregnancy centers the sum of loving your soon-to-be-killed preborn neighbor as you love yourself?  If you were about to be torn to pieces and sucked through a vacuum, would you truly feel loved by those who warm the pews of the churches every Sunday, but don’t do more than this to make your impending death illegal?

If we love our preborn neighbors as we love ourselves, then we will not rest until abortion is abolished. We will not cease to agitate our culture and assist our neighbors until the blood of most helpless and innocent members of our society ceases to flow as a river through this land. If we love our neighbors as we love ourselves – that is, if we actually do more than pay lip service to the commandments of Christ – then we can do no less. And if we actually seek to do something more than make a complete and total mockery of the Great Commission, then we will teach and exhort our brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same.

In the Great Commission, Christ commands us to teach all that He has commanded. And He has commanded us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And this love for our preborn neighbors entails doing the work of abolition so that they may be saved from the slaughter. If you think that you are obeying Christ by “keeping the main thing the main thing,” but yet do not teach and exhort others to love their preborn neighbors as they love themselves, then you are not teaching them to observe the second greatest commandment. And if you are not teaching them to observe this commandment, then you are not teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded. And if you are not teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded, then you are not being faithful to the work of the Great Commission.

Whatever you believe the Great Commission to be, if doing it doesn’t result in people repenting of their sins and turning to obey the command of Christ to love their preborn neighbors as they love themselves, then you are not working to fulfill the Great Commission. Maybe something along the lines of the Mediocre Commission. Or maybe something like the I’ll-Spend-My-Life-Propagating-The-Kind-Of-Faith-That-Can-Exist-Without-Works Commission. But not the Great Commission.  Just as faith without works is dead, so also a “Great Commission” that does not produce the work of abolition is dead.

And of course, if we obey the greatest commandment and love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk. 12:30), then what will be our response to the fact that the most innocent bearers of God’s image are legally dismembered in our country? What will be our response, given that this occurs 3500 times a day? Are you willing to fight as hard to abolish the legalized slaughter of unborn image-bearers in your country as you are to fight against alcohol consumption in your denomination? Are you willing to oppose the practice of human abortion with the same tenacity with which you oppose theological liberals? Are you willing to fight even harder than that? If you are willing to spend thousands of hours toiling to fight for a particular doctrine and ensconce it as a denominational standard, should you not be willing to spend hundreds of thousands toiling to abolish a practice that violently and ruthlessly desecrates the image of the God you claim to love, serve, and worship?

You cannot claim to love God, and yet only offer token expressions of opposition to a practice that legally and wantonly destroys those who are created in His image. You cannot claim to be faithfully about doing the work of the Great Commission, if those you convert and disciple have little desire to obey the greatest commands of Christ, in the areas where they matter the most. Examine yourself, lest you find yourself to be in the practice of travelling over land and sea to make converts that are twice as much sons of hell as you. Stop making a mockery of the Great Commission, as if a faith that does not produce obedience to Christ’s commands is a faith that can actually save. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded! Grieve, mourn and wail! Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom! Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

If you would be one to obey the Great Commission, do it rightly and faithfully. Proclaim the unadulterated Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Command faith and repentance. Teach and exhort obedience to all that Christ has commanded. Make disciples that love what God loves, and hate what God hates.  Make disciples who desire, along with their Father in Heaven, to seek justice, correct oppression, and take up the cause of the fatherless child who is killed 3500 times a day in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We will not rest until we have effected its abolition.  The love of Christ compels us.  We can do no less.