By Ernest O'Neill

Can Christians Have Different Views on Ethical Issues?

By Rev. Ernest O'Neill

Do you think abortion is wrong? And do you think it’s wrong in every situation?  For instance, would it be wrong in the case of a mother who had a genetically inherited insanity and would therefore be bound to pass it on to her children?  There was a family in a small town in Minnesota who, for several generations, had simply passed the insanity on from generation to generation.

Now, would it be wrong in the case of a 13-year-old girl who had been gang raped -- would abortion be wrong for her?  Would it be wrong for another young woman who just got herself into trouble and the guy wouldn’t marry her -- would abortion be wrong for her? Or would it be wrong for a mother whose life is threatened?  What attitude would you have to anyone who was a Christian who got up and said, "Well yeah, I do believe in abortion and I actually believe abortion is right for a couple who have an unwanted pregnancy." Now, what would your attitude be to that person? Would you say, "That little fetus inside that mother’s womb is a human being so if he says that, he believes in murder -- he believes in killing a human being?”  What if he replies, "No, I don’t believe that little fetus is a human being and therefore I don’t think I believe its murder."  Then maybe you’d say, "But it is.  Many medical authorities say that it is even the shape of a little human being and certainly it has many of the capacities of an adult human being in embryonic form. So it is a human being.”  And what if he replies, “Well, no.   I mean it has no rights before the law and it has no responsibilities before God until it’s separated from it’s mother’s body, and so that’s why,” he says, “I am almost drawn to call it  an “it” because to me it still is not a separate human being before God and the law." And then you reply, "No, it’s a shame even to call it “it”.  It’s “he” or “she” we can even tell the sex of the child in certain situations. No, that little human being inside there has rights of its own and if you kill it, or you stop its birth, then you are destroying life.”  Now, what if the other person says, "Look, I believe in Jesus and I believe in God, but I do think that this is open to question.  I think different people have different views; some medical authorities wouldn’t treat “it” as a normal human being so I really think that I am not reinforcing murder, I am simply saying that this woman has the right to determine what happens to her own body." And then you reply; "No, she hasn’t that right; she hasn’t the right to kill a human being.”  And he replies, "But she doesn’t believe it’s a human being so she doesn’t believe that it’s murder; she believes she has the right to control her own body." Now, do you have a tendency to say, “Anybody knows that this little fetus is a human being?  And anybody who is thinking straight knows that abortion is wrong. Now either you are not thinking straight, or you are not a Christian.”

Loved ones I do believe that there is even deeper truth than the obvious one in what God says to us this morning in that kind of context.  Maybe you’d like to look at it.  It’s his word, and I do believe that it speaks not only to that situation but to something deeper in our own relationship with him. Its Romans 14:3, “Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him." And you may say, "Well, what do dietary fads have to do with abortion?  What has that got to do with what we have just been talking about?"  The fact is it’s not just a dietary fad. God speaks a lot in his word about this whole question of eating meat and eating vegetables.  You might say that you don’t see why a Christian would ever even dream of being a vegetarian.  I’ll show you why they would in Genesis 1:30 loved ones, "And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.  And it was so." So there God is saying to all the animals and to every living being, “I have given the green plant for food.  You may say, "Well that settles it -- it means we should all be vegetarians.  Why does any Christian ever eat meat?"  Well because of Genesis 9:2-3,  "The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered.  Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything."

So there God is saying, "You can eat animals and eat the flesh that you find in animals, you can eat meat.”  You may say, "Well, that’s it, that’s why I eat meat." But I would ask you -- why don’t you eat kosher of meat -- because look at the next verse in Genesis 9:4, "Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." So now, why do you eat meat out of which the blood has not been drained? And then you reply, "Well, Jesus, by his death abolished all those ritual laws, so we are freed from that and Paul says that all things are clean.  That’s why we believe we are not tied to what was primarily a ritualistic law.”

Now do you see the relevance of it? God is saying to us this morning, "I have spoken about murder in my word and I have spoken a lot about eating meat and not eating meat. I haven’t mentioned abortion, but even though I have said so much about eating meat, yet I say this to you, "Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats, for God has welcomed him."  And God says, "Despite the fact that I have said many things about eating meat and not eating meat, yet I tell you as my children, do not despise somebody else who says they are our brother and a Christian.  Do not look down on them because they have a different view of eating meat to what you have."

Then you see the obvious sequel to that; if that’s the situation with eating meat about which his word says so much, let it be particularly the situation in regard to these modern issues that we have. In other words don’t let’s get ourselves into this position where we despise those who don’t take the same view on nuclear disarmament or abortion or war as we do. “Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, for God welcomes him.”  Why is it so important to have that attitude of love to one another?  Not just to keep us all together; not just to maintain unity; not even just because it’s intelligent to do it -- there is a deeper reason.  It is wrong to judge the authenticity of a person’s Christian faith by what they say they believe just as much as it’s wrong to judge the authenticity of their Christian faith by the things that they do or don’t do.  The Christian faith is not, simply, concerned with the facts you believe, or with the things you do, or the things you don’t do. The Christian faith that brings us into relationship with our Creator is deeper than that.

That’s why I would love us to thank about this, this morning. It’s very fashionable today to identify a relationship with God with certain views of things, or certain practices, or habits in our lives. And so our idea of Christian faith is getting shallower and more superficial as the years go on. This always happens at the end of some kind of movement in society – the things that people were concerned about become very coarse and become very superficial; they separate themselves into categories and it dissipates in a series of different views and different habits. Christianity and the faith that brings us close to God are deeper than that.