Why don’t we take down all the “Yes” signs?
My daughter Annabel recently said (with some heat), “I just want to go and tear the tops off all those ‘Yes’ signs!”
Another child of the church asked his parents, “If we want people to vote no on Issue 1, why don’t we go around and take down all the ‘Yes’ signs?”
To start with, praise God for the zeal of these little children who hate the wickedness they see around them. Children are often tender to injustice because of their innocence. We must seek to be like these children in how we see evil. May we never lose the horror of abortion as seen by these little ones who are “innocent in what is evil” (Rom. 16:19). And make no mistake: Issue 1 is evil. It seeks to make the murder of one’s own children a constitutional right in the state of Ohio.
Psalm 106:38 warns us against such wickedness, condemning the Israelites who “shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with the blood.”
The Evil of Promoting Wickedness
Abortion itself is wrong, but it’s also wrong to promote this murder as a “good thing,” as “Yes” signs do. Isaiah gives us this warning in chapter 5:
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!
(Isa. 5:20, 23)
Seeing all the signs urging us to vote “Yes” on Issue 1 ought to make us tremble at what we read two verses later:
On this account the anger of the LORD has burned against His people,
And He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down.
And the mountains quaked, and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the streets.
For all this His anger is not spent,
But His hand is still stretched out.
To promote evil is also evil, and this is what we are seeing all around us. This is what the children are rightly objecting to. God’s wrath is not only poured out on the land for the shed blood of the innocent, but also because of those who proclaim that evil is good.
How to Oppose Wickedness
It is a Christian duty to oppose wickedness. The first way we do this is by turning away from our former wicked ways and living in the light of Christ, according to His commands. Over and over the Bible exhorts us to do so. The idols of our nation that lead to child-sacrifice—comfort, wealth, self-determination, and lust—are tempting to us, just as they are to the non-Christians around us. We must first tear down these idols in our own hearts.
But our duty goes even further. We must also oppose it in our brother. If our brother in Christ is caught in sin, we are to confront him with his sin and seek his repentance (Matt. 18), even removing him from our fellowship if he will not repent.
But our opposition to wickedness must go even further! Ephesians 5:11 reads, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.”
Abortion and the signs promoting it are unfruitful deeds of darkness. We are to expose them.
How to Expose Wickedness
Yet how are we to expose sin in the world?
The majority of the New Testament answers this question by pointing to our actions. The holiness of how we live our life is what makes us salt and light (Matt. 5:13–16). Living righteously even leads to persecution because of how it exposes the wickedness of the world: “Cain was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous” (1 John 3:12).
However, our exposing of wickedness must extend further than living in a way that contrasts with the world’s evil behavior. The “unfruitful deeds of darkness” are only fully exposed when they are pointed out and rebuked as people are called to repentance. We see this regularly from Jesus and His apostles. It was a public pronouncement against evil that got John the Baptist martyred. He rebuked Herod for his immorality, and he was ultimately beheaded for it (Mark 6:17–28).
We’ve been given a wonderful opportunity now to speak up for life by witnessing God’s truth while everybody is thinking about it and arguing about it. It is very rare that so many people are willing to engage in discussion about abortion or any moral issue. But they are today! Take advantage of that to call them to repentance and oppose bloodshed. Put up a yard sign, sure, but do more than that. Talk to people!
You might feel like it’s hopeless and pointless to call people to repentance, but God’s word does not go out and return empty. It always accomplishes its task. It will convict, leading to repentance; or it will condemn, leading to judgment. So don’t just speak with worldly wisdom and worldly arguments. Quote scripture. Speak of the sins and idolatries, not just the social issues. This is liable to cause you to suffer for your faith. Do it anyway. Call your fellow Christians to join you in the work.
And pray. Prayer is a powerful tool that God has given us against wickedness. This is why we are having a congregational time of prayer specifically about this issue. Nothing we do is as effective in opposing evil as calling out to God to use His mighty right hand to cause the workers of wickedness to fall into their own trap. Read the Psalms for many examples of how we can pray against evil. (Psalm 10 is a good place to start, and we will be reading it at our prayer service.)
But what about the signs?!
The reason I’ve made this answer so long is because I do not want to give anybody the impression that abortion isn’t their responsibility to oppose. We must oppose and expose it. However, I do not believe destroying signs in favor of abortion is what we should do.
Simply put, tearing down and throwing away other people’s signs would be taking the law into our own hands.
God calls us to expose the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but that is still different than coercively silencing the wicked. Generally speaking, that is not our job, unless we have been given authority by God to do so.
And there are actually some ways that we have been given that authority. Fathers, you have authority in your home. If your teenage son tries to put up a “Yes” sign in your yard, you should tear it down, destroy it, and discipline your son as seems best to you (Heb. 12:10). However, that authority does not extend to your neighbor’s yard, because God has not granted it to you.
Every adult citizen has the authority, so to speak, to vote and influence the laws of our state. We have an obligation to use that right to vote for the advancement of righteousness.
Elected officials have authority to make laws, repeal laws, and punish criminals. They should do everything in their power to lawfully bring about the end of the slaughter of the pre-born. But remember, even when murders are committed, we have due process (a biblical principle) that helps ensure that justice is carried out properly. For one thing, due process keeps private individuals from carrying out justice according to their own whims. And that is a good thing.
Church officers have authority to discipline someone within the people of God who promotes the shedding of innocent blood. If anyone does, they should be silenced and cut off from fellowship. But this authority given to church officers, by God’s decree, does not extend outside the church.
So who’s responsible?
The Old Testament has several commands to nations that have given themselves to oppressing the weak.
Isaiah 1:17 is addressed to the “rulers of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah”:
Learn to do good;
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
Jeremiah 22:3 is addressed to the king of Judah and his people:
Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”
The above passages are some of the main scriptural commands to oppose wickedness by actually intervening. Everywhere we see this in Scripture, it is about protecting “the least of these” from the wickedness of oppressors and murderers. God has always been concerned for the lowest people. The theme of God’s people being required to watch out for the weak, poor, orphans, strangers, aliens, widows, hungry, thirsty, prisoners, etc. is present from beginning to end in the Scriptures. These are the people that are easily oppressed by the unrighteous, and so the call to protect the innocent and seek justice is directly connected to the command to care for “the least of these.”
Today, pre-born babies are certainly the largest and most oppressed group by far. It should not surprise us that abortion is the place where children of faith are calling us to be obedient to these commands. And frankly, there is more we can do. Since judgment is to “begin with the household of God” (1 Pet. 4:17), we should begin by telling other Christians that they shouldn’t use abortifacient birth control. Another thing faithful Christians have often done is protest outside abortion clinics, shining light into the darkness.
Nevertheless, when all this and more has been done, and abortion continues and grows, it may be tempting to see these passages as requiring us to become vigilantes, taking the law into our own hands. This is not a good understanding of these texts. They place a duty on each one of us, yes. But the duty is placed first on the king and then on the nation as a whole. Yes, the nation is made up of individuals, but when the high places are not torn down in the book of Kings, it is the kings that are blamed. Not the priests. Not the prophets. Not individual other people. But rather, the king, who is the head of the people as a whole.
When Gideon tore down his family’s idol, God had given him an explicit command to do so. When Hezekiah sent the people out to tear down the high places, he was the king. Vigilantism of any sort, justified by the above passages, leads straight past taking down signs and ends at extra-judicial killings. If we are convinced these texts calling us to defend the widow and orphan mean we must set aside the law, then where do we stop? With both the king and the people in view, reading these commands, it becomes clear that the great difference between “defend” and “plead” is explained by the fact that different people have different duties.
Our job is to live holy lives, pray, plead, reprove, and call people to repentance all according to our own particular place in this life. There is no law against you giving your legal argument for why this amendment is bad, but Attorney General Yost and Governor DeWine bear particular duty to do so, given their positions of civil authority. Thank God they are doing so.
Jesus and the apostles taught us how to live in a nation that is committed to immoral bloodshed. They didn’t command the people in the New Testament church to take on the Roman legions to free Paul who was unjustly imprisoned. Peter didn’t judge the believers for praying, rather than storming the jail he was held in.
This doesn’t mean there is no place for civil disobedience as Christians, but it does mean that it isn’t justified merely because we are seeking to accomplish something good.
So don’t ignore the “Yes” signs. Mourn over them. Pray for God’s mercy because of them. Speak up against them. Plead with the civil magistrate to protect life and justice. Live a life that shows the whole world you love children and don’t worship ease.
God of vengeance, shine forth!
We may feel very powerless today to do anything about abortion, but that is not a new feeling. The prayers of the Psalmists often show the helplessness of the faithful to accomplish justice for themselves or for others, and their need to wait on the Lord. We need to cast ourselves on God’s mercy, and take the actions that are available to us.
Let me close with the beginning of Psalm 94, a great model for how we can pray against abortion and those wicked men and women who are promoting it and doing it.
O LORD, God of vengeance,
God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O Judge of the earth,
Render recompense to the proud.
How long shall the wicked, O LORD,
How long shall the wicked exult?
They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly;
All who do wickedness vaunt themselves.
They crush Your people, O LORD,
And afflict Your heritage.
They slay the widow and the stranger
And murder the orphans.
They have said, “The LORD does not see,
Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.”