Agape Defiled

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by Rolley Haggard

There’s an elephant in the living room. Only it isn’t an elephant, and it isn’t in the living room. It’s a golden calf, and it’s in our baptismal font and our pulpit and our sanctuary and our Sunday School class and our Bible study group and everywhere else we worship and serve God, because, truth be told, it’s in our hearts.

To put it bluntly: We, the church of Jesus Christ, have an idol.

It’s called ministry.

Ministry?

Yes, ministry: busying ourselves with the things of God. Granted, ministry seems very un-idol-like. But then, subtlety is the hallmark of seductive sins. It has been the devil’s most effective stratagem since the beginning of time: Get the sin to seem no sin. Better, get it to seem like service to God. Better still, get it to be service to God. Sins don’t get more subtle than that, nor does idolatry seem like idolatry when we’re busy doing things God instructed us to do. It seems like true Christianity, like pure and undefiled religion.

But is it? Even ministry can be idolatry when it supplants what God most wants from us. What is the acid test of true Christianity, of pure and undefiled religion? What does it look like?

Pure and Undefiled Religion

We are not left guessing. In James 1:27, God tells us what “pure and undefiled religion” looks like: “Visit[ing] orphans and widows in their distress.” That’s divine shorthand for serving “the least of these” with sacrificial agape love. Acts of compassion, exemplified by coming to the aid of suffering women and children, are the distinguishing marks of true Christianity.

The American church, by stunning contrast, has been characterized the past 40 years—ever since Roe v. Wade—by the deliberate and thoroughgoing neglect of 55 million orphans in exquisite distress. One has to wonder if the cold indifference shown by the church to these orphans could have been any more absolute had salvation itself depended on completely ignoring them.

Orphans?

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Yes, orphans, in the truest sense. These little victims, before having their lives snuffed out in abortion, were emphatically orphans, for there are two ways a child becomes an orphan: One is to lose his parents; the other is for his parents to abandon him. It doesn’t take a Solomon to see here the applicability of James 1:27.

Yet for four decades the church has fastidiously refused to muster aid on behalf of these little people and against one of the most barbaric and inhumane practices imaginable. Not only has the church opted not to visit these orphans in their distress, but by refusing to voice any significant public moral objection, the church has actually gone to the opposite extreme and given tacit sanction to their cruel mutilation and murder.

And this comports with James 1:27, how?

No one will answer that question because there is no answer. We are wholly without excuse. We have ignored not only the soundless cries of these abandoned orphans, but more ominously, the unequivocal declarations of our God and Father as well.

This raises the additional and perhaps more deeply soul-probing question: If pure and undefiled religion in God’s sight is to visit orphans in their distress, then just what kind of religion has the church been practicing since 1973? What kind of religion is it whose defining characteristic is the refusal to visit tens of millions of orphans in their inconceivably great distress?

Defining Characteristic?

Yes, defining characteristic. A defining characteristic is the feature most notable and distinctive about a thing. A hundred years from now history will remember us not for our missions or evangelism or our ministry, much less for our fidelity to the Bible. It will remember us for our breathtakingly thorough disregard of orphans in their distress.

Abortion continues to flourish largely because of us. We could end abortion overnight—if we really wanted to. The present generation of Christians will no more be lauded for its service to Christ than would a perverted pastor who preached spellbinding sermons and won thousands of souls by day, but committed pedophilia against a four-year-old child by night.

We will not be remembered for the religious busyness we called ministry—in the final analysis, this amounts to so much window-dressing in the sight of God—but for refusal to give Christ the one thing He wants in evidence of true love for Him: that we would love our neighbor as ourselves.

The logic is inescapable: If pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God is to give compassionate, sacrificial, agape love to abandoned children, then American Christianity is grotesquely impure and defiled—like a river of life befouled by the corpses of too many children for even the angels to count.

* * *

Solomon: The Mother’s Day Ruminations of an Abandoned Son

Call me her son, but not my mother deem

The one who gave me life enough to taste
The barest part of God’s ecstatic dream,
Then rid me from her womb with wicked haste.
“Considered innocent till guilty proved”
So said the law she praised, yet gave me death
With no defense, who not so much as moved
A tiny fist or raised his voice in threat.
She thought it wisdom plotting my demise
And naming “Orphan,” by default, her son;
But she by murder made that son more wise;
For cenotaphs shall dub him “Solomon,”
Who, like the Sage, is sure a mother true
Would not consent to cut her child in two.

Rolley Haggard is a feature writer for BreakPoint.



  • http://twitter.com/kevinsubra Kevin Subra

    Great, Rolley. You tell us we must yet don’t tell us how. You assume that pastors do not speak up (and they do, regularly). They speak against this and all sin (at least in circles that I am connected). We continue to preach, but we cannot just have our focus on the atrocity of one sin, but the bankruptcy of all sin, and the power of the Gospel, and the transforming power of the Word in one who has been saved by God. I honestly think you are living in a world of fiction. From your standpoint, Jesus could have been delivered from the cross if only the disciples would have stood up to their culture.

    • Rolley Haggard

      Kevin, thanks for your good feedback.

      First,
      I actually do tell you how. I linked to an earlier article of mine
      titled “We Could End Abortion ‘Overnight’ — If We Really Wanted
      To’, in which I outline a “One Minute a Day Pulpit Strategy to End
      Abortion’. Here it is again if you missed it:
      http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/articles/entry/12/19080

      Second,
      as my strategy notes, I’m not calling pulpits to “just have our
      focus on the atrocity of one sin”. One minute per sermon is hardly
      single-issue preoccupation. But I am saying we need to quit damning
      pro-life activism with faint praise. That, in large measure, is why
      not nearly enough is being done to bring this holocaust to an end.

      Do you yourself (assuming you are a pastor/teacher) give pro-life
      activism even a single minute every time you face your congregation?
      We who hold the microphone have a dire responsibility make our flocks
      hear the “silent scream” of those who are being led to
      destruction. Otherwise it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” As
      Bonhoeffer said, “silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” We Christians can do more, a whole lot more. And if we did, my life on it, we would
      end abortion practically ‘overnight’.

      With all due respect (and I mean that), I think it is you who are living
      in a world of fiction; for if merely “preaching the gospel” will
      end abortion, why have we had 40 years of it? Your theory doesn’t
      appear to be working. The fact is, you can’t just “preach the
      gospel” and expect people to figure out the implications. We need
      to connect the dots for people; most folks don’t automatically get it
      that faith without works is dead, and they are content to stop at
      merely “believing”; for example, saying “I’m pro-life”, and
      doing nothing about it. Preachers who take your position perpetuate
      the tragic error that virtual inaction on behalf of the preborn is
      still somehow “pure and undefiled religion”.

      Blessings, bro.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=560753834 Paula Coyle

      Maybe they do in your church, but there are a LOT of liberal churches out there that just don’t want to get involved in “politics” and so they don’t touch the hard issues. (this isn’t politics of course).

      The other issue (and perhaps this is what you were getting at) is that when you’re in a church that preaches only law/moralism, people just go home and check off a list and think they’ve done their duty. When you are in a church that regularly reminds you and proclaims to you the finished work of Christ on your behalf, while at the same time showing you that it was IMPOSSIBLE for you to ever fulfill that law (including the religion undefiled part about loving your neighbor as yourself), when you are told that it is completely finished and you are free, it actually sets *a Christian* free to risk, free to be poured out as a drink offering for his fellow man, free to serve his fellow man and love his neighbor without reserve… because Christ has won for me everything I will ever need in life and death and eternity, I am free to lose, free to be a loser, free to be persecuted and do his work without apology.

      But when all I am given is all the things I must do, I gradually slip into despair and bondage. Or pharisaism, thinking I’m acheiving it.

      Pastors need to return to a right preaching of Law and Gospel (or Law and grace). And seriously, thanks to people like Rick Warren (and his thousands of clones) who can’t seem to preach the gospel when it’s handed to him on a silver platter, yet remains HIGHLY ESTEEMED in the eyes of both the world and the church as someone to pay attention to and honor, pastors give us nothing BUT law most of the time. Then they wonder why the church is full of sickly Christians and false converts. False converts LOVE to get checklists of stuff they must do to please God. Real converts know that they can’t and must be fed Christ every week, clearly and freely, for there to be any hope at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kat-Wells-Anderson/100001128516686 Kat Wells Anderson

    Thanks, Steve, for “blowing a trumpet in Zion”; for if this country were to be judged for anything…it will be THIS. Not the gays, the gambling or the whores. THIS. Because we the people called by His name have turned a deaf ear to His heart’s cry. He is not deaf to their cries; most of them never heard. This isn’t written to pastors, it is written to YOU and ME. GET UP and DO something. ANYTHING. Give money to non-profits who give alternative options to those with unexpected pregnancies. WRITE or CALL your Senators, congressmen and women. PRAY for those, like Gosnell, who become rich in their “house of horrors” to be exposed. CALL the networks and demand to know why the “house of horrors” was not mentioned until the 56th day of the trial.