Full disclosure: I’ve not watched the first Planned Parenthood video. I’ve not read the news. I have no first hand knowledge of any facts about who has done what. So what is this about? It’s about the general principle that tends to defend entities like Planned Parenthood which goes something like this:
The good they do far outweighs the harm. They are a much-needed resource and therefore we must overlook or attempt to justify the parts we dislike.
The reason this is the most glaring aspect of this story for me is because I see it all too easily in myself and, I suspect, in many of us who follow Jesus. The reason this argument won’t fly for me with Planned Parenthood is the same reason it will not fly with God when we all one day stand before Him as Judge.
But it is so alluring! It works so well because deep inside all of us we want it to be true. We want to believe that the good we do will somehow trump the bad. We want to believe that the countless people we serve will trump the porn we look at when no one is watching. We want to believe that the many dollars we give to charity will cover the stinginess with which we give love to our spouse and kids. We want to believe that the many mouths we feed will surely outweigh the many lusts in which our thoughts indulge. We want to believe that the many spiritual words we convey through a blog or sermon will cover the words of death or gossip or offense we utter under our breath.
The reason the argument to defend the existence of Planned Parenthood works so well is because we are all doing it on some level or another in our own lives.
Stories abound throughout our scriptures warning us of the futility of this argument. King Saul is but one example of a man who did all that God commanded but one thing, and lost it all. He thought his heroic deeds would earn him honor with God but his lack of obedience to all that God required cost him dearly (1 Samuel 15).
Compare Saul’s tepid obedience to that of King Josiah, who instituted total reform in his kingdom upon hearing God’s words, cleansing out any hint of idolatry from the land and the people (2 Kings 23). Josiah wasn’t fooling around when it came to being right with God. Everything had to go. A spring cleaning that left no question as to who was Lord of this house.
Jesus was ruthless when it came to rooting out anything that could hinder the fullness of a life with God. If your eye causes you to sin gouge it out, he says. It’s better to enter the kingdom of God missing one part of your body than your whole body be thrown into hell (Matt. 5:29). In other words, that one part of you that you think is overshadowed by the rest of your good deeds is enough to destroy all of you.
Paul warns that just a little yeast leavens the entire batch (1 Cor. 5:6) which is to say that the things we think are of little consequence will spread like gangrene if we are not vigilant. Today we might say it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine.
And let us not forget that Jesus warned that just because we call him “Lord” and just because we have fed the hungry and clothed the naked and gave water to the thirsty – just because we have provided many good services to others – we will still be subject to the only judgement that matters: Did we know Jesus and did Jesus know us?
To know Jesus means many things but surely it means at least this: Knowing that without him I’m dead. Apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ I am undone. I cannot possibly live up to the degree of holiness God demands, at least not this side of heaven. If I could, there would be no need to groan for a Promised Land to come. While I believe I’m growing more and more perfect in love of God and neighbor I realize along with it a profound sense of my own brokenness. The closer I get to my Father in Heaven the more I ought to see my own great need for His Son to be my Savior. I am utterly and completely reliant on the finished work of the cross where the punishment I deserved was meted out. It was on that cross that this wretched sinner received amazing grace, and it’s there I must return when I tend to hide behind whatever good I think I’ve accomplished.
I grow weary of living in a culture that laments the killing of a lion while allowing millions of babies to be aborted. But I am just as weary of the disease in us all that somehow manages to convince me that the more horrified I am at the sins of others the more righteous I appear to both myself and those watching.
Planned Parenthood convicts me because I recognize there are rough areas in my life that I’m trying to compensate for by doing more good. And that is a fool’s errand. Instead I want to take this opportunity to be like Josiah and see where my life has gathered idols and do a serious spring cleaning. And where I fall short (and I will) and where I see others fall short (and they will) I want to have on the tip of my tongue and the well spring of my heart the prayer Jesus most commended,
O God, be merciful to me, the sinner (Luke 18:13).