It is surely possible for different people to share the same goals, but to employ different strategies. What I am increasingly seeing, however, is how easy it is for strategies and goals to meld together. We all want, I trust, to grow in grace and wisdom, to bear the fruit of the Spirit. We can all agree also, I trust, that careful study of theology can be used as a means to that end, a strategy if you will. What if, however, the strategy and the goal get so entwined that we end up measuring our spiritual maturity not by the standard of godliness, but by the standard of our libraries?
I first noticed this shift in the pro-life movement. Everyone, presumably, wants the babies to be protected. Along the way some have adopted what might be called an incrementalist strategy- we work on stopping the most heinous abortions, and eventually move on to the “exceptions.” For a time that meant pro-lifers were encouraged to support both legislation and candidates that allowed for these exceptions. What totally flummoxed me, however, was in 2000, when the National Right to Life Committee not only encouraged us to vote for George W. Bush, but bestowed on him the title “Pro-Life.” This for a man who expressly, straightforwardly affirmed his conviction that the federal government ought to protect the “right” of doctors and mothers to murder babies conceived in the process of rape or incest. This is the “pro-life” candidate that evangelicals and pro-lifers voted for in droves.
More recently we have seen whole swaths of the “pro-life” movement embracing and laboring for informed consent laws, waiting periods, and clinic regulations- all bits of legislation that conclude, after every hurdle has been jumped- “and then you can kill the baby.” After nearly forty years of this “strategy” we have sunk to crafting, lobbying for and electing officials in support of legislation on how, when and where babies can be murdered. We have confused our strategy and our goal.
All of which tells us how important goals are, and how dangerous strategies can be. My goal with respect to me is that I would become a more godly man, that I would more faithfully obey the law and more joyfully embrace the grace of God. On the life issue the goal isn’t to limit the availability of abortions, nor reduce the number of circumstances in which they might take place. The goal isn’t even that the sanctity of life would be more widely recognized, nor that more babies would be saved. The goal is that God would be honored, in the faithfulness of His people, and in the protecting of His image bearers. Life is not sacred. God is sacred.
There are, happily, a growing number of pro-lifers who understand this principle. My friend Daniel Becker, of the Georgia State Right-To-Life (grtl.org) gets it. The American Right to Life group in Colorado, americanrtl.org, understands it. And God is blessing their faithful efforts. They have learned what Joshua learned outside the walls of Jericho- we don’t seek to enlist God on our side. Instead we seek to serve Him, the Captain of the Lord’s Hosts. Our calling is to fidelity. He will bring the victory. May we go forth into this battle, as with every battle, not following our strategies, but following the Ark of the Covenant- His law, His grace, His presence. And the walls will come tumbling down.