The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’ So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:22-27).
If you are reading this reflection, it is likely that you feel a burden for unborn children and their parents. It is also likely that you understand abortion to be, at root, not a political matter, or even a moral matter, but a Gospel matter. Pro-life work, in whatever form it takes, is one aspect of the larger work and witness of the Church. Therefore, faithful pro-life witness depends upon the same things that any work and witness depends upon—the blessing of the Lord upon His people as we carry out the work He has given us to do.
The words of blessing, given above, must count as among the most precious words in all of the Scripture. It was not a wish or a prayer, but a word from God, given by the priest to encourage the people and remind them of God’s favor upon them. Let me suggest several implications of the blessing taken from its own language, not only for pro-life work, but all ministry undertaken in the name of Christ.
First, we minister from who we are in relation to God, as those who have been blessed by Him. Understanding this is critical, lest we minister out of our own need or our own desire to be accepted or recognized. Believing in the shining face of the Lord upon you brings strength to love and encouragement to persevere when the countenance of the world toward you is dark. Secondly, we minister as those who have been shown grace and favor. The word for grace is a word that suggests favor freely given, not earned or deserved. Knowing that we are saved by grace, and not our own righteousness or wisdom or strength or common sense, will enable us to see the rest of the world like ourselves. Which will keep up us from becoming Pharisees. The world can quickly spot the self-righteous, but may listen to the humble. God has been generous with us, and therefore we are generous with our neighbors. Thirdly, we minister as those who are kept and protected by God. The keeping of the Lord spoken in the blessing is well reflected in Psalm 121: “the LORD will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life” (Psalm 121:7). Being kept from evil does not mean that we will be kept from disappointment or suffering, but it does mean that the Lord will give us everything we need to serve him faithfully. We rely not upon zeal or outrage or guilt or whatever, but upon Him. Finally, we minister as those who bear the name of Christ. When the priests blessed the people, they put the name of the Lord upon them. They were not their own, they had been bought with a price and belonged to God. That meant that they bore His name among the nations, loving what the Lord loved, hating what the Lord hated, and living accordingly. God’s people, then and now, share His heart and get their bearings from Him.
Israel was called to a witness that was larger than anything she should have imagined. She was to be a light to a dark world, a community of hope so that a world estranged from God could be reconciled to him. She was to be a city on a hill, bearing testimony that life does not have to be as we experience it. She was to be a kingdom of priests, making plain the possibility of forgiveness and restoration to God and one another. This abortion-stricken world needs that. And nothing more. And, by the blessing of God upon His church, He has provided everything needed.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” (Psalm 67:1-3)
This month’s reflections have been written by Anglicans for Life’s Board Member, the Rev. Dr. W. Ross Blackburn. Rev. Blackburn is the Rector of Christ the King, an Anglican Fellowship in Boone, NC.