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Beholding the City of Death

September 22, 2009
Paul may have heard about the reputation of Athens prior to arriving, how it was full of idolatry, having a lust for strange and novel philosophies. But something changed when Paul beheld the city of idols: he felt the idolatry; his spirit stirred within him.

Beginning this Wednesday we will have a special opportunity to choose to see our city as it really is: a city full of death.

In some ways we are at a disadvantage in our ability to see clearly what is happening all around us. Our alters of death are not like the idols proudly displayed in Ancient Athens. Instead they are hidden within neatly groomed sidewalks, sanitized waiting rooms, and carefully chosen words. But that is only part of the story: the remnants of death are on every street corner, in every shopping center, school, office building and church. The city of Seattle is bathed in abortion. And we do not see it.

By the age of 45, it is estimated that 1 in 3 women will have had at least one abortion. In King County, at least 1 out of every 4 pregnancies will end in abortion. (Sources: Guttmacher Institute and Washington State Department of Health).

I cannot wrap my head around this, I cannot respond in a way that matches the gravity of the situation. There is gap between what my head knows, and how my heart responds. Worst of all is that nothing in my everyday life forces me to see the wreckage: I can live happily in blind deception. The first thing that needs to happen is for my heart to break, and even this I cannot do on my own.

And so it is a strange grace: that God gives me opportunity to behold the hidden things, the unfathomable things, that break His own heart. It is only then that I can even begin to understand how God wants me to respond. He knows my weakness, He knows that my heart must be stirred up, again and again, to feel and not just know the urgency of what is happening.

The images still flash though my mind from last spring’s vigil:

  • A worn and distressed woman leaving a clinic after an abortion
  • A young teenager, exiting the clinic dazed and numb, her hands clenched full of reading material…a decision that must be made.
  • Young men waiting in their parked cars, pacing in and out of the clinic doors.
  • Clinic workers emptying out the medical waste in a small white box at the end of the day.

I was ashamed to be watching these private moments, but I wonder if God wanted me to see. He wanted me to be provoked; He wants me to provoked again. That is why I will seek His strange grace again, this fall during Seattle 40 Days for Life. I pray that by opening my eyes to abortion, my heart will be broken for what breaks His, but that it it won’t stop there. As with Paul, I pray that the provocation would lead to action: “Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.” (Acts 17:17)

The thought of “reasoning” and speaking out terrifies me. I will fall short, I will fail. But for right now I suffer a worst fate than that: I continually return to apathy. May the vision of the City of Death, by the power of the Holy Spirit, stir within me the passion to open my “mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die.” (Proverbs 31:8)

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols.
So he was reasoning in the synagogue with Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.” (Acts 17:16-17)

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