Tennessee state representatives took an important step toward protecting life last week when pro-life legislation passed in both the House and the Senate. The legislative approval makes a way for the bill to move on to Governor Bill Lee, who will probably sign it into law since it closely resembles the pro-life legislation he outlined in January of this year.
The bill includes a “laddered” approach, meaning it offers abortion restrictions from most restrictive to less restrictive. The intent is that if the courts strike down the most restrictive it will then hopefully allow the next tier. The restrictions are defined by the number of weeks into a pregnancy the fetus is.
I am thankful for the state representatives and senators taking a stand for the unborn. While I applaud these outstanding measures, I am grieved at the missed opportunity for our lawmakers to define life beginning at conception.
If you’ll recall, Tennessee Baptists pushed hard last August in support of Senate Bill 1236 when I appeared before a Senate sub-committee on your behalf advocating our position. More than 1,000 Tennessee Baptist pastors and more than 20,000 Tennessee Baptists signed the I Stand for Life petition expressing a desire for that legislation to move forward. If SB 1236 had passed, it would have been a landmark piece of legislation and potentially one of the most — if not the most — comprehensive pro-life legislation in America.
Unfortunately, Tennessee legislators chose not to advance SB 1236 and it basically died in committee. We now have what is sure to be a new pro-life law once the governor signs the bill, so where do we go from here?
(1) Continue sharing the gospel. Be salt and light. Job No. 1 for every believer is to share the life-transforming message of Jesus Christ. Yes, we deal with, but must not be distracted by, natural disasters, pandemics, economic crisis, national strife, and occasional denomination disunity as well as whatever else powers of hell throws at us. But make no mistake, our calling remains: Win the spiritually lost in Tennessee and around the world to the saving knowledge of Christ.
(2) Pay attention and follow these bills through the challenges they will surely face in the court system. If overturned by federal courts, let’s regroup and stand again for the “life begins at conception” legislative proposals outlined in SB 1236. We cannot succumb to a “Well, we did our best to end abortion” defeatism. Life is worth fighting for so we must stay vigilant until the national blight of abortion is eradicated.
(3) Advocate for life at every turn. The unborn, the impoverished, the refugee, the disenfranchised, the elderly, the disabled. Basically, anyone that fits into the description of the traveler in the story of the Good Samaritan. You and I are the Good Samaritan to “the least of these.”
(4) Be supportive of crisis pregnancy centers in your communities. There are many scattered across our state so seek them out. Untold numbers of babies are saved every year because of the good and compassionate work of these ministries.
(5) Promote, consider and support adoption and foster care. During the questioning last August at the sub-committee hearing, one senator asked me who would care for all those children if abortion was outlawed. By the nature of her question, she implicitly advocated for abortion as a means of population control. My answer, Christ followers always have been the first to step up and take care of the orphaned. Supported by Cooperative Program gifts, the Mother’s Day Offering and the generosity of individuals, our Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes have been on the front lines of orphan care for over 100 years. Beyond the residential care, TBCH is now on the front lines of foster care. Foster care is a great opportunity for our churches to impact the precious lives of thousands of children needing a home for Christ.
As I said in my statement to the sub-committee, life is not ours to give therefore is it not ours to take. Galatians 6:9 reminds us that we must, “not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Tennessee Baptists, the battle for life is worth the fight. No one said it would be easy, but through prayer, advancing the gospel and committing ourselves to action we serve the One who is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Yes, I stand for life now more than ever, and it is my joy to be on this journey with you.