Over the past weeks we’ve been working through Revelation. We’re now looking at how Revelation helps us understand and critique particular situations in our age. As a ‘working example’ in this introductory talk, I looked at the issue of abortion.

You can hear the talk here.

Working example: Abortion.

Read Revelation 18:11-13

Babylon/Rome were hailed by the world for what came out of them.
If you were to ask the Monty Python question ‘what has Rome ever done for us?’ you may well come out with a list like Revelation 18:12-13.

They’ve done lots for everyone in the Empire!

But perhaps you might not have given quite the list John does.
Look at the end of v13.
John tells us that they also trade in human souls.

This could refer to slaves, but it seems to be something deeper than that – the fantastic trade of this empire cost lives.
It was built upon the bodies of those who died as it hurtled on.
The materialism and the comfort of the Empire was paramount, and it did not matter if people died to achieve it.

That seems to be what people thought.
When we see this image of Babylon falling in Revelation, do the people rejoice that this consumerism built on death has ended?

No – they weep!

The gods and idols of their material wealth were so dominant that they would literally trample over human lives to achieve it.

I read Revelation 18:11-13 and it makes me uncomfortable.

Because it looks a lot like our country.

Our society is built on 4 things – consumerism, materialism, hedonism and individualism.
What makes our nation ‘great’ in the eyes of so many around the world is our freedom to shop!
We have access to material wealth on a scale never known before in history.

What we see in Revelation 18 was probably only accessed by the privileged few, even if it was desired by many.

Whereas today we have so much stuff – widescreen plasma TV’s, sports cars, holidays in the sun around the world, leisure facilities, cinema’s, theatres that are accessed by anyone and everyone.

The gods that perhaps everyone wanted to follow in John’s day can be followed with great diligence today.

We have come to expect pleasure, on demand comfort, a life plotted out the way I want it – and we’ve come to expect those as human rights.

But at what cost?

Do we see the dead and the bruised that suffer at the hands of these despicable gods?

I want to show you some of those who have died because of this.

My expectation is that some of you will be offended by what I’m about to say.

I hope all of you are in some way moved.

I expect this to be upsetting, and it won’t make for easy and pleasant conversation around the dinner table this afternoon.

I imagine that for some people here what I am about to say will hit very close to home and you will have yourself been involved in it or know someone who has.

So let me say first that the beauty of the critique that Revelation makes is that it is always against the back drop of the slain lamb.
There is forgiveness and hope for those who have rebelled because the King died so you could become part of his people.

So if what I am about to say brings home wrong doing and rebellion against God then know that grace is available in abundance and I’d be very happy to talk to you more about that.

But I’m not going to hold back on what I’ve got to say.
I can’t hold back because too many people do and we have for too long.

In Sheffield there are approximately 1700 deaths a year that are largely due to these idols of consumerism, materialism, hedonism and individualism.
1700 killings.

Across the UK in 2007 there were 198 500 deaths largely as a result of these so called gods.

Around the world there are 42 million of these deaths a year.

This genocide.

The problem is that those who are being killed never get to say anything about it.

They can’t speak out because they are still in their mothers wombs.

I’m talking of course about abortion.

There are 42 million abortions around the world every year and 1700 of them are happening, every year in our own city, down our streets.

What is striking is that although the rates of teenage pregnancy in the 20% most deprived areas is 6 times higher than the teenage pregnancy rate in the 20% most well-off areas, the rate of abortion is only 1/3 compared to 2/3 in those well off areas.

What does this say?

I think this says that a lot of abortions are nothing to do with issues of being able to support a child financially, or the serious health of a child or mother.

I think this says that our idols of materialism, consumerism, hedonism and individualism are resulting in thousands of deaths every year in our country.

Just watch this advert for the morning after pill.


Did you notice what the advert did?

An accident happened when having sex.

The result would be having a baby – which of course is bad.
The girl doesn’t feel ready for it yet (individualism – its all about me).
Who wants a screaming baby that annoys everyone else on the bus?
What a burden.

But never fear – you can stop the conceived child from implanting in the wall of the womb – that’s what the pill does.
And everything’s ok!
You can get on with your life in the way you want – no burden, no worries, no baby.

It’s subtle – notice how quick the advert is?
No debate, just assumed ‘givens’, but clearly effective.

The idols of consumerism and materialism tell you that what will give you the best life is to have what you want, when you want it – i.e. Now.

But a child will get in the way of that.
You’ll have to start spending money on them, you won’t be able to have as much of the stuff as you want.
So get rid of the baby.

The idols of hedonism and individualism tell you that what will give you the best life is to pamper yourself, have fun, seek pleasure, look out for number 1.

But a child will get in the way of all that.
Instead of going out and having fun with your friends you’ll have to stay in and look after a screaming, pooing kid.
You won’t be able to pursue your chosen career path.
And what young person wants that kind of a life?
What young person deserves such a life?
So the idols whisper in our ears.

Of course there are abortions for purely medical reasons, however the 1700 per year in Sheffield are not because of foetal anomalies.
You can abort a child up until the due date if there is substantial risk to the mother or serious handicap for the child – but this can include treatable handicaps like cleft palate and club foot.

Stats in 2006 were that only 0.4% of abortions were because of risk to the mother and 1.3% of abortions because of a handicap to the child.

The Abortion Act of 1967 allows abortion up until 24 weeks where continuing with the pregnancy involves a lower risk of injury to the ‘physical or mental health’ of the mother or any other children she has.

However this has been interpreted quite loosely.
And so babies are aborted for looser ‘social reasons’.
98% of abortions are done for this reason.

You see what concerns me is that earlier statistic about the high rate of abortion in affluent areas and the fact that the rate of abortions among 20-24 year olds is higher than among any other age bracket.

Does this not demonstrate that a vast number of abortions are for the simple reason that a child will not help me serve these gods that I want to serve?

Do you see the horrors that are unleashed at the hands of these idols?

But don’t feel bad about it.

The morning after pill company tell you that pregnancy hasn’t really started until the fertilised egg implants in the wall of the womb.

The abortionists tell you that its only a foetus and not a viable human being until it reaches the stage it can survive outside the womb – you’re not killing a human being.

And so the propaganda machine goes to work to calm our consciences and we keep on serving the gods of materialism, consumerism, hedonism and individualism.

Are we going to hear Revelations critique and see the beast for what it is?

Are we going to stand up and shout out for those who cannot say a word in their own defence?

Are we going to look at our nation and tell it as it is:
seeing the trade as magnificent as Babylon’s and Rome’s – trade in TV’s and cars, and fine clothes, and music, and art, and steel and babies lives.

John calls the churches that he is writing to to see the society around them for the beast that it is, and then to live as a radically different and attractive new society within the physical boundaries of the empire.
They are to live such lives that demonstrate that they have a different king to Ceasar and that they will not worship the idols around them.

And so do you know what the early Christians did?
When Roman society aborted the little girls that they didn’t want, by literally throwing them on the rubbish heap, the Christians went and picked them off the rubbish heap and looked after them themselves.

Can we not do the same?

I think we do need to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves – who are being killed before they can even utter a word in their own defence.

We need to write to MP’s to seek protection in law for them.
In this we will demonstrate the gospel – the good news of a God who came and associated with the out casts, the nobodies, the helpless – us!

But we need to go further than just talk.

1. First of all we need to do some repenting.

We need to repent for our role in the deaths of these babies –  we need to repent for our complacent and complicit approval of these idols, as we have not spoken out and acted as we should have done for these human beings.

We need to recognise and ask for forgiveness for the way we have failed the weak and the vulnerable and have not acted in the way God acts and with the heart God has.

2. We also need to call others to repentance who have been involved in this horror.

We need to show people that it is the result of us giving ourselves to idols and not following the true King – Jesus.

I am sure there are people here who have had abortions or know of people who have had abortions.
Please hear me correctly.

Abortion is wrong, but that’s the kind of thing Jesus died to forgive.
There is forgiveness, there is grace, there are open arms among God’s people and from God himself if you are in that situation.
Please, see abortion for what it is and run to the saviour for forgiveness and acceptance.

3. We also need to be active in showing people the alternatives to abortion – we need to know the system for adoption so we can help people through it, as it is a difficult procedure.

We need to be there to provide financially.
We need to be there to be a family when people who are considering abortion have no family.
We need to be a community of grace that people can run to for forgiveness and hope.
We need to be a glimpse of that new Jerusalem in the midst of Babylon.

I’m looking into ways that as a Church we can seriously get involved in this – because we cannot stand idly by while so many babies suffer and die.

And what will all this demonstrate?
The gospel – the gospel of forgiveness as we repent and call others to repentance.
The gospel that shows the extravagant generosity of a father who gives us everything we need, who provides a family for the fatherless and the widow.

We need to be an alternative society in this society.
Where those around us prize so highly consumerism and materialism and hedonism and individualism that they would kill babies, we need to prize so highly the lamb that was slain so that we will protect these babies, and their mothers and fathers and families.

We need to give people a glimpse of what is to come – where there will be no pain, no death, no mourning and no crying.

Will we hear the critique of Revelation on our society and do something about this genocide?