Birth Control Series [Part 3]: Controlling Birth and Christian Life
Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
This is the third installment of the Clearly Caring series addressing the Christian viewpoint of birth control and contraception.
In 1998, I first tackled the subject of birth control in the pages of this periodical (previously called Beginnings). We assembled those articles into a booklet entitled, The Christian and Birth Control. I wanted to take this difficult and controversial subject and approach it from a Christian perspective in a manner that provided practical guidance.
In the first series, the objective was to clearly communicate the answers on the “why” of birth control. The “Motive” chapter of that book did just that. Yet, in subsequent years, letters and comments about the book asked to address the “what” of birth control. People wanted to know what was available and what was acceptable to use.
Please note that subsequent articles will tackle the what of birth control – in all its agonizing details. For now, I plead again for your greatest attention on the why of birth control. A heart not right with God and not rightly minded to God’s will cannot do what is right, no matter what is used or done (Hebrews 11:6). A right understanding of this topic is necessary to understand fully the articles that follow.
In the first installment of our current series, we looked at The Paramount Value of Human Life (Clearly Caring, July/August 2006). The second installment examined Marriage and Children (Clearly Caring, September/October 2006). In those installments, we reviewed God’s Word that pointed to the existence of human life at conception (Psalm 51:5). We then considered its rightful protection and place within the setting of a marriage. Now, most importantly, is a look at our allegiance to God and a translation of that allegiance into God-pleasing decisions and action related to practicing birth control.
Remember Who You Are
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19b,20). You are a child of God. Like the child of your parents that you are, you have the ability to make your own decisions. Your parents probably do not agree with every decision you make. Your friends may not always agree either.
Being a child of God, however, is different. First, unlike your parents and friends, your Heavenly Father knows all things. Practices kept from the knowledge of others are fully known by your Heavenly Father (Hebrews 4:13).
Most importantly, though, is God’s expectation that His children live their lives perfectly (Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 5:48). While every well-meaning parent wishes for perfect children, God’s expectation is rooted in a sacrifice of Perfection for the imperfect (2 Corinthians 5:21). The performance of perfection is not a requirement to earn salvation but the expected response from the recipients of salvation through the greatest of sacrifices.
Saying “Thank You”
As the object and direct recipient of God’s sacrifice of Jesus, you do not spend your life trying to live up to God”s expectations to curry His favor and forgiveness. Rather, you are endeavoring to say “thank you” with your life. “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:18). The difference is very real and extremely important if you wish to understand Christian living.
Every thought, word, and action contrary to God’s will made it necessary for the only innocent One to have lived to die. Your deceptive acts, lustful thoughts, and harsh words caused the death of Jesus. God, however, willingly made the sacrifice, because His love for you is what the Greek language describes as “agape” love. It is sacrificial love committed to serving and saving.
By faith in Jesus as your Savior, you believe Jesus saved us from the consequences of your sins. Your entire eternity is changed (Ephesians 2:1-5). The incredible nature of this forgiveness is its depth. While everyone is sinful (Romans 3:23) there are some who seem to be greater sinners (1 Timothy 1:16). Even for those who have committed the most heinous of sins forgiveness is found in that all-encompassing sacrifice of Jesus.
This incredible truth caused some to think that continued sinning was tolerable and perhaps desired (Romans 6:1,2). They missed the point. God does not allow more sinning so He can forgive more. A believer’s life is different. Your life is different. This is not about what you can get away with. You get away with nothing. Jesus suffered for all those things you think you get away with.
Rather, life is about reflecting, demonstrating, and proclaiming God. You love because He loved you first (1 John 4:19). You demonstrate your allegiance to God with the way you live your life (Matthew 5:16). You proclaim God’s love because it is the message that saves lives eternally (Acts 4:12).
Christian stewardship is the practice of managing God”s blessings. Congregational stewardship drives often reference a use of your time, talents, and treasures for the work of the Lord. Yes, this is stewardship, but there is much more. Christian stewardship is the management of all the blessings God gives to you.
Your worldly possessions are blessings from God. Your job is a blessing. Your rulers are blessings. Your family is a blessing. Your life is a blessing. Your abilities are blessings. If you have these things, it is because God wants you to have them. There are some blessings you do not have because God has decided you should not have them. All of these blessings are within the providence of God (Job 1:21).
The fact that you have some things and your neighbor does not reflects how God blesses people in different ways. Not all people have the same gifts, the same skills, or the same resources. When you have such blessings, however, you have the responsibility to manage them properly. That is called stewardship.
You manage blessings by making specific applications of God’s principles. Principles are the unchanging absolutes of God’s Word. In this regard God provides a singular focus. That focus is to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). You glorify God by doing His will and accomplishing His purposes for your life and the world (1 John 5:3).
God’s demand for prominence in your life is clear throughout Scripture. He calls Himself a “jealous God” (Exodus 34:14). He is to be the first love of your life (Matthew 22:37-38). He also is not impressed with actions when your heart is not in it (Matthew 15:8) or when your allegiance is not demonstrated in your actions (James 2:26).
The Scriptures further define the unchanging principles of life by calling believers to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-40). While your entire life is filled with the temptation to please yourself, your concerns for God and others are preeminent (Philippians 2:3,4). As you manage all of your blessings, you focus on the concerns of God and the concerns of others.
God wants children in the world, and He considers them a blessing to parents (Psalm 127:3-5). God expects children to be born from within marriage. That is God’s intention – an intention increasingly ignored in this generation.
Because God wishes humanity to be fruitful and increase in number (Genesis 1:22) and because He has prescribed children to rightly be born from marriage, there is a presumption in marriage that children are coming. Friends and family wonder and often ask you when you plan to have children. It is not an offensive inquiry. It is God’s plan that as humanity “increases in number,” those increases come from a married couple.
This presumption is not the same as a requirement. While some may insist that a valid marriage requires having children, such a requirement is not in Scripture. The validity of marriage is in the covenant or promise that exists between a man and a woman to leave their parents and live as one flesh.
A couple intending to marry discusses the issue of children. Some want many children, some want few, some want none, and some want them but prefer to wait. All of these reasons may be valid or invalid, depending on the motive.
What issues should be discussed before using birth control? There are many factors about using birth control to consider, and prayer and a soul-searching evaluation of your motives alone reveals whether the use of birth control is right. Some issues include concern for the mental or physical health of the mother. Even though society presumes a gender-blind existence, the reality is that women are the only ones who bear the children. They experience the dramatic changes in their bodies, and they often assume the bulk of responsibilities for the daily care of each child.
There are limits as to what a woman can handle physically and emotionally. To pursue more children but neglect the biblical principle of caring for your spouse and body would be wrong. Children are a blessing (Psalm 127:3) to be cherished and cared for when given. Protecting and caring for our loved ones is a command for all of us (1 Timothy 5:8, Galatians 6:10).
Financial considerations do enter into this evaluation, but care must be taken in this regard. Scripture instructs us to be careful that we do not become greedy (Ephesians 5:3). A Christian couple weighs carefully whether financial concerns are genuine for the essentials of raising a family or reflect a greed for things of the world. Couples also wrestle with timing questions. Perhaps some schooling needs to be finished, or a few years need to pass to solidify a relationship before bringing in the added dimension of children. These may be valid issues. Again, however, soul-searching is important.
What is important to remember is that children, regardless of timing, health or convenience, are blessings from God. Decisions rooted in an attitude that children are anything less than a blessing reflects a motive that does not understand God’s will on the matter.
In summary, a Christian married couple can practice some form of birth control. It falls within the realm of Christian freedom and stewardship. However, as with all such issues, a careful exploration of the heart and motives is necessary in order to do what truly glorifies God. In this regard, it is good to talk candidly with your pastor so that he can serve as a sounding board for you as you wrestle through your motives.