The Myth of “Us” and “Them”
Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! (Isaiah 6:5)
Abortion is perhaps the most polarizing “issue” in American life today. Given the stakes, it is understandable. It also gets to the very heart of what it means to live before God. Sin is, essentially, “me, at your expense.” Righteousness is “you, at mine.” Nothing in American culture draws that distinction more boldly than abortion.
The radical polarization that abortion brings about can lead to a great temptation—to see abortion in terms of “us” and “them.” While it is important to draw bold lines, and to recognize clearly the nature of the task, there is an ever-present danger of pride in pro-life work. Which brings us to Isaiah 6.
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah is given a rare vision of the Lord in glory, a vision few are given in the Scriptures. What is interesting, and inevitable, is that, at the very same time, Isaiah is given a vision of himself. In response to seeing the Lord, Isaiah cries out, confessing his uncleanness, and the uncleanness of his people, knowing himself as a man who sits under judgment, in need of atonement. Note in particular the way in which Isaiah sees himself firmly as a part of the people who likewise sit under the judgment of God. There is no “us” and “them,” no looking at a sinful world from the outside. Isaiah’s vision of a holy God renders any distinction absurd.
So it is with those who know God. If there was a righteous man, it was Daniel. Yet look at Daniel’s prayer for his people: “we have sinned … we have not listened … we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God …” (Dan. 9). Likewise Nehemiah: “we have acted wickedly” (Neh. 9:33). Even Jesus, who knew no sin, was baptized with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin, refusing to set himself apart from men of unclean lips, even as he called his people to repent.
Abortion is not somebody else’s sin. It is ours. Many of us have been involved directly, having undergone an abortion, or enabling one. Many of us have been involved indirectly, or passively. As a people called to “defend the fatherless and plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17), we have been far too silent. We have been slow to extend ourselves for the vulnerable, we have not loved our neighbor, we have been negligent in prayer. Most fundamentally, our lives have insisted “me, at your expense.”
Blessed are the poor in Spirit. Like the Pharisees of old, pride will kill our witness. Our great need, as always, is a clear vision of the Lord, the One who was lifted high for the sins of the world.