In Missouri this past November, and possibly in some other states across America, citizens voted on whether embryonic stem-cell research could be performed by scientists. My question is this: What if prior to learning through more reliable sources like Lutherans For Life, one believed that this type of stem-cell research was not wrong and therefore voted to permit it? Would such a person be at least partly responsible for every baby destroyed by embryonic stem-cell research under this law? I want to believe that God forgives sinners, even me, but I can’t get past the fact that my “Yes” vote may endanger unborn babies.
Anonymous voter, Missouri
The feelings you have surely are akin to those of many Christians who have taken actions they later regretted and probably would not have taken had they had the proper information to guide them.
Stem-cell research is just such an issue, because much of what is involved in stem-cell research is not evil. Few people have a problem with stem-cell research that procures its cells from umbilical cords, skin, and other extant sources. But the equation changes entirely when we speak of embryonic stem-cell research, where cells are taken from fertilized human embryos, thus destroying those tiny lives.
Because life begins at conception, the destruction of the embryo in the process of harvesting embryonic stem cells really involved the destruction of human life, an action wholly inconsistent with the will of God and a violation of His command to protect life rather than destroy it.
Your concern about being “responsible” is important. sometimes an action one takes is taken in ignorance, as yours apparently was. Saint Paul, for example, prior to coming to know Christ as his Savior and Lord, was very much involved in the persecution and killing of Christians. In fact, he believed he was doing anoble thing–a great service to God–in this crusade. Only later did he come to regret it sorely. It became a lament he could not forget and to which he referred in his letters (e.g., i Tim. 1:13).
Nonetheless, when Paul came to know the grace of God, he recognized that even his most grievous sins of ingorance were forigven, wiped away by the death and resurrection of Christ, through whom he had been given new life. If even this “chief of sinners” could be forgiven, one can certainly trust that a vote cast in ignorance also can be forgiven. This is true even though the vote may not easily be forgotten, and even though that vote, when combined with those of others, may lead to actions resulting in the destruction of the lives of others yet unborn.
Like St. Paul, knowing that we have been forgiven, we can move forward in seeking to do the Lord’s will–including working toward the possible overturning of a law that one now recognizes as being contrary to His will. Philippians 3:12-14 provides some excellent guidance for that process.