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Becoming People Who Are Pro-Life and Pro-Justice

Reflecting our Savior by caring for all of the vulnerable in our midst

Benjamin Watson

Benjamin Watson lent his voice, along with many others, at our Evangelicals for Life Conference in Washington, D.C. We hope this adapted message will encourage you to expand your understanding of what it means to be pro-life and care for the vulnerable.

“Thus says the Lord, let not a wise man boast of his wisdom and let not the mighty man boast of his might. Let not a rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on Earth. For I delight in these things, declares the Lord” (Jer. 9:23-24).

Several years ago, I was playing for the New Orleans Saints. I became a free agent, and a phone call came from the Baltimore Ravens. We took our family of five kids at the time and moved to Baltimore. I remember getting to Baltimore, not knowing anybody or what to expect. This was a new place, a new area, a new coaching staff, and new teammates. 

I also remember reading Jeremiah 9:23-24. My wife and I have always been people who tried to leave a place better than when we got there. We say, “Lord, you placed us in certain places on purpose. Nothing happens by accident. We spent time in Boston. We know we’re here on purpose. How can we leave this place better? What’s your reason for us being here?”

It’s a question we all must ask ourselves. Why are we here? What’s the reason God put you in the various cities that you’re from? What’s the reason God put you on the West Coast when you’re an East Coast kind of girl? What’s the reason God put you down South when you know you’re a guy from Canada, and you didn’t even want to come to the United States? What’s the reason God has you in Washington, D.C., of all places? What’s the reason God had us in Baltimore? 

Jeremiah says God delights in three things: Lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness. So I prayed, “Lord, wherever we are, we want to delight in what you delight in, we want to be people who bring justice, who bring kindness, who live rightly. We want people to know about you because of the things that we do and the way that we live our lives.”

Pro-life is about more than politics

As I looked at this pro-life arena, I started to realize that if we’re not careful, we will go into a tribal mentality; pro-life will become more of a political stance than truly being about standing beside and for life from the womb all the way until we leave this earth. I want to stand for life in that way. This is more than politics. 

If this becomes about politics, then we lose the power of the gospel, and it becomes more about us winning than about women, men, and families being cared for and being an earthly picture of the way that Christ loves his Church. If it becomes about politics, then why do we need God in it in the first place? It becomes all about pointing the finger, saying, “Hey, we beat you in this race. Our candidate won.” But God wants more for us than that. 

There’s a reason why we are pro-life. And it’s not just to win; it’s because our hope is that [the unborn baby’s] life, and those lives affected by that life, come to know a Savior who can give them spiritual life. That’s what we’re about. That’s what I want it to be about.

Pro-life and pro-justice 

Recently, justice issues have come up. There have been videos that we’ve seen of altercations between police and citizens where young black men have been killed by police officers. We’ve seen police officers killed. There have been riots and protests. And the idea of social justice has come up a lot. And as believers, it’s really important that we engage the culture from this standpoint. Being pro-life does not mean you’re not pro-justice. We can be both. 

This idea of justice emanates from God’s character. Jeremiah 9 talks about God being a God of justice. And as believers, we want to be like who God is. We want to identify and love the things that he loves. At the beginning of verse 23, he says not to let the wise man boast about his wisdom. One of the things we’re lacking, from my perspective, in this life and justice fight, is humility. Pride comes before a fall. It is the wedge that drives between people. Pride prevents you from admitting your own faults and guilt and from seeing where you’re wrong. And it prevents us as a community from giving the life of Christ to people who so desperately need it.

We can’t turn a blind eye when people are suffering and we have resources to help people. So while being pro-life is about the womb, supporting the unborn, and protecting the vulnerable, my challenge to you is to see vulnerability in many different forms. There’s more than one color of it. It comes in many shades. And as a community, we are able to address all those. Domestically, 1 in 3 women will experience physical harm from a partner, an intimate partner. There are churches that profess to be pro-life but won’t address this topic. And those who are abused are led to ask, “Why doesn’t my life matter?” As a community, we can change that.

My wife and I have had a chance to go overseas and support an organization called International Justice Mission. They support victims of sex trafficking and slavery. There are 40 million slaves in the world today. They’re right here in the United States as well. We were able to see a field office in the country of the Dominican Republic, where there are children in the sexual exploitation industry. These children range from little babies to teenagers, young girls, and even young men. They’re forced to do horrific things for money, simply because they have nothing else. This is a justice issue that we as a pro-life community must address.

Isaiah says, “Learn to do good. Seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s case”(Isa. 1:17). Over and over in Scripture, we see where God challenges the people of Israel to be people who protect widows, foreigners, the young, and the vulnerable because they had no power in those societies. And it’s the same way today. 

We can’t stop and only think about one issue. That is not being true to the gospel. The gospel, in its totality, challenges each one of us to, in humility, ask God to show us places where we can make a difference. Ask him. He’ll tell you. Open yourself up to different opportunities. And not just for the cause’s sake. We get involved in these causes of justice because we have an eternal perspective. 

An eternal perspective 

The work my wife and I do with justice and pro-life issues is not simply for us to be nice to people. The reason is because we understand that there’s an endgame. Like football, we go through the tough times, the two-a-days, wanting to quit because it’s too tough, the pain and the injuries, the ups and the downs, and the emotional times because there’s an endgame there. We want to have a chance to win the championship. We know that if we put in the work, we may have a chance to hold the trophy. Similarly, Christians have an eternal perspective.

My challenge to all of us is to have an eternal perspective when it comes to being pro-life and pro-justice. We’re not simply doing these things because we want to check a box behind a certain candidate, or because of our parents, or because of our youth group or a group in our church. We’re doing it because we want to win souls for Christ. We hope many will see this love of Christ and turn themselves to him and say, “What must I do to be saved?” That’s why we do it.

When we sit down with a young mother who is in crisis because her boyfriend has turned his back on her, her family is pressuring her, and she has nowhere else to turn, we stand in the gap for her, hold her hand, and say, “We want to walk you through this.” We do this for the baby, yes. We do this for her, yes. But we do this because we want to see her say, “What must I do to be saved?” 

And what we found every time we’ve done anything in our communities is that the way you get to people’s hearts, usually, is by first meeting their real needs—for clothing, shelter, warmth and understanding, a companion, and to know that they are loved and worth it. Many people feel that nobody cares. By meeting that need, you show people the love of God. In turn, our hope is that at one point we’ll not only see them now, but see them in eternity.

Justice and righteousness

Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” This idea of justice occurs 200 times in the Old Testament, and what it usually points to is treating people equitably, repairing broken relationships to people and to structures. So the idea of justice is individual. 

But justice is also about structures. It’s about correcting structural issues and injustices and standing for those things that are bigger than the individual. God is a God of justice. Because of the fall, he has to be a God of justice. Sin entered the world, and we have inequities. We have people that take advantage of other people. We have hatred and racism. We have things that need to be corrected individually as well as systemically.

Righteousness and justice occur together a lot. For example, in Jeremiah 9:24, kindness, justice, and righteousness occur together. And the reason for that is because righteousness is right living. So, you have the idea of justice, which is correcting structures and relationships that are wrong. And you have the idea of righteousness, which talks about our relationship with each other, as well as our relationship with God. 

Because of justice, we need to live rightly. We need to have righteousness to enact that justice. In a time of righteousness, we don’t need justice, right? Because we are doing things the way that they should be done. Therefore, you have to have both. We need to be people who stand for justice and righteousness. We need to look for ways that as a pro-life community we can expand our repertoire. Don’t allow the world to confine us to what they want us to be.

Conclusion 

My challenge to you—and myself—is to be people who humbly come before God and say, “God, what would you have me be a champion for?” For some of us, it’s the unborn. For others, it’s sex trafficking victims. For others, it’s racial injustice. And for some of us, it’s all of the above in various ways. Ask God where he would have you pour into. Pray, “Lord, you’re a God of lovingkindness, of justice, and of righteousness. I want to be about those things. Please help me as I discover where I can best use my talent, my time, and my treasure to honor you in all of these areas.”

View this and other event messages at https://erlc.com/resource-library/event-messages.

Benjamin Watson (born December 18, 1980) is a tight end for the Baltimore Ravens. After attending Duke University as a freshman, he transferred to the University of Georgia where he majored in finance. After an all-SEC senior campaign, he was drafted in the 1st round of the 2004 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. As a Patriot, Benjamin was blessed to receive a Super Bowl ring in his rookie season as well as appear in another in 2007. On March 12, 2010, he signed a three year deal with the Cleveland Browns reuniting him with former Patriots assistant coach, Eric Mangini. In the 2010 season, he led the Browns in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. On March 18, 2013, he agreed to terms on a three year contract with the New Orleans Saints and was named a team captain for the 2015-2016 season. In his 12th year in the NFL, Watson had a career season where he had a career bests in receptions (74) and yards (825), and tied his career high in touchdowns (six). On March 9, 2016, Benjamin Watson signed a two-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens. Off the field, Benjamin stays busy with his foundation One More, his growing family, and the NFL Players Association, where he serves on the Executive Committee.  He is also an NFL Spokesman for the All Pro Dad Campaign. In 2015, Watson published his first book, “Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race- And Getting Free From The Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us”.  In October of 2016, he authored a “Group Conversation Guide” to aid readers’ journey to honest conversation about race, bias, and justice in America. On May 2nd, 2017 Watson will release his next literary work, “The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life.”