“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” – Joseph.

Our newspapers and TV news reports are filled with the latest opinions and polls regarding the Presidential elections in the US.  The debates are broadcast live for those of us with the stamina to stay up and watch through the night, and the dissection of the performances dominates our media the following day.  But even with such a strong focus on the battles between President Obama and his republican opponent, Mitt Romney, you may have seen a related story take centre-stage briefly this week.

The story regards the comments of Richard Mourdock, a catholic and a Republican from Indiana running for the US senate.  In a live TV debate on Tuesday night, Mourdock answered a question about abortion in cases of rape.  He said,

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Inevitably the incident was pounced upon by opponents of Mourdock’s pro-life stance and his comments were variously ridiculed by some (see, for example, Tina Fey’s address to the Center for Reprodictive Rghts Inaugural Gala reported here) and misinterpreted by others as evidence that Mourdock believes God is pro-rape (LA Times here for more).  The following day, Mourdock held a press conference to both apologise for any ambiguity in his statement and to clarify his intended meaning:

“God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that he does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick”

If we were to attempt to see past the political point-scoring which obscures so much of the media reporting on these statements and simply examine Mourdock’s views stated in his own words, we see a view entirely consistent with that of traditional, evangelical Christianity.

Mourdock has argued that life is precious since it is an intentional gift of God.  I, as an evangelical Christian, agree with him.  God gives life to all living creatures:

“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.  You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” (Neh 9v5,6)

And, in particular, we are to marvel at his intentional creation of human life:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. (Ps 139v13-16)

Rape is a terrible evil.  No words can do justice to the horror faced by a woman made pregnant in such circumstances.  And yet surely Mourdock is speaking in a way entirely consistent with the Scriptures when he affirms that it is God who gives the gift of life and God who can bring good even out of the horrors of a pregnancy resulting from rape.  Again, I as an evangelical Christian, agree with him.  With Mourdock, I oppose the killings of babies in the womb even when their lives have begun amidst the horrors of sexual violence.

Betrayed by his own family, sold into slavery, mistreated by his masters… the patriarch Joseph’s life was far from free from the consequences of evil.  And yet, when his brothers finally confessed their wrong doing before him, Joseph demonstrates a Biblical worldview on God’s goodness and human suffering:

“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen 50v19,20)

God forbid that we should underestimate the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences of rape.  God forbid that we as the church should fail to care for women and their children who have suffered at the hands of violent men.  And God forbid also that we should so reduce God in our thinking that we come to believe He cannot bring good out of evil.  God, after all, won for us our salvation in Christ through the greatest act of evil of all – the crucifixion.

(HT: Gospel Coalition blog)