The contrast didn’t hit me like it should have. I was outside Orlando Women’s Center, praying for my friend John Barros as he preached the Word to people intent on killing their babies. I asked God to move with power to rescue those precious babies. I asked Him to open the eyes of the moms, the boyfriends, the fathers, the grandmothers. How, I couldn’t help but wonder, do they think any of their relationships will survive this? Abortion is an act that says to everyone in the know, “No matter how close you think we may be, you should know that if you ever get in my way, no matter how helpless and needy you may be, if I can get away with it I will kill you.”

Sitting beside me as I prayed and John preached was an old man. He had lead a full life. He traversed the globe, preaching to millions. His biblical teaching helped shape pastors and laymen, indeed a generation. He could have been someplace comfortable, reflecting on his life. He could have been preaching instead of listening, but in a venue more befitting his stature and influence. But he had asked to come here, to see this dark place, and to witness the Word break through the gates of hell. That’s why I brought my father there.

For years now I’ve been trying to tell R.C. Sproul fanboys, of whom I am chief, that you just don’t get it. Your excitement, your astonishment at his mind, his communication skills, his zeal, that’s all misplaced. It’s true enough he’s been so blessed, and those blessings have redounded to many. But the great thing about my father is that he is a great father. And his greatness as a father is bound up in his embracing not a vast array of complex theological positions, but his embracing a simple and foundational truth—fathers protect those under their care. My father, when I was a boy, took care of me, even as he took care of my mother and my sister. Now that I am a man he continues to look out for me, even as he does for all those in the family.

I’ve often complained that “God is all powerful” actually loses something in translation when His Word tells us He has a strong right arm (Psalm 89:13). “All powerful” describes the scope of the power, but not its aim. “Strong right arm” reminds us that His strength is in our defense. In the same way my awe as a boy at my father’s strength, whether measuring his biceps or his character, was wrapped up in the glorious truth that this strength was never used against me, only for me. When I was just a boy my mother would often send me to wake my father from a nap. I’d get close enough to nudge him, “Dad, wake up. Mom says it’s time.” And he would, without opening an eye, scoop me up in one arm, pulling me tight. I pretended to try to escape, giggling, while he pretended it was a struggle to hold on to me. There was no safer place.

Inside the blood stained walls of Orlando Women’s Center little babies’ first introduction to doctors, nurses, moms and dads was an assault, a brutal taking of their lives. Outside I sat beside the man whose whole lifetime has been marked by laboring for his family’s well-being, sacrifice for future generations, strength in defense of the weak, sticking with the stuck. A prodigious mind is a wonderful gift. A golden tongue can be a thing of beauty. But a tender, loving heart, that’s what makes a man a hero, including my hero, the man who taught me to be a man, who made me, from conception to this day, feel safe.


This first appeared on the Ligonier Ministries website; June 19, 2015.