I have not done much in a public way to speak or write about abortion. That is not because I find abortion acceptable or even slightly defensible. Far from it! It is the holocaust of our generation, and even that is probably not strong enough language to describe it. Too many have turned what should be the safest place in all of creation, the womb of a mother, into a tomb. Rather, I have found it to be true that my engagement changed when I had to begin dealing with abortion face-to-face. It changes things when someone says, “Pastor, I’ve had an abortion. What should I do?” Suddenly, the faceless person has a face and the nameless person has a name. You’re no longer dealing with a vitriolic opponent but a tender soul that needs to work through the shame and guilt by the forgiveness, hope, and freedom of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That changes things. But I’m breaking from my relative public silence to offer a few thoughts.
Yesterday marked forty-four years since the Supreme Court invented a Constitutional right to kill babies in the womb. Since that date there have been nearly sixty-million little boys and girls murdered by this so-called “right” given to women. Within that time we have also witnessed a dramatic shift. It seems in bygone days abortion was regarded as an undesirable but necessary evil. Yet today it has become something to be celebrated, normalized, and shouted. Could a society get any more depraved?
However, my comments aren’t going to be directed at the pro-abortion crowd. Rather, I’m concerned with those that I would most closely identify with: the pro-lifers. As those who oppose abortion we often face the criticism that we are pro-birth but not pro-life. That is to say, we care about life in the womb but we don’t care about life outside of it. While I don’t like the spirit in which the criticism is sometimes made, or the logic that it generally deduces, or the wicked manipulation with which it is often offered, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop and discern if there is truth in it. And, in an attempt at full disclosure, I’m sometimes suspicious that there’s too much truth to it!
If we’re going to claim to be “pro-life” then let us be for all of life. Let us do what we can to remove the inconsistencies that remain so that the pro-life message is not lost because of our failures. As a Christian my ethic is derived from the law of God as expressed in the Ten Commandments. The inverse of “Thou shalt not kill”—the sixth commandment—is that we are to endeavor to preserve our own life, and the life of others. It is not only life in the womb we should be concerned for, but life everywhere. We need to promote all of life as far as we can in the sphere, with the resources, according to the providential circumstances, and with the different responsibilities God has given us. That is going to apply differently from person to person. Even Jesus taught that every duty has its particular time and place “For you will always have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7). What are some practical ways we can be for all of life?
Pro-Life in Attitude
While I’ve never been fully persuaded against all and any method of birth control—though I vehemently oppose all abortifacient ones including the pill—many of the reasons even well-intentioned Christians have for using birth control reveal an attitude that is not dissimilar to those who support abortion. Children and parenthood is often viewed as an inconvenient obstacle to our time, finances, pleasures, marriage, and pursuits. But the Bible never speaks so disparagingly of children who are a heritage, reward, and blessing (Psalm 127:3-5 and Deuteronomy 28:11). Others use contraceptives as a way to exercise some illusory control over their womb. In many ways that is what’s at the heart of the abortion movement: my body, my choice. But it is God who opens and closes the womb (Genesis 20:18 and Isaiah 66:9). In a culture that has such a negative attitude toward pregnancy and children we need to be pro-life in our attitude.
Pro-Life in Admiration
If there’s anyone who has demonstrated to me the value of life it’s my wife. No, she’s never taken to a picket line, signed a petition, or called a state legislature. Rather, in the monotony of life she has borne our five children and extends herself daily to them at great personal cost. She has shown me again and again motherhood is sacrificial, selfless, exhausting, and life-giving. Her’s is a continual dying to self that the lives of our children would be protected and enriched. Our society admires careers, education, money-making, independence, and the pursuit of dreams. Our admiration for parenthood, but especially motherhood, should excel all of those! “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband, also, and he praises her” (Proverbs 31:28). We need to be pro-life in our admiration.
Pro-Life in Advocacy
As those who have been given particular civil liberties we should utilize them to the end of advocating not only the end of abortion but–and here I may betray some of my conservative friends–social policies, programs, and aide to help mitigate some of the circumstances that have helped fuel the abortion industry. Now, when I say that, personally I’m not convinced that society owes a debt, as if being against abortion means that we are under a moral obligation to provide subsidies, adoptive families, food, clothing, housing, and health care benefits. The logic of that seems no different than saying I have to give my car to someone if I forbid them from stealing my neighbor’s car. But our civil society can, and within our Constitutional government that ability would be given primarily to state and local governments. I don’t think it should escape our attention that caring for the poor is not only an ecclesiastical concern. In the Old Testament when God organized Israel as a political body there was legislation that helped and protected the poor including widows and orphans (see e.g. Exodus 22:22-25). In the very least, according to their responsibility to the sixth commandment, the civil magistrate has a duty to promote life, and a part of that is to create an environment where the church can effectively minister to “widows and orphans” (James 1:27). We need to be pro-life in our advocacy.
Pro-Life in Action
It is easy to shout against abortion sitting behind a computer screen. Perhaps it’s slightly more difficult, but still relatively easy, to hold up a picket sign at the local abortion clinic. What isn’t always easy is real and meaningful action. Getting a woman to say “No” to abortion is only the first step. We need a more expansive response. To be pro-life is going to require stepping into the mess and misery of other people’s lives, building sincere and lasting relationships, lending a helping hand, being a friend to the friendless and a family to the familyless, investing in the mothers and would-be aborted children, and loving others with the self-emptying love of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11). Our hatred for abortion must be matched by an active love, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). We need to be pro-life in action.
Pro-Life by the Gospel
Above and beyond all of this we need to be pro-eternal life. In the midst of a culture that celebrates death we need to celebrate a life-giving gospel. More tragic than the millions of children who have lost their lives in the holocaust of abortion, are the countless multitudes of men and women who are losing their souls to the holocaust of sin. I don’t say it lightly or to steal away from the horror of abortion, but there are worse things than the loss of physical life. As Jesus himself asked: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). If we are going to be pro-life than we must with a bold love warn against the broad road that leads to destruction, and with clarity and conviction the church must preach the narrow way through the gospel of Jesus Christ who alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). We need to be pro-life by the gospel.