A Better Way to Fight Abortion

What Scripture says about abortion—and what the Church can do about it.

[Editor's Note: Today marks 41 years since the Supreme Court declared abortion legal. On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we're republishing this article from last year that takes a look back at the Church's pro-life efforts and forward at what Christians can do about abortion.]

It is not very pleasant to speak about abortion. So why bother? The most compelling reason struck me vividly as I prepared a sermon to address another anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In reviewing many years’ worth of my own sermons on the abortion topic, what caught my eye and again captured my heart was not the debatable issues but the growing numbers I have used in those sermons over the years: 6 million, 8 million, 9 million, 16 million, 22 million, 27 million, 32 million, 35 million, 37 million and counting—the number of unborn children whose lives have been ended by abortion.

The magnitude of this tragedy, the loss of 37 million children knit by God and shredded by men, demands that we speak, renew our zeal, refresh our compassion and reignite our commitment to speak for “the least of these” that are so precious to God, regardless of the discomfort it causes us. And in the face of this, we must continue to ask: What should the Church say and do?

In our churchly attempts to influence popular culture, we may have been too quick to seek alternatives to the spiritual forces that are the true and greater powers influencing the direction of any society.

To answer this question, I am not going to focus on political strategies or picketing life-chains or the debates of the public square. I do not mean to minimize the importance of such measures or to say that the Church has no role in them. Rather, my intention when answering what the Church should do about abortion is to call the Church to what the Church does best. I want to challenge you to consider the unique contribution that the Church can make, to recognize that some of our tensions and frustrations with each other may result from trying to force the Church into patterns and practices that are outside her divine design. As a result, in our churchly attempts to influence popular culture, we may have been too quick to seek alternatives to the spiritual forces that are the true and greater powers influencing the direction of any society (Ephesians 6:12). And it is these spiritual forces that must be the chief preoccupation of the Church.

Teach the truth (about each child)

The fact that the child in the womb is a work and a wonder of God gives the Church the right and responsibility to insist that, though unseen by the world, the babe is a child, not a choice; a person, not a lump of protoplasm. This is the most critical truth that the Church must say. We must not believe that such statements are useless or will always fall on deaf ears.

The reason that pro-abortion advocates are so zealous that expectant mothers not be shown pictures or models of pre-born children is that when mothers see what is being destroyed by abortion, their hearts resonate with the biblical perspective that the unborn child is precious. The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine reports that when mothers see an ultrasound image of the child, an emotional bonding takes place even before the child's movement is felt. When technology lets us see what the psalmist says that God already sees in the womb (Psalm 139:11-16), then the divine imprint on the human heart whispers in the most powerful and deep chords, "This child is precious, and destroying this little one is wrong."

But it is not enough to say that the child in the womb is precious. Key in the abortion battle is not simply to affirm how precious the baby is to God, but to declare how precious is the mother (another child of God), whom God made and knows and touches.

To warn of sin's consequences and still to love is our calling, and it is the power of the Gospel against the greatest of evils.

Yes, “It’s a baby.” Yes, “It’s a child, not a choice.” But because mother and child are precious, we also say, “Mothers hurt when their babies die.” The Feminists for Life organization captures something of this truth with its motto: "Abortion hurts women, kills children and destroys families.”

Share grace

I have a younger brother who has had mental disabilities since birth. I have wished many things for him, but I have never wished that he were dead. I have discovered that part of the divine imprint on my own heart is to love as a precious gift one who is imperfect. If we really lose this capacity to care for the flawed, if all that we finally value are those who are whole, lovely and well-formed, then we will ultimately find we are incapable of loving anyone. For we are all fallen creatures in a fallen world, and if we must discard or kill what does not please us, then we will find there is no value in the old, the infirm, the incapable or our own imperfect lives.

Grace teaches us something different: that the unlovely are loved by God. This message may not only preserve the life of the unborn child who is in some way flawed or suspected of being flawed; it can also dissuade the mother who is seeking abortion. The shame that may be driving her to seek an abortion does not mean that she is unloved; a past mistake does not mean that she is unforgivable; even a past abortion does not mean she faces eternal rejection. And the man who may be urging an abortion because of his own fear of shame or disadvantage or retribution may also find new incentive to protect the unborn when he discovers the embrace of grace.

That embrace will mean nothing, of course, if it is not accompanied by meaningful love.

I believe, and I think you believe, that an understanding of who God is and what He has done is what is ultimately needed to turn people away from abortion. But if those who supposedly represent this God present themselves as angry, hateful and mean-spirited, then it is foolish to believe that their God will be perceived as anything different. To warn of sin's consequences and still to love is our calling, and it is the power of the Gospel against the greatest of evils.

Yes, we must politic and protest and publish, but the arm of man will not save us or these children. We must seek our God, with the Church doing what it does best: testifying to truth of the preciousness of life, preaching grace, demonstrating love and praying.

Taken from The Hardest Sermons You'll Ever Have to Preach by ROBERT RAYBURN; John Collins. Copyright 2011 by Bryan Chapell . Used by permission of Zondervan.

155 Comments

Emily Northam

3

Emily Northam commented…

I'm sorry, but this article shows, again, just how out of touch the Christian church is when it comes to abortion and women's reproductive rights. I whole heartedly agree that we need to have grace, love and patience when it comes another's actions and heart. However, I think we all need to step back and look at the reality of this situation. I'm pretty sure the gentleman who wrote this article is an older white male, who most likely lives in a comfortable neighborhood. I doubt the the author has ever been in the position of needing an abortion. Never experienced being abandoned by his partner only to find out he was pregnant, with no resources and no help. He was never a teenage girl who came from a poor or split family, who had no one to turn to and no money to even care for a child. Do you or the author know what the fear feels like? Like your world is crumbling. The world's weight is on your shoulders and you are beyond terrified because of what people are going to think, what is going to happen to your future plans, how are you going to work and care for a child? I believe that every woman has choice on what happens to her body and to her fetus/baby. Yes, it is a creation of God, but so are homeless people, so are the hungry, so are the drug addicts, prostitutes, and the out of touch wealthy. Why does the church then continually put more effort, thought, and money into abortion instead of homelessness, hunger, and the sin of excess and gluttony? Legalizing, mandating, or requiring (all forms/words for force)a woman to get an ultrasound before an abortion is not the answer to your problem, nor never will be. Abortion has been around since the beginning of time and will always be. I believe God is a loving, merciful, splendid God, and he knows his children. He knows the suffering of the young girl who feels her only choice is abortion. I truly believe God will not condemn her, judge her, but mourn her suffering with her. The solution to your problem is not persuading women to not have an abortion under loving, religious pretenses. The solution is to meet these women on their level. If she is going to keep this baby, she most likely needs a place to stay, money and resources for prenatal and birth care, a community that supports her and counsels her in mothering, day care, job placement, schooling, family counseling. Standing in picket lines, handing out pamphlets about how much god loves her fetus, and forcing ultrasounds, does nothing to solve the problem. Why aren't we giving up the extra rooms in our homes to a mother who decided not to have an abortion, why aren't we feeding her? why aren't we financially assisting her so she can mother and go to school? Why aren't we paying for her health care costs? Why aren't we taking care of her child so she can better herself? Why aren't we offering her family counseling so that the problems she grew up with do not continue into the next generation? If Christ were to see abortion as a problem, I'm sorry, but I think he'd either be sitting right next to this girl in the abortion clinic, or he'd be giving her a home, food, and love. Not shame, not a loving persuasion. As a Christian, and as a woman working in reproductive rights, I beg you all to quit wasting your time sitting in your comfortable neighborhood crying out against abortion, or standing in your judgmental pro life-lines, or handing out pamphlets that ultimately end up as litter. Go be Christ to these women. Go feed her, clothe her and her child. Go help her find resources. Be her friend, and love her. Only then, will women not feel alone, unsupported, and resource less in their pregnancies. Christ didn't picket, Christ didn't create misogynistic laws, Christ didn't stay in his comfortable life crying out against things and those that his community told him to. He was the person getting picketed, he was the one that everyone was crying out against. He was the one that sat next to the sinner and broke bread with them and gave them shelter. Go and BE Christ.

Emily Northam

3

Emily Northam replied to Ricardo Cardenas's comment

I'm not saying that it is justification for abortion, i was presenting the thought process that these women go through and how out-of-touch society and christians are when it comes to the need for abortion. The problem is not should abortion be legal or not legal. The problem is that we have women in our neighborhoods who are alone and struggling and are products of a society that does not teach the true consequences of intercourse outside of a committed relationship. The problem is that women feel they have no other choice and the church is doing nothing about those real problems and instead is shaming women for what they feel is the only option they have. The church has consistently turned their eyes from the racism, socioeconomic and gender inequalities that are at root of abortion. Shaming women, charging them with murder, comparing their life's struggle to mass murders is not loving and is not Christ. Where is the compassion, empathy, and love? Christ is not throwing stones at women who seek abortions, neither should anyone else. Oh, and it became a strictly feminist issue when the fetus was conceived in our wombs, in OUR bodies. When men grow a uterus and know what it feels like to have the world think they know what's best for your body, they can have a true empathetic opinion.

Ricardo Cardenas

2

Ricardo Cardenas replied to Emily Northam's comment

Very good points. I can definitely agree with you are saying. I suppose those perspectives are pretty important when it comes to the big picture. Thank you for sharing. When it comes to it being strictly a feminist issue, however, I still have to disagree slightly. I definitely understand that I do not have a uterus, and I will never be pregnant, so I cannot relate on that level, but when we make this into an issue solely about "a woman's control over her body" then we lose sight of the fact that within that body is an innocent life, regardless. I don't think that it is any "pro-life" person's agenda to control a woman's body, but to preserve the sanctity of human life. Make sense?

Savannah Marie

3

Savannah Marie commented…

I agree with Emily. It does absolutely zero good to discuss abortion solely as a life and death issue without discussing the issues that face people considering abortion. For anyone who considers themselves to be "pro-life" and has never known anyone who has had or has considered an abortion, I would encourage them to go volunteer at a Christian pregnancy center, go work in a ministry for single mothers, or go mentor a pregnant teenager. Go meet somebody who has actually struggled with the realities of what has become a popular debate topic and then think about abortion.

Sharole Lawrence

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Sharole Lawrence replied to Savannah Marie's comment

Great article, there is so much more the church could be doing. With respect to those criticizing this article for not promoting support for women in crisis, lots of churches do support woman in a crisis, we just don't hear about it because of respecting dignity and privacy. In fact, a lot of crisis pregnancy support I have seen in my city comes from a Christian-based, pro-life groups. But I agree, much more can be done in this respect, so rather than harp on the author, meet with your local church, find out what they are doing and how you can help. Without the steps suggested in this article, it is difficult to mobilize the church body, so I found this article quite interesting.

Carlene Byron

21

Carlene Byron commented…

Nearly 25 years ago, I wrote a column for Commonweal after a high school girl was kicked out of the National Honor Society for becoming pregnant and bearing the child to term. If she'd had an abortion, she would have retained her "honor." And the child's father, whom she did not name, retained his.

As Christians, this is what we are still not getting. We join the world in shaming and penalizing young women who make the right choice today having made a wrong choice yesterday. And we let the young men go.

I'm not justifying abortion by any stretch. I'm simply challenging us as Christians to recognize that we're complicit. As long as we shame pregnant girls and insist that young people not marry until they can support themselves independent of the family home and business [a new standard of the last 50 years or so], there will be abortions. More and more of them.

Ana Campomizzi

1

Ana Campomizzi commented…

I found this article extremely frustrating. No one is pro-abortion. No one WANTS to have an abortion. Women chose abortions when they have no other option. We cannot expect a woman with no means to support herself or a child for that matter to carry her child to term no matter what. And adoption can be just as painful as abortion! You get to see the life your brought into the world get taken away from you. So no. I'm not pro-abortion, I'm pro-choice because it's unrealistic to expect all women to come to term when they have no way of doing so without ruining their lives and possibly even the child's. And what about women who are victims of rape and incest? Do we really expect to carry to term? How inhumane and unmerciful is that? It is not as simple as a child's life. If it was,there would be no debate. That being said, it is tragic. It is tragic that we've lost so many lives through abortion, but maybe if we focused on helping women so that they never HAVE to consider abortion, there would be less.

Dirk the Dragon Slayer

29

Dirk the Dragon Slayer replied to Ana Campomizzi's comment

I would disagree: some are pro-abortion. It can often be celebrated as an equivocal choice to having a child, or getting your hair done, or some other innocuous to-do, which it is not. (See last year’s DNC as an example.) The author brings up the issue of “teaching the truth” because some people will get an abortion since they have been told things that are not the truth. The idea of ultra sounds is to make the point that some people don’t realize the gravity of what they are doing and when they are confronted with it, their decisions are altered due to the “bonding” that is created.
Also, to say that you are pro-choice because it would ruin the life of the mother is odd, because many who have had abortions would say that it has ruined their life. And I am sure you cannot really be pro-choice since it will ruin the life of the child; that makes no sense since you are destroying the life of the child in the womb. Are you really saying having no life is better than having a chance at living a life full of redemption (or at least the potential for it)? I think you need to rethink your position, or at least your reasons for holding it.

Jason

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Jason commented…

Up to 40% of all pregnancies are ended by "natural abortion" (miscarriages), or as many would say "by God's will".

Sharole Lawrence

3

Sharole Lawrence replied to Jason's comment

Curious what you mean by that? I get that God has designed our bodies to abort a fetus that is incompatible with life...

Kathleen

2

Kathleen replied to Sharole Lawrence's comment

Which means God has deliberately designed 40% of fetuses to be incompatible with life. If these fetus was so precious to God, why would he ensure that nearly half of them were naturally aborted by the woman's body?

Dirk the Dragon Slayer

29

Dirk the Dragon Slayer replied to Kathleen's comment

Why would he create disease & cancer that kills people? Why would he allow people to fire guns that kill children? Why would he allow racism & human trafficking? Etc., & on & on…

The answer is he didn’t.

If you really want to ask these kinds of questions you will run into problems & you will now have to go back & reconcile sin & the fall. You mischaracterize God when you say he “deliberately designed fetuses” to miscarry. Miscarriage was never the intent; that was brought in by the fall. Which, in Paul’s words, is the curse we brought upon creation. It is not something God did.

Kevin McLean

3

Kevin McLean replied to Dirk the Dragon Slayer's comment

I would question a statistic worded as "up to 40% of pregnancies". This kind of thing would be a solid number if it came from a solid source.

God does not cause tragedies that naturally occur in this world (floods, hurricanes, miscarriage, etc). If you disagree on this point, we are not talking about the same God.

Micah Latty

1

Micah Latty replied to Kevin McLean's comment

100% of human lives are ended, often through "natural" death. That doesn't make it morally justifiable for us to kill people. I'm not completely sure what I think about (very) early term abortion, but I lean fairly strongly against it.

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