A Better Way to Fight Abortion
By bryan chapell
January 22, 2013
[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.”
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.