Pastors have a unique opportunity to disciple their churches on the issue of abortion right now. Conversation about abortion is not going to die down anytime soon, now that we’ve seen a second release of an undercover video capturing Planned Parenthood higher-ups negotiating the purchase of organs of aborted babies.
How can we help our churches grow in their biblical worldview as it relates to this issue? Here are three suggestions
1. Develop a theology of “outcry” among your church
Biblically speaking, “outcry” is the painful, suffering response of those who are victims of sin and injustice, which God hears in heaven, and for which God eventually intercedes. God hears the “outcry” from Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:20-21) and he hears the “cry” of the Israelites who are enslaved in Egypt (Ex. 2:23-25). And lest someone think that outcry refers only to those whose voices can be heard, God also heard the blood of Abel “crying” from the ground (Gen. 4:10).
Are we to think that the blood of these precious unborn is not crying out to God for justice? It is. Prov. 21:13 says, “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” The word for “cry” is the same Hebrew word as the passages listed above. Does not the principle of this warning also apply to those who close their ear to the outcry of the unborn?
2. Help your church see fighting abortion as a social justice ministry
The importance of social justice ministry is nothing new, but I wonder how many people think of abortion in that category. As far as I’m concerned, protecting the rights of the unborn is the social justice issue of our generation. As bad as human trafficking and racism are, they are not as bad as legalized murder.
Now don’t hear me say, “Focus on abortion instead of human trafficking, racism, poverty relief, etc.” No. Include making efforts on behalf of the unborn along with those other important ministries.
Some people might say, “What about the rights of the pregnant women who are in crisis?” This is an important question, but the way it’s phrased skews the direction of the conversation.
On the one hand, women with an unwanted pregnancy due to rape or incest do need justice: the man who harmed them should be punished, and they should receive care. But she is not the only victim in the situation, the child inside her is a victim, too. So we must not talk about the rights of the mother over against the rights of the child. We need to exercise wisdom and talk about the rights of each in this wretched situation together.
But on the other hand, if she is pregnant because of her own sinful sexual choices, then being pregnant is not an instance of injustice, so such a situation does not call for social justice, but it does call for mercy. Too often social justice and mercy ministry are confused, but they need to be distinguished. Where there is oppression of someone’s rights, social justice is in order. Where people are needy because of their own mistakes, mercy ministry is in order. Every woman with an unwanted pregnancy needs mercy.
Now, whenever a woman is found pregnant and doesn’t want the child, that child’s rights are necessarily at stake. This may be manifest in utero if mom is considering an abortion, or this may be manifest after the child is born in the foster care system. Either way, starting from conception, the child of an wanted pregnancy deserves justice, and this ought to be a part of our churches’ social justice ministry.
3. Teach your church how to converse about this topic with each other and unbelievers
It’s incredible that, when it comes to hot topics, we so quickly chuck Col. 3:12-14 out the window:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
We need to be patient with one another and forgiving of one another as we share our thoughts on this issue.
Some genuine Christians are processing whether or not abortion is a sin. Rosaria Butterfield recently shared her story of coming to a pro-life stance. It didn’t happen the day she was saved. It took some time for her. Is there a place in your church for people who are coming out of a secular worldview to work through this issue? Will the pastors and other members bear with such a person?
Others are going to wonder about the ethicality of these sting videos. (And let me point you to Doug Wilson’s biblically driven argument on that.) Whatever side you are on, are those conversations going to happen with harmony? With love?
And what about engaging with pro-choice unbelievers? Will we engage them in conversation with compassionate hearts or with eyebrows all furrowed-like? Let’s surprise them by speaking intelligently and lovingly. Joe Carter had a great article on how to do that.
The best of times and the worst of times
Words can’t describe the atrocity that is the abortion industry. But it is a great time to disciple our churches into a more thoroughly biblical worldview and to engage our non-Christian neighbors with the gospel. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.