Monday, 11 September 2017

Abortion and the gospel

‘The woman who has had an abortion needs to know that, if she is hidden in Christ, God does not see her as “that woman who had an abortion”’ (Russell Moore).  Christians should be pro-life, but they need to be more than pro-life.  We proclaim God’s offer of new life to all.  We need to think of how we preach the gospel in the context of an abortion culture.

The Bible tells us that God knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).  As a result it is wrong to take the life of an unborn child.  I support the pro-life movement.  But there is a difference between the church and the pro-life cause.  The pro-life cause focuses on loving and protecting the unborn.  We go a step further.  We are also to speak of the God who loves the woman who has had abortions, and who loves the medics who perform them.  We may call their actions sinful, but we believe in a God who sent his Son to die for sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

I would like us to imagine that every time we talk about this topic, we are being overheard by a woman who has had an abortion.  When we speak, will she hear us talking about a God of love?  Will she see the God who longs to forgive her and bring her home?  Will she understand that in Christ she will no longer be seen as that woman who terminated her child?  The gospel is to be good news for her.  When God forgives, he will remember her sin no more (Isaiah 43:25).  Despite what any of us have done God delights over those he has redeemed.

The unborn are not the only victims of an abortion culture.  The mother may be a willing victim, but she is a victim nonetheless.  Her conscience is being violated in this act.  Behind that mother’s choice there may be a man who supports her action.  Indeed, if our society votes to repeal the eighth amendment then there will be a collective responsibility for every abortion that is carried out in the state.

I am glad to live in a country that has a constitutional provision aimed at protecting the unborn.  I will be voting to retain this.  I hope you will too.  However, I am also aware that this is a country that has a shameful history in the way it has treated young women who have got pregnant outside of marriage.  Many a girl went off to England to have an abortion for fear of the religious-hypocrites who would have scorned her and her child for the rest of their lives.  As Christians, we seek to shame nobody, for we believe in a Saviour who endured the shame of the cross in order to cover the shame that should have been ours (Hebrews 12:2).  We thank God for the life of every child, no matter what the circumstances are surrounding their conception.  When a fellow Christian falls into sin we are called to restore them in mercy (Jude 23) and we are to comfort those who are tempted to be filled with sorrow over their past (2 Corinthians 3:7).

We need to speak about this topic with conviction, because the life of the unborn is precious in the sight of the Lord and the conscience of the mother matters.  We need to think about this issue with humility, for we simply speak as sinful people who have been forgiven by an amazing Saviour.  We need to engage with this cause tenderly, for there are difficult cases, and while we do not think that terminating the child is the solution, our hearts must nevertheless sympathise with those who pregnancy brings pain and confusion.

April Hernandez was in and out of relationships in her teens, and after spending the night with one of her boyfriends she found that she was pregnant.  She wasn’t going steady with this guy and she thought that her life was over.  She thought that an abortion was her only choice.  So very early one Saturday morning she went to a clinic in Manhattan.  She had to slip past the protestors on her way in.  She paid her money.  She underwent the procedure.  She immediately felt regret.  She feared her life would never be the same again.  When she came out of the clinic, an old lady forced a pamphlet into her hand and told her, ‘you’re going to hell for what you have done.

After a few years, April began going to church.  But she didn’t want to buy in to ‘the whole Jesus thing.’  She would sit at the back of the church, where she felt comfortable and safe.  The service was in Spanish and her first language was English, so she didn’t always understand everything the pastor was saying.  But one Sunday morning she recognised that the pastor was saying the word for ‘forgiveness’ as he spoke.  This had an effect on her, and she began to have a desperate desire to be close to God.  As she cried, she heard the pastor say that if anyone needed forgiveness they should walk to the front.  She went forward, hesitantly.  The pastor assured her of God’s love.  Then suddenly, she lost sense of everything around her and felt immense heat travelling through her body.  She collapsed on the ground, and as she lay there weeping, she heard a voice whisper, ‘I forgive you, my daughter.  Cry no more.’  Understanding God’s forgiveness changed her life.  She felt free at last.  She knew that what she had done was wrong, but that morning she was overwhelmed with the love and forgiveness of God (story taken from Metaxas, Miracles).

We must sound the trumpet for the unborn.  It is a part of the Biblical mandate to give justice to the weak and rescue the needy (Psalm 82:3-4).  We must speak up, even though this may expose us to misunderstanding, ridicule and hostility.  We must pray hard that the law will not change.  We must not only vote to save the eighth amendment, we must seek to persuade others to do so as well.  But we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  And we must ‘offer the precious blood-brought forgiveness and hope to all women and men … who have experienced or encouraged abortion’ (Piper).

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