“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” — James 1:27
A few years ago, my pastor was preaching about abortion on a Sunday morning. He was preaching tactfully, without judgement or hate, and simply sharing that, as Christians, it’s our job to stand up for the rights of unborn children. After he made a particularly powerful point, the church erupted in applause.
Then, I saw a young woman get out of her seat and walk out the back door.
This church is possibly the least judgmental and hateful group of people I know. So while what happened was an unfortunate misunderstanding, it gives me a glimpse into what those outside the church think about those of us inside.
I don’t really know why this woman left, but I can only guess she viewed the applause as a statement of judgement or hate. I can only guess the topic of abortion hit her particularly hard for one reason or another.
This is a hard topic to write on. I don’t want anyone to hear me saying that the church should support abortion or cease to speak out on it. The church must continue to oppose abortion if it is to continue to consider itself pro-life. I just think that we have gotten our priorities a little mixed up, because being pro-life involves a lot more than speaking out against abortion.
Does abortion break God’s heart? Yes.
Does poverty, homelessness, injustice and ostracism break His heart the same way? I think so.
I’ve noticed a tendency of ours to preach to those outside the church. We preach what those people out there in today’s culture should do and should stop doing. We church attenders nod our head in agreement and wonder how we can dictate this message of morality to the unsaved souls who live in the world and never come to church to hear it.
We preach that high schools shouldn’t give out condoms as part of Sex Ed because it encourages promiscuity. When condoms aren’t given out and a teenage girl gets pregnant, we preach she should have her baby and not have an abortion. When this 16-year-old with no financial support or life experience has her baby, we preach that she should work, pull her own weight, and not rely on welfare or government support as she raises her child.
In a perfect world, yes. In a perfect world this would work out. But in a perfect world we wouldn’t have any of these problems to begin with. And in case we all forgot, we do not live in a perfect world. We can’t stop all pre-marital sex or abortions from happening. We can’t stop all women and men from being bad parents. We can’t make everyone else believe what we do.
So how do we live in our imperfect world with promiscuity and unwanted pregnancy and abortion? So far, the answer has mainly been to sit back comfortably in our pews and continue to preach to everyone except the people in the church building. That is the easy thing. Because these are sins that people in the church don’t struggle with as much. It’s easy to focus on the hot button issues that mainly affect those outside the church. We can sit and listen and feel even better about ourselves. Just don’t start preaching about hypocrisy or generosity or the cost of discipleship or caring for the orphans and widows.
That’s a comfortable solution, unfortunately for those of us who like to be comfortable, it’s not working. Because as we continue to be anti-abortion, we are beginning to lose touch with what it means to be pro-life.
We are pro-life until that baby comes out of the womb. We vigorously protect the life until protecting the life gets us personally involved. We protest murder in the womb but when there are murders on the streets of the ghettos we just shake our heads and wonder what’s wrong with “those people out there.”
Being truly pro-life means we support all life. Including babies in the womb, including babies when they are born, including kids who grow up in a home where they have never been wanted, including 16-year-olds who have an unwanted pregnancy, just like their mother did at 16. Including the abortion doctor (ouch) who has intrinsic worth in God’s sight regardless of his profession.
Do we support their lives? Do we protect them? Do we help them? Do we know them?
I admit that I usually don’t. I’m scared to go to those streets where the kids who weren’t aborted roam. I admit that it’s uncomfortable for me to get personally involved, and that it’s much easier for me to complain inside the safety of the church walls about the horrible mess that’s going on outside.
But if I call myself pro-life, I am really saying that I, personally, will take on some of the responsibility for this kid that I want to live, even if his mother doesn’t care. If I call myself pro-life, then I’ve got to be willing to throw baby showers, buy diapers, give to the homeless, treat an unwed mother with honor, and adopt. If I’m pro-life, then I can’t spew hate speech at an abortion doctor, I’ve instead got to love him, and pray for the chance to share the truth with him. If I say that people shouldn’t go to the government for help, then I am signing my church up to help meet those people’s needs.
For the most part, we’re falling short on all of that. I’m not being dim and grim. I’m not saying that no one cares. The church that I mentioned earlier, the one that clapped for the anti-abortion message, has thrown baby showers, adopted children, and started an amazing bus ministry that brings kids in from the worst areas of town. They have wrapped their arms around the poor, the mentally ill, the ones who live on Welfare. In fact, the church doesn’t just minister to those people, the church is made up of those people. It is truly amazing to see.
Yes, people are out there being pro-life, pro-all-life, but let’s just be honest, it’s a minority. I’m talking to myself when I say it’s time to step up our game, to flesh out what has only previously been spoken out. The world has never needed it more. It’s time to stop complaining about the abortions, the violence, the bad parents and “people these days.” I don’t know how to put a dent in solving these problems, but I do know that preaching inside the church walls to those outside isn’t working. Not only is it not working, but it’s not what God did; not what God does.
He loved the world and gave His only Son. He was pro-our-lives and He didn’t just talk about it — He showed it. His love required action and so does ours.