Does the Bible Really Say That? Part 3: Abortion

–Daniel S. Ferguson

In 1973, the church came to bat on the issue of abortion in the case of Roe v. Wade. We took a big swing…and missed. The pitch was called a strike. We didn’t like that one bit. We claimed it was a foul, but it was called a strike nonetheless. Four decades later, it feels like we’re still arguing about the call. We’ve been ticked as hell at the umpire for forty-four years. Meanwhile, the game is waiting to go on, with other pitches to swing at, but we’re still so busy yelling about it that we haven’t stepped back up to the plate.

It’s time to get a move on. The pitch was called a strike whether we like it or not, and it’s time to take the next one. I’m not saying we forfeit the game; I’m saying we swing at a different pitch. Like it or not, abortion is largely settled law in the United States. It’s now two, almost three generations, into being understood as a Constitutional right. That’s not likely to change.

Scratch that: that won’t change, not in the foreseeable future. So the church needs to stop yelling about the same pitch, and we need to avoid swinging at bad ones just because we want to hit something. We’ve got to get ourselves out of the political and legal muck on this issue and do instead what the church does best: truth and grace.

And the truth, hard as it is to hear (and write), is this: The Bible is 100% against abortion. Even with my admittedly liberal lens, I can’t eke out a pro-abortion exegesis of the text. It just isn’t there. Unborn children have inheritance rights under Mosaic Law; forced miscarriages are punishable under Israelite law; Psalm 139 beautifully depicts God’s active presence in the womb; and an unborn child leaps for joy in the presence of another unborn child in Christ’s birth narrative. Levitical law defines that blood means life, and science tells us that happens incredibly early in pregnancy, just a week or two after conception. All that put together means that the Bible is pretty clearly of the opinion that the unborn are both alive and precious to God. That’s simply the truth about the Bible. It’s not really spinnable any other way. (For the mental exercise, I tried. There was simply no honest way to do it.)

Like I said, though, this isn’t a reason to phone your senator or stage a protest. You won’t likely accomplish much that way. I don’t tell you this truth to rev up your political juices (on either side), but rather to arouse your compassion.

Yes, compassion. For everyone involved. The baby, the father, the mother, the doctor, the community, Planned Parenthood, and the Supreme Court. Everyone.

The church is on the side of the unborn. That’s a fact, and it should be. But the church should also be on the side of the mother who chooses to terminate. And on the side of the doctor receiving threats of violence (it still happens and is actually on the rise). And on the side of the country divided against itself painfully, even scornfully, on this issue. The church ought always to reach out with compassion toward all. Yes, even them, no matter who them is.

That’s the pitch we should swing at. That’s what we’re best at. Compassion, not courtrooms.

I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t advocate necessarily, but you’ve got to ask yourself what your mission is. Of course we want righteousness in the world, and that means fewer abortions (preferably none). But you can’t through law, force, or compulsion, produce righteousness. Only God makes people righteous. What we can do is be the best, most compassionate, most loving people around, so that when someone does have a crisis, we’re the first ones they think to go to. Not out of guilt, shame, or pressure, but because they know we love them. And then we can help them and hopefully their child.

But when we just yell “Murder,” when we just call it evil, when we just advocate for the cause of God’s heart instead of the people of God’s heart, when we hold up signs with fetal tissue on them, we push those people away. And then, in their crisis, they turn to others who can help them. That’s only natural.

Do I want Roe v. Wade overturned? Not really, no. I want something more: I want it to be irrelevant. I want for Christians to be so good at loving people and caring for them that they don’t feel the pressure to abort pregnancies. I want adoption to be so available, prenatal care so affordable, postnatal living and work situations so attainable that abortion becomes purely a moral choice and never a practical one.

And most of all, I want all expectant mothers, whether they’re just teenagers, or they’re single moms, or they’re divorced, or they don’t even know who the father is, to be so embraced by the church with so much compassion that they will know that God loves them and their child, even if they choose to abort.

They will know, even in the face of that horrible decision, that Jesus will still want to have a relationship with them forever.

In other words, I want the fullness of truth (that abortion is Biblically abhorrent) to meet the fullness of grace (that the church and Jesus will reach out with everything they have to show compassion to all) on this and on all issues.

And that’s what this whole mini-series has been about. I’m not asking whether or not the Bible espouses a particular doctrine in order to trip you up or make you mad or happy or whatever. I’m not in this for likes or comments. I want you to think hard about how much God loves you. And I want Christians to think hard about how they can show that love to others in every circumstance, even ones where we’ve dug our heels in for as long as we can remember.

Compassion is the pitch I know the church can hit. It’s time to step back up to the plate.

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