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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Is the church ready for a post-abortion world?


http://www.priestsforlife.org/resources/abortionimages/fig03face5mos.jpg
Baby at 5 months in the womb


My neighbor, a foreigner to Germany, my friend and prayer partner came to me one day, hesitantly excited about her new pregnancy. She had another child, a 5 year old boy, and a husband who was a friendly neighbor but not a Christian. She was hesitant because she did not know how he would react to her news. Eventually she told him and his response was, “you need to get an abortion, or else I will leave you and take our son with me.” My friend came to me very distressed. She knew abortion was wrong. We spent a long time talking, praying and asking God to give her the strength to withstand his blackmail. A few weeks went by. She knocked on my door. She told me she had not had the courage and that the fear of man had overcome her. There was no more baby. We held each other and cried for such a long time. I reminded her of the forgiveness found in Jesus. Ever since, she has drifted. I have moved away to another part of town and have very little contact with her. Being there for her in that moment was important, but it would have cost me a lot more if she had had the baby. What would it have cost to be a good friend to her had her husband followed through with his threats? Giving her a place to stay? Being a regular babysitter? Helping meet her physical needs? Helping her find a job? Would my church have stepped in to really support her in her decision?

The videos that have exposed Planned Parenthood’s horrendous practices have caused much uproar in the media and in my own heart. This got me thinking about the possibility of organizations like this being shut down and of abortion being seen for what it really is. But imagining a world without abortion also brings up a lot of questions for pro-life people and for the church. We, the church of the Lord Jesus, cannot claim to be pro-life, unless we are willing to back those words up with concrete actions of support. Living in a world without abortion is what every pro-life advocate wants, but are we prepared for it to cost us our all? Are we prepared to be consistent and authentic in our lifestyle both as individuals and as churches?

1. No legal abortion means a lot more children up for adoption
Some women genuinely fall in love with their babies once convinced not to abort and end up keeping them. However, if abortion is not an option, there will be a lot more babies up for adoption. The numbers will be in the tens of thousands yearly. Interestingly, one of the marks of early Christianity that  confused the Pagan mind, was that Christians would often rescue exposed babies, adopting them into their families and raising them as their own.
Are pro-life families today able and willing to step out of their comfort zones and adopt these unwanted children, providing for them a healthy and safe environment, free of abuse and full of love and grace? Most Christian families I know are not currently seeking to adopt, even though there is already a crying need. Would this attitude change drastically? 

2. No legal abortion means more people in jail
Really? Yes, if abortion were to be considered a criminal offense, as most radical pro-lifers would like, there would have to be consequences for breaking the law and we would expect our jails to be overflowing with doctors and grieving mothers who most likely leave other children behind. Is this something we want and are prepared for? Who will be visiting these people in jail, caring for their families and telling them all about the love and forgiveness of Jesus? Who will follow through with them so that they can have a hope and a future once they serve their sentence? Would we be consistent enough to track down the father who might have been the one to force his wife or girlfriend into an abortion? Just because the abortion is performed on the woman’s body does not mean she is the most guilty party.

3. No legal abortion means the industry will be driven underground
We all realize that making abortion illegal will drive the abortion industry underground. Women will not stop having abortions even if they are made more difficult to obtain. Doctors will offer black market services. The selling of baby parts will continue for the highest bidder and unwanted children will be more likely to end up as sex slaves, as is currently the case in Asia. Will pro-lifers be willing to start life-saving and rescue organizations like International Justice Mission whose sole goal it is to fight hidden injustice and rescue people in slavery?

4. No legal abortion will mean long-term service to single mothers or broken families in crisis
If a single woman can be convinced to keep her baby and care for her child herself, who will step in to be her advocate, helping her make ends meet, giving her the childcare she needs, being an emotional support to her? If a family is in crisis, who will intervene with marriage and family counseling, budget planning or other practical aid? We cannot expect the State to do this for all the thousands of broken and hurting families across the country. Abortion seems like an easy solution and currently hides a lot of societal problems, such as teenage pregnancy, pre- or extramarital sex, relational crises, abusive husbands, selfish wives and the list goes on and on. Is the church prepared to counsel people in broken relationships and circumstances without pushing them away with judgment?

5. No legal abortion will mean a lot more care for disabled children
Many children are currently aborted because of suspected defects such as Down’s syndrome or other genetic diseases. We will see a rise in severely disabled children if abortion is outlawed. Will the church get involved to help these families grieve the loss of their children or care for their special needs children? Will they live out the message that all life is worthy of life and all people are made in God’s image however disabled they might be?

6. No legal abortion will reveal the hypocrisy in the church
One in five women who have abortions claim to be “born again” (see page 9 of http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/US-Abortion-Patients.pdf). Will people who claim to be pro-life stop using the services they condemn? Will they teach about what abortion really is? Will we live out our belief in God’s sovereignty and make decisions out of faith instead of fear? Will churches educate on marriage and family planning, looking more carefully into the contraceptives their members use or recommend,  as some of them are clearly abortifacient? Will we view our children as precious gifts entrusted to us, and model what it looks like to raise them in love?

7. Will the church be prepared to be truly counter-cultural?
Will the church be humble enough to teach its members that we are all like aborted babies, dead in our sins, helpless to help ourselves and reliant on outside help to save us from our wretched state? The apostle Paul referred to himself as an aborted child: “Last of all, as to one untimely born (in Greek aborted or still-born), he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain (1Co 15:8-10 ESV).” Weakness, helplessness, untimeliness and “unwantedness” can be redeemed by God. Yes, even the tragedy of death and abortion can be redeemed by God.

No abortion will mean more sacrifice for the church, not less. My friend’s story is not unique. Would I have had the courage to stand at her side and help her through her choice for life? I don’t know and so I include myself in my own critique. As we cry in outrage over Planned Parenthood’s horrible abuses, are we, at the same time, prepared to be the kind of people who will sacrifice all in service to and love for the life of the image bearers that God placed on this earth? If not, our cries are just a noisy gong. Does this mean we should not work to end the evils of abortion? Absolutely not, but we need to be aware that it won’t be easy. We ourselves will feel like we are the untimely born, not fitting in to this world and its values. We will find that evil is like a spider’s web, a net woven so intricately that each strand of wickedness is connected to another. Pulling one strand only reveals another. It can be depressing but we must continue to fight all strands of injustice. Our hope is that, one day, God will set all things right. In the meanwhile, we are called to be wise as serpents, gentle as doves and in all things, show the love of Jesus who sacrificed himself for wicked people. He was cast off, left exposed, naked, outside the city gates. He experienced a fate similar to infanticide and yet cried “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” He can identify with the victims of abortion but it cost him his all to love the perpetrators. Can we too, like Jesus, commit to dealing with people in love instead of in hate? For in the end, the only power stronger than death is love.