True confession: I was not truly pro-life until recently.
Although I was disturbed by the reports I heard regarding abortion — its methods, its victims, its very nature, its utter disregard for the dignity of human life — I did relatively little to actually be pro-life, from the heart, with my hands and feet and mouth and money. Until God graciously opened my eyes.
First, I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and saw the demoralizing effects that treating people as property can have on an entire society, as the leaven of sin works its way in so thoroughly that consciences begin to dull.
Then I watched the movie Selma and realized that during the Civil Rights Movement (of which most conservative Christians today heartily approve), the conservative white church was relatively absent. (The forerunners of the Civil Rights Movement were typically theological liberals.)
Next, enter an increasing awareness of the tortuous effects of abortion on babies, and women, through the videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress, and I had to recognize that in the midst of this veritable holocaust, I was making history in absentia by saying and doing nothing. Why?
This Is Our Problem
I was awakening to the fact that I had been asleep — in the same way those living in the countryside of Germany during World War II were asleep to what was happening in the nearby concentration camps. And yet the problem wasn’t that I didn’t know. It was that I didn’t particularly care. Abortion was a big problem, sure, but it wasn’t my big problem. I didn’t see it as my responsibility to be part of the solution.
In 1945, pastor Martin Niemöller wrote,
In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
We bear a moral responsibility toward one another as human beings. While most of us agree intellectually, far too often we stop short of allowing this knowledge to change us.
When “Tolerance” Breeds Fear
In a society where “tolerance” is regarded as the reigning virtue, this thought process is not terribly difficult to understand. That I believe a moral action is wrong does not give me grounds to interfere in any way with others who may make a different choice, so goes the line of thought. It can become an easy excuse for disengagement with others, both personally and in the public square.
This disengagement can be an easy breeding ground for fear. As we distance ourselves, we know less and less of “the other” until we feel we are so unalike that we really have nothing to offer that could be of benefit. We feel that unless we have an opportunity to thoroughly understand “the other,” we really have no place to speak into the public square, or to reach out in personal relationship. Or perhaps we do try and are rebuffed. We disengage further, afraid to appear as if we are making judgment calls on those unlike us, whose lives seem so different than ours.
We fear being perceived as judgmental in a culture of tolerance. We worry we may unwittingly wound others who have suffered with what we say or do if we speak truthfully or stand outside the clinic, so we stay silent and keep to ourselves. We want to look approachable. The result is that we find ourselves lacking opportunities to speak words of honesty, hope, and redemption to struggling women, even while others outside our circles begin to speak up in agreement with the very views we are afraid to voice.
That is the by-product of such so-called “tolerance,” but the Living Word calls me, as a disciple of Christ, to higher ground. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is not our culture’s idea of tolerance, but rather love that I am seeking, because I myself have been loved (1 John 4:19).
Love Enough to Cover
My God got messy, was broken, laid out, because of his great love for me (1 John 4:10). He engaged with me, when I had no desire for him, when I was in fact his enemy (Romans 5:8). He suffered on my behalf, that I might live with him joyfully forever (1 Peter 2:24). He rose that in him I might rise to life everlasting (John 6:40). He interceded for me when I had no choices, no options, and no way out of my sin. He intercedes for me still (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).
How deep and how wide and long and how high is his love? It is so great that we will never know the half of it — this pursuing, eager, leaning in, reaching out, lifting up, intercessory type of love. This gospel love is so far-reaching that it covers my faltering attempts as I engage.
Because of this great love, I can love my neighbor in the way I would desire to be loved if I were scared and alone and felt I had no other options.
I can pray — really pray — for my unborn neighbor, because God’s heart beats for the voiceless and unprotected.
I can speak the truth in love in the public square, engaged, with a smile, leaning in, listening, and responding to the concerns and differing thoughts of real people.
I can stand outside the clinic and intercede, both in prayer and with words and literature, offering to those who want it, as well as those who don’t, an opportunity to miss out on a potentially devastating decision.
I can give generously of my time and money to individuals in need and organizations that will support their life-giving choices.
I can take a few minutes to engage with my government regarding my unborn neighbors and their parents, believing with all my heart that every life is valuable and that God himself wields the gavel and holds the clock, while I am free to simply speak the truth in love to those with ears to hear — and I never know who they may be. People look on the outward appearance, but “the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
I can consider foster care or adoption as ways for my life to say that no child is ever truly unwanted.
I am learning to be pro-life.
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