As I have facilitated post-abortion Bible studies for women hurt by past abortions, one thing that regularly comes up is the silence of the Church and, more specifically, the silence of church pulpits. I wonder if pastors realize how often women hurt by abortion list their pastor’s silence as one of the things they need to work to forgive? I think many would be shocked.
A few years ago, I wrote an open letter to pastors to love their people enough to preach the truth about abortion. Having just finished facilitating another Bible study where this came up, I decided to share it here.
There are women and men in your congregation hurting from past abortions; there are women and men in your congregation facing unplanned pregnancies and contemplating abortion; there are women and men in your congregation that have no idea what to think about abortion let alone how to defend the sanctity of human life.
In 1973, the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade and its sister ruling, Doe v. Bolton, made abortion legal in all 50 states for any reason. Since that day, millions of human lives, those of little boys and little girls, have been purposefully taken in the womb legally, and although U.S. abortions have been on the decline in recent years, every year we still add close to a million more.
Every one of those little boys and little girls has a mother and father who live each day under the weight of their choice, and every Sunday many of them sit in your church facility.
If I may be so bold as to speak very plainly with you… abortion is a worship issue; it is a Gospel issue; it is an issue needing your voice.
Science is on the side of life proving a human being begins at conception. Logic is also on the side of life proving a human person begins when a human being begins. Although both science and logic should convince us abortion ends the life of a whole human person, people remain blind to both.
Of even greater concern, though, are those who recognize both science and logic, acknowledging the humanity, life, and personhood of the preborn child, but continuing to deny these human beings their right to life. They harden their hearts so that they recognize the preborn as whole living human beings but continue to support the purposeful taking of their lives.
Many used to believe that at the heart of the abortion culture was a lack of knowledge, and it was felt that once people were educated about human life in the womb, then by science and logic the culture would change.
It is true that knowledge is powerful and ultrasounds are very effective in reaching a man and woman with the humanity and life of their child, but a lack of understanding is not at the heart of the abortion culture. At the heart of the abortion culture is spiritual darkness.
Science and logic are important tools in the fight against abortion, but they alone are not enough. Neither science nor logic grant sanctity. It is being created in the image of God that gives human life sanctity.
This means the fight against abortion falls most heavily on the Church. A society will never move toward life that is also moving away from God, and people only come near to God through Jesus Christ and the preaching of the Gospel. The Church has the only answer that speaks to the heart of the issue of abortion: Jesus.
Abortion is an act of atheism. It is a declaration that there is no God and I am the highest authority over my life and choices. Abortion is the opposite of the Gospel. In the Gospel, Jesus perfectly fulfills what He declares as the two greatest commandments:
And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all our mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets,” – Matthew 22:37-40
In abortion, we are encouraged to love ourselves above all else even to the point of killing our neighbor who, in this case, is our own child.
There are many factors that play into an abortion: difficult circumstances, lack of support, fear, sexual sin, coercion, and hopelessness (abortion preys upon the desperate), but behind every abortion is a spiritual battle. What a person believes about God and human life in that moment of decision will greatly affect what he or she decides to do.
The abortion industry is bold in preaching lies. The people of God need their pastors to be bold in preaching truth. As God’s people are equipped with the truth and how to apply it specifically to abortion, they will be empowered to follow hard after Christ in their own decisions and to be a light in their neighborhoods and communities. Your church needs to hear that the Gospel has everything to do with the sanctity of human life.
Your church also needs to hear how the Gospel applies to past abortions. There are women and men in every congregation across this nation that have been affected by abortion. Some of these women and men have personally chosen abortion, some helped a friend have an abortion, and some know the loss of aborted siblings, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. Abortion is a great wound on the Church, and until this wound is dealt with at the foot of the cross, God’s Church will be crippled as salt and light.
If one member suffers, all suffer together… – I Corinthians 12:26
Pastors have reasons for not speaking out on abortion. I would like to share some thoughts concerning three of the most common:
Fear of hurting
“I don’t want to hurt the post-abortion woman and man.”
The man and woman with an abortion in their past are likely already hurting. Your silence empowers their fear that abortion is different from all other sins. In fact, it is such a horrible sin it cannot be mentioned from the pulpit or be spoken of publicly.
Men and women who are suffering from a past abortion tend to separate the sin of abortion from the power of the cross. They may believe the blood of Jesus covers sin, but in their hearts, they secretly worry abortion is the one exception. They fear if they do make it into heaven, they will do so by the skin of their teeth and their abortion will exclude them from being true sons and daughters of God. Like the prodigal son, they come to the Father hoping just to be His hired servant.
When the subject of abortion is avoided in church, or when it is quickly passed over, they recognize it and are scared it is because the church, like the elder brother in the story, does not believe the woman and man with an abortion in their past really belong at the feast (Luke 15:11-28).
What they desperately need is their shepherd to acknowledge the full weight of the abortion, the full depth of the wound, and the full breadth of the loss. Then, they need you to show them the Gospel is greater still.
You see, the only sin we cannot talk about in church meetings is the one the Gospel is ineffectual to cover. A pastor’s silence doesn’t protect the woman and man with an abortion in their past; it condemns them.
Fear of dividing
“If I preach on abortion, it will divide my church.”
There may be pro-choice people in your congregation. There may be women and men who have had an abortion and are deep in denial. The last thing they want anyone doing is lancing their festering wound with God’s truth.
If they have not accepted God’s forgiveness in Christ for their abortion they may be angry and defensive. You may even have people beg you not to speak out concerning abortion, but can a pastor claim to love God supremely and his neighbor as himself and allow his people to continue in darkness with festering wounds?
Being faithful to God and the Word of God may cause offense, but when the offense comes from preaching the truth of the Gospel, it is a necessary offense and one which God can use to draw people to Him.
Christ, even more than you or I, wants His Bride to be glorious, without “spot or blemish or any such thing,” and “holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5: 27-28). Do not underestimate what God can do in the midst of your people when the light of the Word of God is brought to bear upon the darkness of pro-choice ideology and past abortions.
God does not leave us broken and festering. He works to heal and restore to usefulness our broken and wounded places. There may be people in your congregation who have been spiritually paralyzed for years under the weight of a past abortion who, through the preaching of the Gospel in direct application to abortion, find the strength for the first time to lay every weight aside and run the race before them in freedom (Hebrews 12:1).
It may also be that some will harden their hearts and leave your church. Either way, we can be confident of this…God’s Word will accomplish His will.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:10-11
Fear of politics:
“We preach the Word of God expositorily, not topically. Abortion is a political issue at worst and a social issue at best.”
Although abortion has been politicized, it is not primarily a political issue and is much more than a social issue. As I stated before, abortion is a worship issue and, therefore, a Gospel issue and a Church issue.
I love expository preaching. I believe in expository preaching. There are sins, though, that become so prevalent in the culture and so prevalent in the Church that they cannot be ignored without compromising the integrity of the Word of God and the health and well-being of His people. Abortion is one of those sins. Where lies have taken root, the truth must root them out.
Anyone who gardens knows that it is not enough to just care for the plants sown; the weeds also must be dealt with so they do not eventually take over the garden choking out that which is fruitful. Part of sowing truth is destroying lies. As the Apostle Paul said,
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Abortion is the purposeful taking of innocent human life. It is death for the preborn child, but it is also death for those who choose it. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Through the lie of abortion, he means to devour us.
God is the God of life, and through the death and resurrection of His Son, He has broken the power of sin and removed the sting of death (Romans 6:6-11). We do not have to be controlled by our circumstances or fear and despair. We do not have to seek our good by destroying our children.
And, because of Jesus, those who have made the choice of abortion do not have to be destroyed. They do not have to come to God begging to be mere hired workers. When they repent of their past abortion and accept God’s forgiveness in Christ, they are forgiven, justified, and restored. The sin of abortion is removed from them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and God remembers it no more (Hebrews 8:12). He receives them as beloved sons and daughters.
And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:21-24
Many of these women and men grieve the loss of their aborted children. They need to know God’s love and comfort that is theirs in Christ Jesus. They need to hear that they are free to love their children and to look forward to the day they will be reunited with them in God’s presence.
The issue of abortion is too important for the church to remain silent. The women and men hurting from past abortions are too precious to leave in despair.
May our churches be places where the truth about abortion is spoken and the hope found in Jesus proclaimed. Let us mourn together so great a loss and let us celebrate together so great a hope.
Questions for pastors to consider:
- Do you see abortion as a worship issue? How does that affect you?
- What plans have you made, or could you make, to help those under your care who are hurting from past abortions?
- Do you fear speaking out about the sanctity of life? What is it you are afraid of? How do you need to change regarding this fear?