Has your timeline looked like some version of this over the last couple days? Honestly, I hope it has because that at least forces us to consider that this ruling is not exclusively viewed through our own perspective. I have a perspective and so do you do but part of what it means to be kind in this moment is to care for others, especially if you are a Christian.
Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Unfortunately we have not always modeled this well, especially in an era where we have been manipulated to oversimplify the complex, remove nuance and view our faith through the lens of our politics rather than the other way around.
I believe that everyone is created in the image of God with infinite dignity, value and worth (Genesis 1:27); from a fetus to the funeral. I believe that unborn children are children and ending a pregnancy, recognizing the complexities in many of the stories behind that decision, is ending a life. I also know that as a man, even with a family, I do not understand what it feels like to be a woman or pregnant…for me this is a deep conviction but I understand that others disagree and I don’t ever want my position on an issue to overshadow my posture of care and compassion for others.
One of the problems we face right now is that we all tend to offer compassion with those that share our convictions but we withhold it from those who don’t. In other words, if you believe like me, live like me, look like me…then I like you but that’s not how Jesus worked. Jesus loved everyone and even people who were nothing like Him, liked Him. If you’re a Christian that should be part of how we live our lives and demonstrate our convictions in a world with others that don’t share them. When we spike the football with issues like this, not only are we ignoring parts of what is nuanced about this, we are proving our non-Christian friends and neighbors right in their previous opinion of us. Beyond that we are telling other Christians that have different views on any number of issues, including their politics, that they are less than us. Our posture and our positions are equally important, it’s the model that Jesus lived, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
So What Happened?
This decision by the Supreme Court did not outlaw abortion in America. I’ve seen many posts that suggest people believe this but that simply isn’t what happened. If you want to end elective abortion in America this did not accomplish that. This decision simply pushed the legal authority on policy for abortion to the states and removed federal protection for abortions. So if you are in a Democratic leaning state it probably means that you are going to see legislation to make abortions more accessible and the scale of operations that deliver abortions grow as those from states around you come to get abortions there. If you are in a more Republican state you may already have ‘trigger’ laws in place that make abortion completely or nearly completely illegal in your state. In a divided nation, this has further divided us. I’m not trying to make the case for a specific set of laws or make this a political post, I’m just trying to make sure we understand what this decision actually was.
Conviction and Compassion Matter
There is a growing divide within the church as well. We see it because of how politics-first thinking has hijacked a Jesus and Bible centered worldview. On one side you have politically conservative Christians who are very concerned with taking ‘a stand’ on issues and telling people the unaltered truth, often in language that those outside the church don’t even understand. In this case I think it’s easy for our convictions to overshadow our compassion and we justify it by saying, I’m compassionate because I don’t want them to go to hell. On the other side you have a growing group of more politically liberal Christians who often grew up in contexts of severe judgment and they have sometimes responded by softening traditional Biblical convictions in hopes of sharing Biblical compassion. I understand these are stereotypes and I’m not suggesting everyone fits neatly into one but I think they are trends in our moment. There is a problem though that Tim Keller highlights well, “Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws.” In a world without nuance, we have nuance. In a world that demands we choose imperfect sides, we choose a perfect Savior who never did.
Both Heartbeats Matter
This can’t be overstated; a pro-life position must be about our posture towards people not just our position on policies. This is so difficult because of how politics have turned this and us into enemies on issues rather than citizens of a different Kingdom. I am so thankful and honored to be a part of a community at Eastern Hills that has been working to serve the underserved and deliver dignity to people who need a hand up for many, many years. I would challenge you to ask yourself if your stance on this issue has outgrown your service to the people it affects. From food pantry work, to incredible ministries to local schools, non-profits and seasonal projects to care for people…the church is supposed to be the answer. If you are a Jesus follower, don’t just vote for the solutions to help people, be part of the solution to help people in your community.
Jesus followers, while never perfect, have led in the places we are talking about now and must again. Jesus followers took the lead to deliver care to underserved communities before any of us were alive; from hospitals, to non-profits, to education. We have led with compassion and not sacrificed conviction before and we must do it again. Jesus offered us a model of how to do this in His life and we must follow that example again.
Practically as a church we will continue to support those locally around us as we are #ForAurora and we are also taking an offering to prepare a food truck that we can have fun with as a church community but will also fund our compassion to people and places who are underserved and can’t get to us. The teams of people that serve in these ministries are superstars that model Jesus to our community so well and I’m praying we will just keep growing the way we show Jesus to those around us.
Assume They Are In The Room
This is a preaching principle about making sure you never preach or teach in a way that seems to suggest to unchurched people that they are invisible. It’s easy to create a context without trying that not only ignores those who are different than you but also vilifies them. It is usually the opposite of the message we mean to send but we can do this very easily if we’re not careful. I try to think about what someone might object to or what concerns they might have if they’ve never applied this idea before. It makes me a better communicator and hopefully invites a skeptic to consider Jesus in a way they never have before.
On issues like abortion we need to do the same thing in our homes around the table, in our communities and neighborhoods, our workplaces and definitely on social media. This conversation has nuance, even if you’re convictions are deeply held. The family member you didn’t know had an abortion and constantly feels as though you could never love them if you knew is now convinced of it. The coworker who faces life-threatening risks because of their pregnancy right now and your tone makes that conversation impossible to have with you. The close friend you have who is a Christian and holds different politics than you now knows you aren’t open to a closer friendship. The person on social media that doesn’t know Jesus, doesn’t believe a fetus is a human being and now knows their assumption that you hate them is probably accurate.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t have a position on issues but I am suggesting that we lead with compassion on this and not sacrifice our convictions in the process. Don’t unnecessarily abandon your influence with people because of your approach (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Here are just a few suggestions for Christians who feel strongly on this issue, regardless of the side you take:
- Don’t post everything, or maybe anything – Social Media lacks nuance and allows gossip and slander to emerge in ways that embraces controversies we can never extinguish (Titus 3:9-11). Ask yourself why you are going to post, pray about what you post and commit to in-person follow up conversations, not comment thread conflicts where no one wins and everyone loses.
- Give your money and time to people, not just causes – Talk is cheap, funding and doing the work is much more costly. How are you supporting local people not just policies or politicians. Are you serving in compassion ministries in your church, helping at non-profits that serve people in need or practically helping a single parent or even considering fostering or adoption?
- Pray and pursue Jesus – Don’t just settle for an emotional response when things like this happen in our world. Pray for our nation, our leaders, the women who are scared about what this means for them, the babies that will be born into difficult situations, the parents who will raise them, the next election cycle that will further reveal our division, the state of tribalism in churches…you get the idea. As we pray and pursue Jesus we are all being drawn to a person, not a platform and ultimately if you are a follower of Jesus, that is our life goal, to be formed more and more into the person Jesus made us to be as we follow Him.
One last thing, I know that the extremes on both sides will dismiss these thoughts and just assert, probably wherever they have shared this article, that I am an undercover extremist for the ‘other side’ of the aisle. I’m a cultural Marxist or a conservative nutjob but I take great heart from the words of Jesus when He said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Also, if you are looking for a great book to continue this conversation I would recommend checking this one out too.
The church made the world better once upon a time and we can do it again, many of us have already started and we won’t stop…keep going Jesus followers. His Kingdom come, His will be done, in America (and the world) as it is in Heaven.