Last week I spoke at Church of the Resurrection, a thriving Anglican church in Wheaton, IL, with a fantastic shepherd, Bishop Stewart Ruch. During Q and A, I was asked about how people can appeal to their fellow Christians to take abortion more seriously; in particular, I was asked what influences Christians to respond adequately to the plight of pre-born children. I believe there are three factors in particular:
2. Education, and
Conviction is a strong persuasion or belief. It is deeper than intellectual assent. It involves capturing the heart. And in the context of Christianity, it's not simply knowing about Jesus, or about His commands; it requires a personal relationship with Him, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This way, just as we care about the things that people we care about, care about, a personal relationship with Jesus will naturally draw forth from us a deep concern for what concerns Him. As the song “Hosanna” by Hillsong United declares, “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” Abortion destroys God's creation that is more than good--it is "very good" (Genesis 1:31); it destroys life made in His image (Genesis 1:26); it destroys the result of His command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28).
I am reminded of an allegory I once heard about two people who recited Psalm 23. The first was a professional orator who declared “The Lord is my shepherd…” with drama and exaggeration. When he finished, the crowd jumped to its feet and clapped with much enthusiasm. Then a humble pastor got up. He lowered his gaze and bowed his head; then he slowly and reverently prayed, “The Lord is my shepherd…” When he was finished the crowd was struck with silence—the only sounds being gentle weeping from a people profoundly moved. The conclusion? The orator knew the psalm but the pastor knew the shepherd.
It’s like the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10: When the priest and Levite saw a half-dead robbed victim on the road to Jericho they passed by on the other side. The Samaritan man, however, was moved with compassion and cared for the wounded soul. It was as though the priest and the Levite knew the law, but the Samaritan knew the law-giver. We need to foster more than simply knowing about Jesus, but actually being in relationship with Him so that the cry of our hearts becomes the cry of the blind man Bartimaeus to Jesus: “Lord that I may see” (Mark 10:51).
Just as the Good Samaritan “saw” with his eyes, and his heart, the plight of his neighbor, we should pray “that we may see” the plight of our pre-born neighbors just as Jesus sees it. We should allow ourselves to come face-to-face with their broken bodies and allow their dismembered limbs to communicate to us what their silent screams could not. We should pray to “see” their beauty and fragility, and the corresponding destruction of what abortion did to them, so as to respond with the broken heart that God Himself responds with.
Following conviction, there can arise within us a fear of how people will respond if we act on such conviction, which is why education is so necessary. The more people are equipped to “give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15) the more readily people will share. We need to help people gain confidence in their beliefs, helping them both understand and articulate the rationale behind the pro-life claims. The better prepared people are to rebut objections, to explain things clearly and persuasively, the more they will increase in confidence, which means they will naturally decrease in fear.
But fear won’t necessarily be entirely eliminated. Which is why we need courage too. I once heard it said that “courage is not the absence of fear, but a will to do what is right in spite of your fears.” How do we instill courage? I firmly believe we are more likely to be courageous when we surround ourselves by people who are. There is something inspiring about the example of people who are other-oriented, especially when there’s personal cost involved. The courage of others is magnetic, and draws that same virtue out of those who are exposed to it.
That’s why I encourage communities of believers to immerse themselves in the inspiring examples of heroes and role models who responded to injustice in their midst and advocated for the vulnerable. Movies like Schindler’s List, Gandhi, Sophie Scholl, Beyond the Gates, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, and Eyes on the Prize are not about abortion, but they are about good people responding to injustice. That’s what we need in response to abortion, and watching these examples and then discussing how the past can relate to our present, will instill the courage Christians need to make a better future.