As you can see with my other posts this past week, I’ve been rather pre-occupied with personal things. However, my brain has been working overtime on some other issues as well and I just can’t keep them in any longer.
It’s January and January always brings intense debates about abortion. This post is not intended to address the political aspects of the debate and honestly, I’m not even interested in talking about or debating my views on the subject. What I am interested in is talking about the Christian perspective.
That being said, buckle your seat belts because unless you know me really well, this may turn out to be different than what you might be expecting.
I was listening to a well-known and influential pastor* a few weeks ago and somehow he started talking about abortion and how it is murder and that in the eyes of God, if you have had an abortion you are no better than the guy who shot up the elementary in Newtown, CT. I had to stop what I was doing and replay it to make sure that was really what I was hearing. It was. In the end, it bothered me so much that I stopped listening and went on to delete my subscription to this particular pastor’s sermons. To be fair though, it wasn’t because of this one instance…there have been many things leading up to this action on my part.
As the weeks went on, it bothered me more and more. I started getting emails from other well-known and influential pastors whom I follow who were also writing about the subject. I ended up reading a blog post, written by a woman who attended one of the aforementioned pastor’s churches. Essentially, she said that if we were bothered by his words, we need to ask ourselves why and address that. So, I did that (asked myself why) and this is me addressing it.
Several years ago, I read Phillip Yancey’s book, “What’s so Amazing about Grace?” I was rocked by the opening chapter in which Yancey tells a story of a prostitute whom he invited to church. Her response was, “Church! Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.” (pg 11). Instead of church being a welcoming and forgiving place, this woman (who had done such unspeakable things that I cannot even write about them) would not even consider darkening the doorway. Let’s be clear…I know that as Christians, we are not to gloss over sin and condemning it is not categorically a bad thing. And, I also am aware of the simplicity of Yancey’s arguments from a theological standpoint. But, unless and until we (as believing Christians) recognize and accept that not one of us is worthy in the eyes of God, we have no right to call someone else out as a murderer (for more on this, see Matthew 7). If I, as a self-proclaimed Christian, who believes in the healing blood of Jesus was offended enough to turn the voice of that pastor off, then what about the person who has no concept of what Jesus dying on the cross means for their life? The consequences of those words could be eternal, in my opinion.
So, that is the “why”. It bothers me, not because people have strong opinions about abortion — or even what those opinions are, but because they allow it to become a potential stumbling block for others. Hear me on this: I do not think it’s bad to have an opinion on the subject. Nor do I think we should remain silent on the issue. My point is this: our words are powerful. We must be careful in how we present the gospel to somebody who doesn’t understand it. Instead of focusing on the sin, focus on He who died for the sin and the hope that each and every one of us has because of that tremendous sacrifice. Not one of us has led a sinless life — and as far as I can tell, God abhors all sin, so we all are in need of grace. Grace, for as simple as the definition is (undeserving favor), is extremely complex. Not only do people not understand it, they have a hard time accepting it because we live in a culture that values earning everything we have. And, I think it’s harder to extend grace for the same reasons. But, we should extend grace because it has been extended to us….every single day for reasons that we may not even think we need it.
Several years ago, I started praying that God would break my heart for the things that break His. (Side note: be careful if you decide to pray this. God will answer it and you will be heartbroken all the time). And, my heart is broken now. Not only for those who may have heard that message and who now want nothing to do with seeking Jesus but for those who are now second guessing Jesus — and also for the grace that I can’t seem to muster for the person who said it. I can’t help but think that when we get into these kinds of debates and start using hateful language (even if it’s only inside our own heads) that we are getting it all wrong. And, I have this vision of God shaking his head and saying “That’s not what I meant….”.
Finally, as I’ve been writing this, I’m increasingly aware that this isn’t just about abortion. It’s about all of the ways that we judge others and all of the litmus tests that we place on people who call themselves Christians (or don’t). I heard a woman recently talk about how her church family has hurt her more than anyone with regard to a personal issue. I think it’s because we expect more from our church family. We expect more from people who claim to follow Christ. And, when you expect more, you hurt more when those people let you down. But the real truth is that everyone is going to let you down because not one of us is perfect. Only Jesus is perfect. So, it makes sense to me that we should focus on the plank in our own eye and the Great Commandment that Jesus gave us:
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Love God. Love People. Not just love people, but love them as yourself. Have you ever thought about the high pedestal we tend to put ourselves on? We are to love people THAT much. Such a simple and yet incredibly difficult commandment. People are difficult to love when they make decisions that are contrary to your beliefs that you are so committed to! So, when you can’t love people, it’s time to focus on loving God and remember that He loves us despite how difficult we are. Miraculous things will begin to happen — you begin to love people, not because they are lovable but because if you truly love God, you love the people He loves. Even when you don’t want to.
*Pastor’s name is not included because I don’t want this post or discussion to be about him or for this post to be searchable based on his name because I don’t really think that is the point.