Abortion, Adoption and where we fit.

My Biblical Conviction
As I was reading through my text for Sunday, Luke 1: 39-80, I was struck by verses 39-41.

“Afterward, Mary arose and hurried off to the hill country of Judea, to the village where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. Arriving at their home, Mary entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the moment she heard Mary’s voice, the baby within Elizabeth’s womb jumped and kicked. And suddenly, Elizabeth was filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit!”

Luke 1:39-41 The Passion Translation

As I was meditating on this passage, a couple things stuck out to me:

1) Even before John and Jesus are conceived, they have names and destinies. John and Jesus, their lives and mission, existed in the mind of God well before they came to live in their mother’s wombs.

2) John, 6 months old and still on the inside, has the spiritual, emotional and physical capacity to recognize Jesus who is, at this point in time, little more than a zygote. Jesus, under 2 weeks old, is recognizable as the personal fulfillment of Divine prophecy.

If I take this text seriously, it means that at the moment of conception that fertilized ovum is now a person with a name and destiny. It also means that zygote is a fully intact personality with the capacity to think, feel and respond. That is wild.

Personal Stories
It got me thinking about two friends of mine. Both of these women were raped which resulted in pregnancy and subsequent abortions. I didn’t know any of this at the time, but as I processed the most recent story with Dani we both decided that, had the mother been willing to carry full term, we would have adopted and raised that child as our own.

This isn’t meant to be a “hurray for the Daus” deal in any regard. It is simply my conviction that we can only be anti-abortion to the extent that we are pro-adoption and pro-compassionate care for women. I don’t fault my friends, or any woman for that matter, for the choice they made to have an abortion. It is an ugly reality in a broken world.

So where do we as the Church fit in?

First, we realize, teach and insist upon the personhood of each fetus from the moment of conception. This isn’t scientifically provable (yet), but it is a spiritual reality we see in Scripture.

Second, we realize that not everyone is going to understand, appreciate and believe our point of view. Arguing with people and/or demonizing their behavior isn’t going to help them. For every person that is bullied into not having an abortion there is another who becomes all the more resolute. In my experience, sin is like a nail and the Bible like a hammer. Whenever we hit sin head on we drive it deeper, but whenever we come up under it with mercy and grace we are able to pry it out of people’s hearts.

Third, regardless of the choice people made (and wether we agree with it or not), they are going to need our support. Some women (and their male counterparts) have an abortion and seem to suffer no ill effects. But it has more often been the case in my experience as a pastor that women (and their male counterparts) who have had abortions deal with tremendous amount of guilt and shame. What they do NOT need in that circumstance is a self-righteous Christian telling them “I told you so.” What they DO need is someone who is going to speak words of life, forgiveness and freedom over them. Trust me, if you’ve ever cared for someone processing at this level of repentance you don’t need to worry that they will ever do it again.

One of my most profound revelations of last year came from Isaiah 61, that Jesus came to set prisoners free. Prisoners are those who are suffering in the present for their past choices… and Jesus came to set them free. Jesus is our Jubliee, our cancellation of sin, our freedom and new lease on life.

Fourth, we need to be ready to adopt, foster or otherwise care for these women and children. To tell a woman it is sin to have an abortion and then leave her without support is like James 2:14-17, dead and worthless religion. Again, if we are going to be anti-abortion then we need to be even more pro-adoption and pro-compassionate care for women.

Not a political debate
This is not a partisan or political debate for me for I put no stock in man’s ability to legislate morality effectively. This is an issue of representing the heart of our King to every man, woman and child we meet. Even if we closed every abortion clinic in the U.S. women would still try to terminate their unwanted pregnancies because closing a clinic doesn’t deal with the root issue of fear – fear of the loss of freedom, fear of financial stress, fear of a child with issues/disorders, fear of an inability to parent. As Christians, we know the answer – perfect Love drives out fear.

If I were a betting man I’d bet that a church community committed to loving pregnant mothers would save more babies than any amount of legislation AND it would have the additional benefit of exposing the mother, father and child to the Good News of salvation that is found only in Jesus.

Your Thoughts
I realize that the issues of abortion, adoption and the correct Christian response are much grander than what I was able to touch on here. I also know that my knowledge of these subjects only goes so far. SO, I’d love to hear from you.

How do you and your communities care for pregnant women considering abortions?

How do you bring healing to women (and men) suffering from the physical/emotional/spiritual effects of having had an abortion?

What language do you use to talk about abortion? (I’ve found “pro-life” and “women’s rights” to be terms that make otherwise intelligent people into party line bullies.)

As always, thanks for reading.

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7 thoughts on “Abortion, Adoption and where we fit.”

  1. Thank you so much for the spiritual clarity regarding such a complex and contested social issue. I read the passage in preparation for your message and in my imagination it was like two full term babies responding to one another, so your statement that Jesus could not have been more than a Zygote, and His majesty was still recognized by a pre-term John, was an amazing insight. I again, appreciate your description of the Father’s heart of love as the point of emphasis amidst an issue that produces such vitriol and contention. I would appreciate your thoughts on the LGBTQ question as well, as I recently had a good friend ask me about the Vineyard’s stand on the issue because his once beloved church family’s inability to accept his child when she made a gender transition left him with deep wounds and scars. I enthusiastically told him about the emphasis upon the Father’s love at the VCC, but he said that he could not bring himself to connect with a church and be rejected like that again. As, I did not know your certain views on the issue, I did not have a sufficient response.

    1. Meach,

      Thank you so much for that response.

      I probably can’t do adequate justice to your friend’s concerns in a comment, so I will put together a post on how I feel we should care for the LGBTQ community – it is something the Vineyard has currently been talking a lot about. My actual post will be far more helpful, but my basic response is this:

      I want to love the LGBTQ community as radically and passionately as Jesus loves me. I want to love them in such a way that they set their hearts to love and follow Jesus for themselves. I trust that God, who is a Perfect Leader and a Good Shepherd, will address any issues that need addressing in their lives at the right and perfect time. The Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Holiness) is the one who convicts us of sin (John 16:8), I don’t really see that as my job.

      People seem to really want Bounded Set thinking – who is in, who is out, what is a sin, what isn’t. I get that and I think that Bible is pretty clear on those issues. What I don’t like is that people want me as a leader to establish those Boundaries so that they can beat someone senseless with them. I refuse to do that, not because I don’t have opinions or a clear sense of what is sin and what isn’t, but because I know that we are all sinners in the process of being saved.

      A Believer who dies still struggling with alcoholism is just as saved as a Believer who dies still struggling with same sex attraction. And yes, there are Believers in both situations! Bounded Set thinking can’t compute that – there is no grid for someone who loves Jesus with all that they are and still has issues.

      I also have issues with the language we use to talk about this issue. Gender is not your identity. Your sexual preference is not your identity. Sexuality is potent and can be consuming, but it is a minuscule part of what makes us up as human beings. I refuse to let something as insignificant as sexuality determine how I relate to someone Jesus loves and died for. I chose to relate to them through the eyes of love. Are they broken? Yes. And so am I. Jesus died for us all – no one was perfect, not even one.

      For the record, the Vineyard has two boundary lines in regards to the LGBTQ community (and it sucks that we had to publicize these even if I agree with them). (1) The Vineyard will not condone any marriage of same-sex couples. (2) The Vineyard will not ordain anyone who is actively practicing a homosexual lifestyle.

      Hopefully that helps, I’ll try to put together a post in the next day or so that fleshes that out a little more.

      Thanks for reading and responding Meach, I love your insights and questions.

      Ben

  2. The Truth of God is amazing – hitting the bone and marrow. It’s hitting hard today! PREACH IT BROTHA!!!!!! Amen! Love!!! Jesus!!! Truth!!! Light!! The Way!!! Jesus’ Love trumphs everything! I’m rejoicing in these Truths being shared! WOOOHOOO!!!!!! TRRRUUUUTTTTHHH!!!!!!

  3. I appreciate your well thought out response that covers far more than most do on the subject. You don’t need to publish this comment, it is more me speaking to you in hopes of sparking deeper thoughts on the subject, regardless if you find them valid, or not. Nor am I making any assumptions that you haven’t already considered them.

    You have obviously thought deeply about the first Bible quote. I’d invite you to think a bit deeper in relation to adoption – specifically on the separation aspect for the baby. How that first event may impact the baby. No right or wrong answers – just how can that be felt by the baby…who within minutes of being born loses the only mother they know by voice, smell…

    I have no doubt that there are deep feelings about having had an abortion. The same is also true for adoption. The grief and pain is lifelong – regardless of regrets, or no regrets, about the decision, you aren’t parenting the child you carried in your womb for nine months, and brought into this world. This is something very few ever seem to consider, but it is real, hard, devastating. I’ve never met a mother who won’t tell you that 50 years later it still affects them. Adoption should be seen as an option for an expectant mother, but only after all other options are extinguished.

    You do advocate in your post about supporting woman, but how far does that support go is what I think is missing in so many conversations today. And it does become political when it appears that a fairly large percent of the Republican voters are against abortion, and, against taking a leaf from other developed nations in respect to paid maternity leave (Canada through unemployment insurance), other social supports such as daycare subsidies, etc.) for parenting. It is also religious based on how a church responds either in very real support for women in their community, or doesn’t, as the case may be. Perhaps it’s time for the churches to return to caring for the community, first, before lifting their voices in opposition to hard choices made by women. Both of those topics come with real costs, but if you feel strongly on the subject…

    There is also a cost to the adopted person, and each of us will react differently – but never think there isn’t a cost, and for some, it can be very high.

    Finally, you touched lightly on the subject of women getting abortions whether there are clinics or not. My dad was one of the doctors who had to try to patch up, and save the lives of women who had back alley abortions. He supported safe medical care because he knew the reality of what unsafe meant, and how many women died because of it. He spoke about it until he passed away in this century, that’s how deeply impacted he was from what he saw before Roe v. Wade. Doctors from that era are gone now….just remember that being prolife also means being prolife for women and I’d argue that people need to make things better for those living now, even if it means paying higher taxes…

    Thank you for listening.

    1. TAO, thank you so much for those comments. I tried to find a way to contact you personally, but wasn’t able to find anything on your blog. I hope you don’t mind me responding here.

      I agree with you that adoption is a painful and messy thing. One of my congregants is a long term foster mom who has a saying I find really helpful, “Any child in foster care or adoption has come from a great tragedy. We were never meant to be plan A. We’re just trying to do the best we can in a rotten situation.” That seems to sum things up well. As thankful as I am for foster care and adoption, it doesn’t erase any wounds for the child or the child’s parents. A lot of people think that once a child is placed in a home that they will be fine – not so. There is a lot more that needs to be done to help these kids process their hurts and find healing – that is an area I am pursuing with the Foster Parent Group I am a part of. I don’t feel that it is impossible to recover from those wounds (child or parent), but I do acknowledge that it is going to require a lot of extra work to come to a place of healing.

      As for caring for women in difficult situations… This is also something I’m exploring with my church community. We want to do so much more than a superficial service. We’re looking to explore ways of connecting these women with our families in concrete, even covenantal, ways. Family is a huge theme for us as a congregation and we’re trying to figure that out in all its messiness as it pertains to us loving and supporting women.

      I also appreciate the story about your dad. Even though I am anti-abortion I want there to be safe, well funded and hygienic places for women to go if that is their decision. Because if there aren’t, then that puts them at risk for additional trauma and difficulty.

      So thank you so much for your thoughts, comments and perspective. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to share.

      Ben

      1. Thank you Ben for responding with grace. Very thankful that some (hopefully many) are willing to dig deeper than just spouting rhetoric…it makes me hopeful.

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