Last week I told you that while the voice you hear on BreakPoint may be different for a while, our commitment to the sanctity of human life remains the same. Today, I would like to talk to you about that commitment and how we might communicate it to others.
The life issue is far from academic in the Metaxas household: My wife runs the Midtown Pregnancy Support Center here in Manhattan where we live. It’s a Christian organization that offers help to women and families that find themselves in so-called “crisis pregnancies.”
In my own work, I have defended the sanctity of human life many times.
While I believe that Christians must speak out passionately on this issue, how we speak about it is as important as the points we make.
Actually, it might be more important because what’s missing in some of what I hear coming from pro-life activists is an appreciation that, apart from the grace of God, chances are we would be on the other side of the issue. There’s a tendency sometimes to demonize our enemies instead of loving them and, more to the point, showing them that we love them.
We would do well to heed Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s example. Bonhoeffer, by the way, had no doubts about the evil of abortion. He wrote that “Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life.”
Bonhoeffer also wrote that raising “the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue.” What’s clear, he said, is that “God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life.” And he didn’t hesitate to call that “murder.”
At the same time, he spoke compassionately about the “many different motives,” such as despair, economic destitution, and misery that often lay behind the act. He went so far as to say that “the guilt may often lie with the community rather than with the individual.”
Thus, for Bonhoeffer, while abortion certainly is murder, we should think twice about labeling the mother “murderer.”
Another thing we need to keep in mind is why it is possible to love the sinner while hating the sin: grace and forgiveness. We know that our sins, no matter how great, have been and can be forgiven. We know, some of us from personal experience, that this most decidedly includes abortion. This knowledge is what makes efforts like those of my wife possible.
But non-Christians don’t know this. They hear our condemnation of abortion as a condemnation of themselves.
That’s why our love for them can’t be an afterthought: just the kind of thing we say after people have reacted negatively. It’s got to be the thing we lead with. We must love them before we dream of reproaching them. After all, that was Jesus’ way of doing things. While he attacked the Pharisees, he had compassion on the harassed and helpless people around him. He even wept over the city that would crucify him.
Ultimately, we must understand that truth is more than ideas – it’s a person, Jesus Christ. And we must treat those who disagree with us as he did: with love.
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