A pastor called me several years ago wanting to talk about his Life Sunday observance. He had been preaching about life and abortion for several years—how it was wrong and against God’s law. He felt as if his people weren’t listening. In fact, even after several years of preaching, some people would leave the service when they found out it was Life Sunday. He knew there were women in his congregation who had an abortion in their past. He had been told that by other women. But, they didn’t want to talk to him about it and when it was time for Life Sunday these women would not show up for the service. The pastor had met with his board of elders to discuss the situation—and then he had called me for some advice.
So what’s the problem? The people in his congregation heard his words of truth, but they weren’t really listening. The lack of compassion expressed by the pastor caused their ears to close and their eyes to glaze over. What he needed to do is start with compassion for those people who were caught in the cycle of fear and despair caused by an unplanned pregnancy or abortion; expressing love and concern for them and offering them help and support. This is a lesson well learned by all of us as we try to Live In Faith Everyday. Truth must be married to compassion.
So let’s begin with Truth. How do you express it? Do you come across as being harsh and judgmental? Do people see you as someone who thinks they are better than everyone else? Christians sometimes forget that the process of sanctification is a result of the Holy Spirit living within us and not because of anything we did to make ourselves any better. The truth is that sin puts all of us on an even plane. We are all guilty and deserving of judgment! Let your love for fellow sinners shine!
Compassion – Do you demonstrate compassion in both your words and actions? When you speak about abortion, do you acknowledge that women in unplanned pregnancies face tremendous pressures that cause them to think abortion must be their choice? They are often alone, without support, and abandoned by the father of the baby. They are afraid of condemnation by parents, friends, or their church. Abortion seems like their only choice. Acknowledge their pain and their problems. Ears will then listen to the truth that God loves all people including the unborn. The truth that any child is a gift from God and abortion is not a God-pleasing solution to an unplanned pregnancy.
Actions – Are you ready to stand in the gap offering emotional support and real help? What about your church? Can your women’s Bible study mentor a young woman and offer her a baby shower. Or can your church collect diapers for the local pregnancy resource center. Do you regularly pray for the women and their babies? When people see that your actions match your words, you then speak with authority and they will listen.
Years ago, I was NOT invited to a baby shower for a friend from my church whose daughter was in an unplanned pregnancy. Why, because I was an active member of Lutherans For Life and it was thought that I would not approve. I had been speaking truth at my church, but apparently missed the compassion part. I sent a belated gift just to clear things up—but I learned. When an unplanned pregnancy occurred within my family, I was the one to have the baby shower. Why would we not welcome a child—a gift from God!
Another member of my extended family, who knew of my husband and my activity within LFL and the fact that we have adopted children, told me that of all the pro-lifers he knew, we were the only ones who lived out our convictions. Now I know that is not true, but it does demonstrate a point. Pro-lifers have a bad reputation. Many people equate those who speak against abortion as being harsh, judgmental, and unsympathetic to women. They don’t want to be one of those people, so we must start with expressing and living compassion. If we don’t, our message will not get through. This message of compassion must be heard also within our churches.
The stakes are very high. I heard of a young girl in a Christian high school near my home who when she found out she was pregnant threw herself down a flight of stairs to cause an abortion. She was successful. How much fear does there have to be for a woman to risk her very life to avoid being discovered by her religious community? So, as you go about your work for the Lord of Life, use Jesus as your example. He proclaimed truth, but had compassion on the sinners who surrounded Him and so should we. Let the light of your compassion shine through in all that you do and say. It will make a difference.
Diane E. Schroeder is president of Lutherans For Life.