February 16, 2012

“If only I would have known the pain and guilt would stay with me forever!” It’s a common reaction from Christian women journeying toward healing after abortions. It causes me to wonder, “What could have been said or done that would have stopped you from choosing the death of your little one?”

A few answer, “Nothing.” Some say, “I didn’t give anyone the chance. I was too ashamed to tell anyone.” Many respond, “I couldn’t see any other way.”

These women believe their Christian families and churches are not safe havens for sinners.

Are we really such a poor reflection of God’s mercy that someone with a crisis pregnancy concludes ironically: death is the only viable option?

Yes, I confess I am a poor reflection. I get defensive instead of saying, “I was wrong.” I talk harshly about others. So why should I expect my son and daughter to feel safe approaching me with their sin? Why should they be confident of mercy, when they see me pronounce verdict on others?

Our churches rightly “equip the saints” by teaching the Law (e.g. purity, abstinence, the sin of abortion, the 10 Commandments) and the Gospel (baptism, Apostles’ Creed, The First Article—treasures of the Church).

But we can also fail corporately to equip the saints for lives of mercy if we merely state Law and Gospel without applying it at the proper time. The Gospel is very difficult for a scared woman to trust. To her troubled soul, Satan brings to mind every harsh commandment; he obscures Christ’s merciful words and instead convinces her fearful soul she is guilty beyond redemption.

So then how will a woman in a crisis pregnancy stand a chance to truly hear the Gospel? How will she recognize it is safe to confess her sin and that she does not need to cover sin by sinning more?

She will know it because she has experienced time and time again confession received with Christ’s forgiveness in her home and church:

Her mother responded with mercy and hugs when a she was a child tearfully saying, “I’m sorry.”

Her father lashed out in anger and said, “I sinned. Please forgive me.”

Her pastor hurts her feelings and sought her out to beg forgiveness.

She receives the Body and Blood of her Lord, “shed for you.”

She will also know from her Lord, the holy, perfect Son of God who responds to a woman’s sin-broken heart with mercy. When the woman caught in sin stands alone, abandoned by her judges, Jesus declares a sentence of life: “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11). For in Christ, she does not have to be innocent to be declared “not guilty” by God. Let us be who we are in Christ: a safe haven for every sinner’s confession and a vehicle of God’s mercy!