by Pastor Michael Salemink
Mama said polite conversation shouldn’t address politics, religion, or sex. Testifying to the sanctity of life takes up all three. That means three times the risk of the interaction becoming uncomfortable. And not every For Life voice is Gospel-motivated, so abortion advocates already think we’re angry. In addition, our witness trips their defenses before we even say a word. We represent the God and the truth their convictions have violated. The remnant of His law written on their conscience at creation senses the sinfulness in intentionally ending a life.
Christians come from another culture than the world does. We speak a different language. How can we ever hope to genuinely engage and communicate effectively? Try these ten suggestions for compassionate conversation about life issues:
- Acknowledge our anxieties and confess our idols. It’s OK that these subjects make us uneasy and upset. This confirms what important and personal matters the sanctity of life deals with. We don’t like disagreement and rejection. God Himself feels the same. And so do those we discuss them with, whether they share our beliefs or not. Are we putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves or others as well? Do we try to get them to like us, hope to save someone, or setting ourselves at ease, attempt to demonstrate superiority? Doesn’t this treat the one we’re talking to as an inconvenience? Our aims and efforts will fail because we suffer from sin ourselves. We must acknowledge it.
- Trust and pray. Almighty God has atoned for our evils and forgiven our failures. Crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ proves He loves us no matter what. We don’t have to achieve success or exhibit expertise. He enlisted and positioned us as His instruments before we knew anything about it. He retains responsibility for the results of His Word, even out of our mouths, whether there is reception or rejection. It will take root and bear fruit. Take comfort. Stay calm. Have confidence and good cheer. Ask that His will, not mine, be done. Say, “Amen!” and believe it and behave it. And if that will involves meeting disagreement or getting ridiculed, so be it. His promises sustain infinite patience.
- Foster relationship. The Gospel of Jesus Christ seeks not to make pro-lifers but children and disciples. We receive neighbors as privileges rather than projects. We want eternity with them as brothers and sisters. They can’t care about anyone else unless they know how God cares for them. So, we connect with the person instead of just their positions. Feel free to talk about topics other than just life issues. Share about yourself and your life. Open up and follow up. Widen the conversation to more than merely one matter and lengthen it to more than only one occasion.
- Ask and listen. Why assume when we can inquire? We answer best after we understand, and not just what but also whom. What questions or problems do they hope abortion or assisted suicide will resolve? How have they come to believe as they do? What personal experiences do they have with surprise pregnancies or terminal diagnoses? What considerations or circumstances are complicating these situations for them? What hurts or threats have panicked them into viewing death as a solution? Explore and investigate together. Even God gets to know our story before He gives it the happy ending.
- Appreciate and affirm. Thank them for sharing such personal and impassioned sacred space. Identify and applaud the common grounds. We also oppose poverty, pain, abuse, and abandonment. We also support equality, liberty, and community. We recognize surprise pregnancies and terminal diagnoses come with difficulties and sufferings. Indeed, God grieves them too. We each have our own struggles, and they can make us sensitive to theirs. Beating someone with their crosses does the devil’s work for him, but bearing someone’s crosses with them creates space for Christ.
- Expect, endure, and overlook offenses. Their outrage, aggression, and grief have God’s name on it, not ours. Count it an honor that they so closely associate us with Him. And we despise injustice and sin just as much as they do. When they wound, we have the opportunity and invitation to wow them with the power of grace. Our Heavenly Father will make it up to us more than double for all the damages we take.
- Apologize. Some Christians have ignored or stayed silent about the sanctity of life. Some have used the truth to attack people. Some have permitted, promoted, or participated in violence against the vulnerable in abortions and assisted suicides. Cultural voices and forces have used those suffering surprise pregnancies and terminal diagnoses as excuses for sinfulness or pawns to overpower others. We belong to the Church, and we belong to the culture, so we can express our sorrow for these wrongs.
- Apply Gospel. We get to proclaim that God loves the one right in front of us just as much as cute little babies and dear old ladies. He knows their fears. He feels their hurts. He died for their sins, even violations of the sanctity of life. He redeems their mistakes. He meets their needs. He has made Himself their Father. He has a family, a household, a kingdom, an everlasting life, and abundant blessings for them.
- Avoid sarcasm and scare tactics. Shoving graphic images of dismembered fetuses in strangers’ faces won’t change hearts. Calling clinics “abortuaries” and “death camps,” referring to “planned unparenthood” or “planned barrenhood,” and labelling opponents “pro-aborts” or “feminazis” may seem clever but seldom ends up helpful or even effective. Certainly it doesn’t follow God’s command to “explain everything in the kindest way.” Focus instead on how our Lord creates, redeems, and calls every human life as His own precious treasure from fertilization to forever. Rhetorical force may outlaw abortion, but only love, hope, and joy change minds and save lives.
- Celebrate blessings. Highlight how marriage, sexuality, procreation, and children bring delight. Compliment sons and daughters. Praise fathers and mothers. Commend husbands and wives. Observe birthdays and anniversaries. Admire single parents, stay-at-home moms, large families, and persons with disabilities.