The Pain and Defense of Abortion

How do we talk about abortion as a sin without hurting women who have had an abortion or who defend it as a personal or political issue?

In the church, we talk about sin all the time.  That’s because we are sinful people.  We fail to put God first in our lives.  We fail to remember the commands of God and do them.  We fail to put our trust in God’s Word and use it for making decisions of life.  We fail to love our neighbor as ourselves.  All of this is sinning against God.  Not one of us is innocent.  In fact, the whole earth is groaning under the weight of sin.  But, the Creator of our lives did not leave us without hope.  Jesus left heaven to become the only sacrifice needed by a holy God.  Jesus took the punishment for sin that we deserve.  Because of Jesus’ death and victory over evil, we don’t have to remain captive to the deception of abortion.  We don’t have to carry the burden of abortion… or any other sin.

For the sake of women, we must talk about abortion… with discerning care.  Some say, “How could a woman do such a thing!”  This statement is not intended to be cruel, but is heard as a judgment.  Others, hoping to be less judgmental and more politically correct, say, “I would never have an abortion myself, but I believe every woman should have the right to choose.”  This statement may seem compassionate, but to the woman who has had an abortion, it sounds like a comparison: “Abortion is wrong and because I am a good person I wouldn’t do such a terrible thing, but women who are incapable of doing the right thing should have a choice.”  Both of these responses are condemning.  Neither offer hope before or after an abortion.

There is a third response.  It is to speak the truth with the welcoming manner of Christ.  It does not matter if we are speaking to a group or visiting with only two or three others.  We can explain how the piercing blade of abortion ends the life of a pre-born baby even as it wounds that baby’s mother.  The wound may be physical or psychological.  It is always spiritual.  Mary is the mother of two aborted children.  She wrote, “I believed that abortion was the sin too big to be forgiven . . . the reason I am writing you is to thank you.  If, years earlier, I had heard the words of compassion and forgiveness that I heard from you today, I would not have had a second abortion.  I would have been reconciled to God and turned my life around a lot sooner instead of wallowing in the muck of sin and accusation.”

“Marys” are everywhere.  Some are still in denial.  Some are angry, resentful or depressed.  Others are waiting . . . for a word of hope.  To be sure, the Word of Truth presses hard on the source of pain.  But, when confessed, forgiveness is real (Psalm 32:3-5).  In Jesus, the captive is set free (Galatians 5:1). We must not keep silent at the risk of offense.  We must not speak harshly with arms crossed and backs turned.  We must not keep Jesus’ promise of hope to ourselves.

Instead, with carefully chosen words, we can welcome the wounded.  The wounded are those who are convicted by their “choice,” but also those who still defend that “choice.”   We can do this beginning in our own congregations by placing abortion healing brochures in the women’s restroom.  (Don’t be surprised by how quickly they disappear.)  We can lead a post-abortion Bible study.  We can host a Titus 2 Retreat where women in all circumstances and seasons of life contrast the deception of the world with the life-changing Word.  We can help men and women see themselves the way God sees them.  Identity matters.  How we see ourselves and others affects our choices.  We are not bound to sexual identity nor lives lived in fear.  We do not need to see our children as sacrifices we have to make.  Baptized, we are sons and daughters of God in Christ who can “love [even] their [littlest] neighbor as themselves” (Mark 12:31).

Titus 2 for Life       Ezerwoman

Lutherans For Life

The Secret Pain

Mother’s Day.  Father’s Day.  Grandparent’s Day.  Life Sunday.  These are not happy events for those wounded by abortion.  These days intended to celebrate life can, instead, be a reminder of lives lost and relationships denied.

For 40 years, abortion has been the subject of heated debate.  But for millions of American women, and for the men, grandparents, siblings, and friends in the life of those women, abortion is not a debate.  It is a loss.  It is the loss of a son, daughter, grandchild.  That’s because motherhood and fatherhood – and, yes, grandparenthood – begin at conception.

Many of us know someone who has lost a child through miscarriage.  We grieve with them, offer the peace of Jesus Christ, and entrust the precious little one to God.  But abortion is different.  It is a secret pain.  It is a loss that is carried deep inside and alone.

The great loss of life should pierce the heart of every one of us.  The numbers are staggering.  More than 3,000 women have abortions in this country every day.  These women are in our families, congregations, and circles of friends.  They are Christians who worship with us and go to Bible study with us.  I know some of these women.  At last count, 24 of my friends, relatives or acquaintances have had abortions.  Eighteen of these women are Lutheran.  Three are the wives of pastors.  At least three have had more than one abortion.  These are just the ones who have told me.

Abortion has created a new mission field for the church.  There is a need to enter this mission field – but first, we must understand that we will almost certainly encourager denial, anger, self-hatred, distrust, grief, remorse, and the natural, but perhaps deeply buried desire for reconciliation with the Giver of Life.

For those in denial, our message must gently convict.  For those already convicted, our message must offer hope as our arms are open wide.  Just as we have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, we have been given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

When I became a grandmother for the first time, I realized that holding my grandchild is surprisingly different than holding my own children.  Each gaze upon the child of my child is a generational moment.  The room of my heart excitedly receives this little one.  The room of my life rearranges itself.

Often, when I am holding my grandchild, I think of the thousands of other women of my generation whose arms will never hold a grandchild.  Their arms will never hold the child of their child.  That’s because pregnant women believed the lie: “Make this one sacrifice and those a better time to be a mother.”  Although the room of their hearts may have whispered a word of welcome, the room of their lives did not.

Because these women either did not hear or did not trust God’s promise, the world took their every thought and desire captive.  Tossed in a tumultuous sea, these women reached toward “salvation” in the guise of a “quick and painless” abortion.

But the desperate and demeaning act goes against all that is maternal and natural.  Sent away from the abortion clinic, women are abandoned to burdens of guilt, grief, and anger that threaten to pull them into cold and lonely darkness… away from the Giver of Life.

So, how do you and I respond?

Some say, “How could a woman do such a thing?”  This statement is not intended to be cruel, but it is heard as a judgment.

Others, hoping to be less judgmental, say, “I would never have an abortion myself, but I believe every woman should have the right to choose.”  This statement sounds compassionate, but to the woman who has had an abortion, it sounds like a comparison: “Abortion is wrong and because I am a good person I wouldn’t do such a terrible thing, but women who are incapable of doing the right thing should have a choice.”

Both statements are condemning.  Neither offer hope before or after an abortion.

There is a third response: Trying to imitate Jesus.  Because He loves us so much, Jesus left heaven to come live among us.  To be human.  To experience our fears, disappointments, and sorrow.  Jesus took on our disgrace.  Our burdens.  Our sin.  Only by living under the Cross are we able to see those hurt by sin (including ourselves) in a new way.

Days on which we celebrate life are meant to be happy days, but for many they are not.  In the heart of nearly every post-abortive woman is an empty place that is forever expectant and waiting.  Although she may have believed the lie that there was no room, a cry of sorrow echoes in the room that was always there… waiting.

We cannot go back in time to erase years of legalized abortion nor the effect on women, men, children, and society.  Mothers who once believed there was no room in their lives for a baby now mourn the child whose heart beat so close beneath their own.  Fathers who once believed there was no room in their life for a baby are now angry at themselves for failing to protect their son or daughter.  Grandparents who once believed there was no room in their lives for a grandchild now dream of little ones that would have filled the rooms of their homes with laughter.

Sometimes, when I am holding my grandchild, my thoughts turn to Mary.  She approached me after I finished speaking to a group of Lutheran women.  She wanted my address.  In the letters that followed, she confessed two abortions.  “There has been so much pain in my heart,” Mary wrote.  “I could understand how God could forgive a murderer, but not someone who has killed their own child.”

This pain and the belief that she had committed the sin “too big to be forgiven” held Mary captive.  But, “the reason I want to tell you my story,” Mary continued, “is to thank you!  If, years earlier, I had heart the words of compassion and forgiveness that I heard from you, I would not have had a second abortion.  I would have been reconciled to God and turned my life around a lot earlier instead of wallowing in the muck of sin and accusation.”

A Word of Hope

“Marys” are everywhere… and they are waiting.  They are silently waiting for a word of hope.  Their broken hearts long to be healed.  God has given us His Word to speak in love.  To be sure, the Word of Truth presses hard on the source of pain.

When I kept silent,” wrote the psalmist, “my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5.

There is hope for women and men who have been pierced by abortion’s blade.  It is Jesus!  In Jesus, all who confess their sin are cleansed and forgiven (1 Timothy 1:15).  In Jesus, the captive is set free (Galatians 5:1).

Jesus fills the empty and expectant rooms of hearts… and heals the secret pain.

(Linda Bartlett, First published in The Lutheran Witness 5/2003)

Grandparents and Abortion

I remember the Sunday when my pastor told our congregation about Katie, his daughter.  Katie was not married, but she was pregnant.  That, said pastor, made him a grandfather.  He confessed that the circumstances were not what God intended; nevertheless, he and his family promised to give Katie all the support she needed.  The promise was kept.

Katie’s son — my godson — knows the love of both mother and grandparents.  Katie took the vocation of motherhood seriously.  She put her son’s needs before her own, yet still managed to graduate from college and became a teacher.  Katie’s mom often traveled three hours one way in order to offer support to her daughter and grandson.  When I think of my godson, I am reminded of young Timothy who was nurtured in faith by Eunice and Lois, his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5).  Life was not easy for this family.  Adjustments were made.  But, as my godson prepares to graduate from high school, I know he has brought great joy to his mother and grandparents.

Two other young woman in my congregation became pregnant, but were not married.  Their families were hurt and disappointed.  There were tears and long discussions late into the night.  But, the parents of these girls knew that their daughters were entrusted by God with the precious gift of new  life.  More important than convenience or neighborhood gossip was the protection of those lives.

Like Katie, both of these young, unmarried mothers confessed and were forgiven of their sins.  They heard the tender words of Jesus Christ: “Come to Me and I will wash you white as snow.”  They knew the unconditional love of parents who saw a future of hope for their grandchildren.

We live in a sin-filled world.  We doubt God’s Word.  We let our selfish desires and fears influence our thinking and behavior.  And, yes… there are consequences for every choice we make.

But Jesus, who gave everything He had for us, wants to bring us out of darkness into light and away from despair to hope.  This is what parents do when they unconditionally love their unmarried but pregnant daughter; when they unconditionally love their son who has fathered a child but is not married to that child’s mother.  This is what grandparents do when they welcome their grandchildren – no matter what the circumstances of their conception.

Some grandparents fear their grandchildren.  They see them as “inconvenient.”  They may say, “Our daughter has college and her future to think about.”  Or, “Our son is too young to be a father.”  Failing to trust God, they take their daughters to Planned Parenthood for a “quick and easy fix” or give their sons money to abort their grandchild.  We pray for these grandparents – that they will recognize their sin, confess their lack of faith, and ask for forgiveness from daughters or sons.

Many grandparents would have welcomed their “too soon” or “unplanned” grandchildren, but they were never given the opportunity.  They mourn in silence.  God understands the heaviness of these grandparents’ hearts.  He wants them to entrust the grandchildren they never knew to His care.  He wants them to forgive daughters and sons.  In Christ, there is forgiveness and healing for abortion just as there is for every other sin.

A grandparent is a grandparent even of a dead child.  For those grandparents who feared their grandchildren because they might be an “inconvenience,” there is hope in Jesus Christ.  A grandparent may forget that a “fetus” (Latin: “young one”) is created and redeemed by God, but God does not forget a grandparent.  A grandparent may mourn the grandchild they will never hold, but God comforts the brokenhearted.

God, in His mercy and grace, is faithful.

The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and his righteousness to children’s children . . . (Psalm 103:7 ESV).

Grandparents who love life make a difference for generations to come.

We will tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord . . . and the wonders that He has done . . . We will teach our children so that the next generation might know . . . yes, even children yet unborn (Psalm 78:2-8 ESV).

Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord (Psalm 103:18 ESV).

I Will Take Your Sin

Abby Johnson left her position as a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas because she couldn’t hurt women anymore.  She has documented many of her experiences in the abortion industry.  Recently, Abby shared a story every Christian needs to hear.

A woman, visibly upset, walked into the clinic.  Abby counseled her.  Then suggested she go home to think about her decision.  “She was insistent,” Abby remembers.  “This abortion must happen today.”  She asked if Abby would hold her hand during the procedure.

Sedation was given, but  the woman “cried even harder.”  She “was shaking” when the abortionist walked in the room.  “He did something,” Abby said, “that left me speechless.”  The doctor walked over to the woman and took her hand.  Abby recounts the conversation that followed.

“Why the tears?” he asked.

“I just feel really guilty about doing this,” the woman responded.

He asked her why she felt guilty.  She said, “Because I just know this is a sin.”  He paused for a minute and looked at her.  He smiled and said, “No.  It is not your sin.  It is mine.  I will take on your sin.  I commit the sin.  Not you.”

Her crying stopped.  “It was bizarre,” remembers Abby.  “Did he really think he was committing a sin?  How could he do it if he really thought that?  Did he think he was taking on the sins of these women by helping them obtain abortions?  What a heavy burden to bear.  It was hard for me to process . . . it still is.”

Abby carried her own burden while working at Planned Parenthood.  She remembers thinking that “if I died while I worked there, I would probably go to hell . . . I was so unsure of who God was or what His ‘will’ actually meant . . . I was completely misdirected.”

As compassionate as the abortionist in Abby’s story sounds, he, too, was misdirected.  None of us can be a scapegoat for another’s sin.  No other person can be a scapegoat for our sin.  There is only one Scapegoat.  He is Jesus Christ.

Abby needed Jesus Christ.  She is the mother of two aborted children.  Her abortionist was guilty, but so was she.  Abby has repented.  Laid her sins at the foot of the Savior’s Cross.  But, what about the church?  Some Christians, observes Abby, say, “Shame on the abortionist.”  Others say, “Shame on the women who have abortions.”  But, “you know what?  Shame on us!”

I remember when I first became involved in Lutherans For Life.  I read about Dr. Bernard Nathanson who co-founded the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).  He explained how important it was for Christian churches to stay silent on the issue of abortion.  On the speaking trail, I remember how often I heard Lutheran parents, grandparents, and congregational leaders defend abortion.  At last count, 25 of my friends, relatives or acquaintances have shared their abortion decisions with me.  All are Christian.  Many attend regular Bible study or sing in the choir.  Some are wives of pastors.

Abby says, “Shame on us.”  I guess I’ve been saying something similar for many years.  Lutheran women’s groups serve in countless mission fields, but forget the mission field of mothers who aborted their children.  Congregations offer every possible support group from drug abuse to divorce; from weight loss to grief counseling.  But, the grief suffered after abortion — by the one who performed the procedure and the one who chose the procedure — is ignored.  The church is silent.  In our minds, we justify.  Rationalize.  Excuse.

Satan wants us to remain silent.  “It’s none of your business,” he whispers.  “Besides, does God really say that abortion is so wrong… considering the circumstances?”  But, Jesus stands with His arms outstretched to block the way.  “Don’t do this thing and sin against God!”  After the abortion, He remains close to both the abortionist and the mother who aborted her child.  His arms are open and welcoming.  “Come to Me and I will forgive the guilt of your sin.”  Jesus Christ invites – compels – His church to do the same.  He wants us to speak up.  Warn.  If the deed is already done, He compels us to speak again.  Expose sin.  Help the sinner to confess and then approach His throne of mercy and grace.  To do nothing… to remain silent… is to participate in deception.  Share the sin.  Perpetuate the horror.

When I am restless… anxious… and burdened by guilt, I must look to no one but Christ.  My doctor, pastor, or husband cannot take on my sin.  But, “I will take your sin,” says Jesus.  No matter what we have done (or failed to do);  no matter if we’ve chosen, performed, or defended an abortion, we need to acknowledge our sin.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).  With His forgiveness, Christ sets us free to move outward into the lives of others – with hope.

Grace Kern, director of  Word of Hope, visits daily with women who’ve been held prisoner to lies and excuses.  Grace does not take on the sins of these women, but she tells them of Jesus who took on the sins of the world. Throughout the year, I meet with women in the church who’ve been held prisoner to lies and excuses.  I do not take on the sins of these women, but tell them of Jesus who sacrificed – once and for all.

O Lord, bring us all out of prison, that we may give thanks to Your name (Psalm 142:7).

Call Grace Kern at Word of Hope (888) 217-8679
First printed in LifeDate

 

God’s Word Speaks to You

This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is His faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity;  I said, ‘I will confess my transgression to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (King David in Psalm 23:3-5).

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; thought they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound . . . to comfort all who mourn . . . to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).