“Supreme court overturns Roe v. Wade,” the headlines read.
It often seemed that such a reality––one for which we hoped and prayed, seemed to occupy the space somewhere between unlikely and impossible. Yet, by God’s goodness and providence, we have witnessed the end of Roe.
That’s not the end of the story – or the work – but it matters.
Such a landmark victory for those who value the sanctity of human life should naturally provoke rejoicing, similar to the way the people of God rejoiced upon their return from exile:
Yes, indeed, we who stand for life can rejoice. It was a dream for many of us – something we thought we might not see in our lifetime.
Around this time last year, and before Roe was overturned, I wrote the following about Roe v. Wade:
I’m no prophet, but I am grateful that the sincere hope I expressed in January 2022 became a reality on June 24, when the SCOTUS repealed the Roe, ending one of the most extreme national abortion laws in the world.
As a pro-life Christian, I understood to some degree the joy felt by people at historic breakthrough moments. However, more work almost always follows such moments.
This axiom rings true for us in the cultural moment in a post-Roe America.
We rejoice in the SCOTUS ruling from last year, knowing it represents the saving of many lives of pre-born children. But that ruling was only the beginning, as its repeal moved the issue from the federal level to individual states.
Here in Illinois where I live, and in many states, abortion laws became more extreme, as pro-abortion lawmakers enshrined into law what they viewed as lost in the courts. Many pro-life Americans put a lot of stock in the last midterm season, only to see pro-life causes set back, either by poor quality candidates, the eclipsing of abortion by other issues, or simply by an energized pro-choice electorate. Whatever the case, while legislation that protects the lives of pre-born children is crucially important, many Americans still need persuasion, and not just legislation, to value life in the womb.
What are biblical cues that will help us to move forward and work to create a culture in our country where all life is valued – from womb to the tomb – and where we can speak for those without a voice?
Let me offer six biblical cues.
1. Let’s be filled with both grace and truth (John 1:14, 17)
John’s gospel opens with his remarkable prologue, describing how the Word, Jesus, became flesh. In verses 14 and 17, John speaks of Jesus as being full of grace and truth. We want to follow his example. This is not a sporting event where the winners beat their chests and talk smack to the losers. Instead, we should humbly express gratitude to God that life has been affirmed by the highest court in the land, without displays of pride and arrogance toward our neighbor. We bring glory to God for this by expressing gratitude and praise to him, and we resist rhetoric that tears down others in the name of elevating life.
Remember: truth without grace is mean; grace without truth is meaningless. We want to champion truth while displaying grace to others.
Critics of the pro-life movement want to paint us as angry extremists. I think that, instead, we should be known as advocates for the vulnerable, showing grace in our arguments, because we love all people, including the pre-born.
2. Let’s be filled with love for those who disagree (Matt 5:43-48)
Jesus calls his followers to a new way of life and a new ethic. His call in the Sermon on the Mount to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), no doubt shocked many who sought a political Messiah who would overthrow the despised Roman government. But the way of Jesus is the way of love – not a sentimental, weak love, but a deep, costly love. The Sermon on the Mount is not an overly idealistic Jesus giving us a picture of what a utopian life might be in the Sweet By and By. It is the way of the Kingdom into which we are to live here and now as we await the return of the King. Enemy love is more than a nice statement – it’s the modus operandi of Jesus’ people.
As we encounter those who disagree or are dismayed by the new day for which we rejoice, let us be quick to pray for them and to show love to them. Remember: you can love people with whom you disagree without endorsing their ideology or lifestyle.
3. Let’s be filled with discernment, choosing not to listen to those who seek to demonize us (1 Thess. 2:2)
In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, Paul wrote to the church he planted about the conflict he faced when he first came to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). As he proclaimed the gospel, he saw many believe: “some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women” (17:4). But this wonderful news was not considered a good thing to many in the city, who complained of Paul and his companions, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (17:6).
Paul was not deterred from his mission by the opposition but continued traveling and preaching Jesus. When the SCOTUS ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson was leaked, I wrote this for USA Today:
When some try to demonize us, as they will, let their rhetoric not sway us into setting the United States back into extreme national abortion laws. One hundred years from now, we will look back in horror at how our nation (and now many states in our nation) devalued the pre-born. We are on the right side of history if, indeed, the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice for the pre-born, too.
4. Let’s continue to advocate at every level for the marginalized (Leviticus 19; Zechariah 7:8-10; Matthew 22:36-40)
When Jesus gave the Great Commandment, he taught us to love both God and neighbor. The Old Testament neighbor passage is from Leviticus 19, where God tells Israel to leave gleanings from their harvest for the poor, not to steal or mistreat others, and love their neighbor. For the people of Israel, and for Christians today, our love of God is expressed in our love of neighbor. The prophet Zechariah called God’s people not to oppress “the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor” (Zechariah 7:10).
We who are pro-life have advocated for the pre-born who have no voice to speak for themselves. Let us also care for every person created in God’s image and advocate for them.
This calls us toward a consistent ethic of life, again as I wrote in USA Today:
Now, you could (and sometimes people do) say that pro-life means pro- all of life. But I’ve moved away from saying it that way, as you may be able to tell from that quote. Let me be clear. I think we need a consistent ethic of life, but pre-born lives really do matter – and in many cases, that’s the only issue where we disagree with some. So, if everything becomes pro-life, it’s a bit like saying “all lives matter” to dismiss the pre-born. I’m pro-refugee, anti-euthanasia, and more because I believe in life from the womb to the tomb. God has made people in His image and thus all are worthy of dignity and respect.
But we are in an age in dire need of clarity. And as the pre-born are among the most marginalized and vulnerable in our day, it is important that we not lose sight of that particular cause, even while other causes concerning the value and dignity of human life deserve our attention and our advocacy. I stand unabashedly prolife, and by that I mean that I am for the right of pre-born lives to live. This pro-life position is part of my passionate conviction for a consistent ethic of life more broadly speaking.
5. Let’s get involved personally and locally (Acts 8:8)
Tip O’Neill is typically credited for the expression “all politics is local.” This is true of ministry as well. We must do more than post our views on social media. We must get involved locally and personally. That’s what we see happening in the New Testament as the gospel spread from city to city and the apostles planted churches to care for their communities. In Acts 8 we read about Stephen’s personal ministry in Samaria. Luke summarizes the impact of lives being changed when he says, “there was much joy in that city” (Acts 8:8).
Each of us can do something in our own communities to care for the marginalized. Imagine what communities would look like if every Christian family did something specific to help the poor, support a local pregnancy resource center, or aid the elderly. How many abortions could we prevent if Christians worked to address systemic root causes that lead some women to seek abortions – issues such as wage inequality, unaffordable housing, and a lack of access to affordable childcare?
And, pastors, this is an opportunity for us to speak up with the grace and truth mentioned earlier. I get that people will react (sometimes poorly) to ideas like caring for the marginalized, ministering to the refugee, and advocating for the pre-born. But whether that work is seen as “political” doesn’t change the fact that it’s our job. If something biblical is seen as political, we may have to teach on it more carefully, but we dare not avoid it if we want to lead faithfully.
Jesus didn’t, as best I can tell, have a preferred marginal tax rate, nor did he express his thoughts on the latest omnibus spending bill. But the scriptures are filled with admonitions toward justice, caring for the least of these, the values of life, and, although not my topic in this article, teaching about sexuality and marriage. Teaching on those things does not make you political. It’s part of being faithful to the scriptures.
So, teach people and lead them to be involved personally and locally, and don’t let people dismiss biblical teachings with political accusations.
6. Let’s continue to show and share the gospel, making disciples (Matt 28:19-20).
Ultimately our calling is to take the gospel to every person and make disciples. There is no greater a cause and no more urgent a matter. We advocate for the pre-born and for life to show the gospel to the world, but we must not ignore the speaking of that gospel as well.
When the people of Israel returned to Jerusalem from exile, we read further in Psalm 126:
When I wrote about the “Somber Anniversary” last January I concluded:
May we be diligent and patient and see in the years to come a generation of children and families who speak of the things the Lord has done for us as we press into loving and caring for those in need, those who have no voice, and those whom God loves.