Luke 7:47 “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven….”
Recently I felt compelled to read one of my favourite Francine Rivers books, “Atonement Child”. It’s a work of fiction that tells the dramatic story of a young Christian women who discovers she is pregnant after she was horrifically raped. It tells of her struggle with pressure to terminate her pregnancy. As the story unfold it transpires her mother and grandmother both, for very different reasons, have had abortions. What we have is three women, across the generations, dealing with the issue of abortion and the tragic effects on their lives and Christian faith. I’ve read this book a number of times because it reminds me of my life before Christ and his wonderful mercy.
One thing that really strikes me is the way Rivers focuses on the trauma these women suffer. They have been crushed by the choice they made. She paints a picture that is very familiar to me, of women who have been traumatized for life and haunted by the regret over their choices. Sadly, there are women in our congregations who have had abortions, who are perhaps too terrified to speak out because of the shame, guilt and fear of recrimination. We can discover many facts about the number of women having abortions in the UK and the USA but less so when it comes to women in our churches. I suspect the number is higher than we imagine or would like to admit.
We know that Scotland has the second highest percentage of teenage abortions in the world (Cuba being the highest). The statistics are beginning to show a disturbing trend for abortion in the schemes. A study in 2012 found that in Scotland the rate of abortions is clearly linked with levels of high deprivation where, in fact, the rate can be double that of other areas. Again, tragically, nearly a third of the women having an abortion in Scotland claim to have had one previously.Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven... Click To Tweet
For women who want to work in Scottish schemes this is a very sensitive and difficult issue. Many women we are working with have had or are considering having an abortion. I absolutely believe from the moment of conception that the baby is a child, has life, has been knitted together in the womb of its mother by the Lord – I am firmly Pro-Life. BUT, even when we don’t agree with their choice, these women need the care and grace to be able to deal with the trauma, the guilt, the fear and the pain that many find themselves faced with.
The lie of the world is that abortion is a painless termination of tissue and yet there is nothing painless about this procedure in the slightest. Indeed, there is much evidence to suggest that there is a clear correlation between abortions and the detrimental effects on women’s mental health. There is nothing painless about taking a life and, for many, it eats away at their very souls. How can we help such women who live and worship among us as God’s people?
Where do we start with those who have had or are considering an abortion?
For the women who aren’t saved I believe we need to compassionately and fearlessly speak biblical truth and the hope of the Gospel of Jesus into their lives. There are lots of reasons a women may consider abortion as the only option: fear, abuse, money, and even as contraception. She may expect us to condemn her instantly, call her a murderer and bash her with a few well chosen Bible verses. Truthfully, there may be a point where she does feels the weight of God’s Word. But, biblical truth spoken wisely and gently will hopefully ensure we get to have more than a 20second altercation. We must be constantly seeking to bring the gospel into the forefront of our counsel when dealing with such painful subject matter.
I very rarely talk about this subject for lots of reasons. Primarily, I have been one of these women who have lived in fear, terrified that people (Christians) will find out the truth. Sadly, there have been cutting remarks, biting comments, unhelpful and unbiblical nonsense spouted at me. Even now when I share my testimony I find ways of saying it without actually saying the words. Yet, despite the seriousness of my sin, I have come to understand the tremendous mercy and love of Christ and I’m so thankful for Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now NO condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus…”
How as a church do we help the Christian in pain?
1. We need to acknowledge that this may be an issue for some of our women. There are many women not living in the freedom grace gives us and listening to the lie that their sin hasn’t been wiped away or can never be forgiven. We must help to understand the good news that there is forgiveness from God. Even from this sin.
2. Good accountability will, in time, give them a safe person, someone they truly trust, to take the leap and speak truthfully. When that moment happens please remember to counsel gently with compassion and grace. Yet, speak biblical truth clearly. Proverbs 27:6: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses”.
3. Remind women of the Gospel and the amazing grace they have been given. The freedom that there is in Christ. We have ALL fallen short of the glory of God and thankfully, through Christ, can be restored. Remind them that this is a process that will take time. There are no easy answers or shortcuts. Hard truths will have to be faced. But growth and release can and will happen in Jesus.
4. We need to help women grieve for their child(ren). (I know this might sound weird because they made an active choice but, believe me, there are many women grieving for these secret babies in terrible silence). This is part of the healing process.
I’m not saying that we should ever put aside our Pro-life beliefs, condone sin or dampen down biblical truth BUT I am suggesting we should consider ALL the lives that abortion can affect. I realize this has all been about women (I have a slight bias). Yet, for all the thousands of women dealing with the issue of abortion there are also thousands of men. I hear all the time that it’s “the women’s right to choose” but what about the father? He may not even know until after its done. NO choice for him. How does he grieve? How can he forgive and deal with his pain? Does he even care? It is such a complicated issue. This is why this is not the final word but only the beginning of walking with our wounded sheep.
It is why the only hope is, ultimately, gospel hope.
“…the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news… He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve…” Isaiah 61:1-2
May the Lord help us to help His people. Especially in this issue.