In the first century, Christ's followers were recognized immediately. What gave them away?
It wasn’t their buildings, programs, publications, or political power. They had none.
In Acts 4:33, we’re told, “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.” (NIV)
The first Christians told the truth about Jesus and lived by his grace. Truth was the food they ate and the message they spoke. Grace was the air they breathed and the life they lived.
The world around them had never seen anything like it. It still hasn’t.
Today our churches must, once and for all, dispel the illusion that showing grace means not talking about hard issues. Every time the subject of abortion is brought up, some people get offended, others get hurt. But what is the alternative? Not bringing it up, thus offending God and setting up people to follow the lies of culture, which ends up hurting them far more than telling the truth.
Our doctrine of grace has been distorted by our culture’s dogma of tolerance. Many Christians and even some pastors have told me, “It’s cruel to bring up the subject of abortion.” But by talking about abortion in our churches — with grace and truth — we will prevent abortions and offer forgiveness and healing to women and men who are suffering in silence. The greatest kindness we can offer is the truth.
We must model how to address the painful issue of abortion with grace and truth. We also must stop thinking of abortion as a side issue. Addressing life issues has always been central to the Christian’s calling. Church is more than a social club. We are not here simply to help each other feel good; we are here to help each other be good. And sometimes that means taking some medicine we’d rather not take in order to get well. The abortion issue isn’t about the church needing to speak to the world, it’s about the church needing to speak to itself first, and then to the world. One out of five women having an abortion in America claims to be a born-again Christian. Yet pastors tell me, “I don’t talk about abortion because it will make our people feel guilty, since many have had abortions.”
Isn’t that exactly why we should talk about it? To help men as well as women — since every child has two parents — recognize and deal with their guilt and receive Christ’s grace? And to help others avoid the sin that creates guilt?
Many have experienced God’s forgiveness and profound healing after abortions. Those who suffer most are those who do not face the truth. Deep inside they know it, their consciences accuse them, and they often pursue self-destructive behaviors. Our silence isn’t grace — it’s cruelty.
Sometimes showing grace requires silence. Other times it requires speaking up. If you see a friend making poor choices that may result in later grief, you owe her the truth. Share it, then offer grace and help. We should help women with unwanted pregnancies see that abortion will hurt them, not help them. Many women believe that abortion is wrong, but they think it’s better than raising a child or surrendering a child for adoption. We must show them that, while the alternatives are challenging, abortion is the only one that kills an innocent person. And because it does, it has by far the most negative consequences in a woman’s life. We should love and care for pregnant women who feel pressured toward abortion. We should also love women who’ve had abortions and do all we can to help them recover from abortion’s trauma.
A man at our church, in his 60s, told me of a girl he got pregnant 39 years ago. She asked him to choose what she should do; he chose abortion. It has haunted him ever since. He thinks about the son or daughter he lost and wonders about the grandchildren he’d now be holding. He said to me, “Tell people about the consequences. Warn our young men — tell them God will hold them accountable for what they do with their children.” Then he broke down in tears and said, “I don’t want any of our young men to do what I did 39 years ago.”
There is a great spiritual warfare associated with the issue of abortion. Killing children is Satan’s way of striking out at the very heart of God. If he cannot kill God, the next best thing is killing those created in God’s image. He is killing God in effigy.
To combat this evil, we must proclaim the truth to our congregations first, then to our community: No matter what we have done, no sin is beyond the reach of God’s grace. God has seen us at our worst and still loves us. He loves us as we are, but he loves us too much to let us stay that way. He is determined to bring us to our knees to confess, repent, and be healed.
Some who’ve had abortions think, “But I don’t deserve forgiveness after all I’ve done.” That’s exactly right. None of us deserves forgiveness. If we deserved it, we wouldn’t need it. Christ got what we deserved on the cross, so we could get what we don’t deserve — forgiveness, a clean slate, a fresh start.
People thirst for the real Jesus. Grace and truth are his fingerprints.
When it comes to abortion and every other sin issue, we show people Jesus only when we show them grace and truth. Not one, but both.