By Tina Whittington, Executive Vice President of Students for Life of America
This past week Students for Life posted this graphic (below) on our Facebook page. I was shocked by how much controversy it seemed to create and I feel compelled to address it.
First off, let me make it clear – SFL firmly believes that abortion is intentional killing and ends the life of an innocent human person who has intrinsic value. Honestly, we wouldn’t be doing this work every day if we didn’t believe this because oftentimes it is thankless work, it can be unpopular with our friends or families, and because the amount of human lives lost every day in the U.S. is overwhelming. Our goal is to change culture so that abortion is unthinkable and this kind of goal is like changing the course of the Titanic.
Creating a life- affirming culture is doable, we can win this, but this is something that is only done in degrees with thought, strategy, and maintaining relevancy to those we are trying to reach.
Secondly, we believe that everyone is worthy of respect and grace, from the preborn child all the way to the abortionist. We can be unwavering in our belief that abortion is always morally wrong and still approach those involved in an abortion with respect and grace. Gracious and respectful behavior are crucial to our success in ending abortion for two reasons: having a consistent Christian witness and common sense strategy.
As a Christian I take the lead of Jesus, who spoke the truth in love. He did not waiver on truth, yet because He deeply cared for the lost and hurting, he did not hit people over the head with the truth but won them over to it. Let’s start with the woman at the well from the Bible in John Chapter 4. This woman was an adulterer, had 5 husbands, and was currently living with someone she was not married to. For those of you who know this scripture, take a moment to consider Jesus’ approach with her.
1. He asked her to give him a drink. Why is this so important? Because this was not a world in which she had experienced nor expected this kind of respect from a man like Jesus – she was clearly a shunned women getting her water in mid-day instead of in the morning with the other women and she wasn’t Jewish. Jesus engaged her, treated her like the human being she was and essentially said: I recognize you as a person of value and I want to create a bridge to getting into deeper issues.
2. He offered her Living Water. He showed her that there was hope and she could share in it!
3. He asked her to “Go, call your husband, and come back.” He loved her enough to call out her sin in a way that would win her to salvation. Then not only did she receive salvation but she went to share with her whole village what had happened and many more were saved.
Reimagine this scenario with Jesus approaching her and yelling “adulterer” at her or just starting off the conversation by saying, “Give me a drink, adulterer.” How do you think the conversation would have gone then?
We are called to be winsome and compassionate when we deal with the lost and hurting in this world. Jesus never called out a person by their sin – except the Pharisees and Sadducees because they were the leaders of the Jewish faith and were involved in sin that was affecting the faith of others. There are so many examples of Jesus offering this kind of respect and grace to those around him: the woman caught in the very act of adultery, Zacchaeus the tax collector, or the prostitute who washes His feet. He had opportunities to call out each one by their sin but He saw the bigger picture – that before each of them was the opportunity to take down the banner of sin over their lives and replace it with His banner – from Sinner to Redeemed; from Prostitute to Beloved of God; from Adulterer to Faithful.
When we reach out with respect and grace to the post abortive people around us, when we show them that they have value, and then show them that there is hope, we enter into this sacred place of taking them from Murderer to Forgiven and Set Free. And you know what happens next? They begin to share their story, which leads other people to being forgiven and set free, and for others it helps them make a life decision when faced with their own crisis pregnancy!
From a practical standpoint of strategy, it is that old adage that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. The words we use matter! Again, we can say that abortion is murder and hold to that truth and yet when we talk to post abortive people we can start at a different point. Isn’t our ultimate goal to see these people healed, to help them not choose abortion for a second or third time, to show them that there is support?
Starting off by saying post-abortive women are murderers is going to close the door to further conversation. However, starting off with asking them why they chose abortion or what led them to that place and engaging in relationship with them will do more to help them then name calling. It also presents the opportunity to lead them gracefully to the truth that abortion ended the life of their child and how to work through their grief over that. Or if they don’t feel grief or pain right now, you have laid the groundwork for who to come to when or if it does arise. You were winsome, you showed someone you cared about them, and you gave them a positive interaction with a pro-life person that may have more impact on them than you will ever know.