Encouragement from Wayne

On Friday, June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade, placing the decision about abortion on the voters and their elected officials. I value every life as sacred, and I want to live in a world that sees every life as sacred; yet, I can see that different states have already taken different positions with different laws. Our already fractured world is even more polarized, angrier, listening less and making enemies. Culture wars will now increase at the state level. The Pregnancy Care Center here in Springfield has pointed out in an email that “the reality of abortion, especially chemical abortion, will continue to happen even in our state where elective abortion is now illegal.” I know banning abortion doesn’t end abortion if there is not a culture of life where those without hope, financial security and resources are supported and loved. I think of Brian Jennings’ words in his book “No Man’s Land” (2018), where he said, “I believe in every cultural fight, argument, issue –  the church has the most to lose!” I’ve been asking myself: What are the right perspectives and responses our church should take that are rooted in Scripture? What is an appropriate response regardless of what each state decides in the near future? 

I’ve unfortunately already seen many responses on both sides of the issue that don’t appear to be rooted in the example of Jesus or Scripture. Since the vision of our church is to make disciple makers and we are commanded to love God and to love people, what is a good Biblical approach that helps Gods’ will be done on earth as it is in heaven? 

Every life (before and after birth) is sacred, holding intrinsic value and dignity at every life stage and worthy of being protected.

Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” 

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” 

The word “form” in the Hebrew is a word used to describe the creative work of a potter as he molds and shapes a vessel. It is the same word used in Genesis 2:7 when the BIble says that God “formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…”  This means your life is God breathed – God has breathed life into everyone of us, and we are created in his image (Genesis 1:26). 

Acts 17:25, 28 says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else….For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

John the Baptist, while still in his mother’s womb, recognized the voice of Mary and the presence of Jesus and leapt for joy (Luke 1:41). Life and personhood was present in the womb. 

God revealed the value of life and the unborn when, through his law, he protected the womb of the mother in Exodus 21:22-25 by punishing someone who is fighting and hits a pregnant woman causing premature birth, injury or death. 

Isaiah 44:2 says, “This is what the Lord says – he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you…”

God’s Word shows the intrinsic worth of every life, created in His image. This is why God’s Word directs us to advocate for the vulnerable, the poor, the oppressed, the orphan, the widow and the foreigner. (Zechariah 7:9-10). So yes, we should do everything we can to show we value life by loving our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:39).

We will continue to lean in with care, compassion and grace to help women view choosing life as an attractive choice.

We need to listen, learn and understand why a woman would be in a position to consider abortion as the best option. What are the reasons that lead her to that heartbreaking conclusion? 

Her decision may come from a lack of financial security or a lack of hope for the future. It may seem impossible from her perspective that she could possibly move forward in life with a child. But this is when we lean in with curiosity as to what factors are in play. 

This is why my wife and I, as well as our church, have supported Pregnancy Care Center from its inception in Springfield, MO because they are compassionate listeners, and providers of hope, support, resources and love. They also help intervene against the spirit of despair and hopelessness. The director of their fatherhood program told me their workload will likely increase after this ruling, and I’m grateful people who go to Pregnancy Care Center will have such a loving, compassionate place to go. 

This is why our ladies here at Northside Christian Church launched Embrace Grace primarily for single mothers in unplanned pregnancies as well as Embrace Life for single moms post-pregnancy who are learning how to thrive in their relationship with God and each other. As believers, we want to help people choose life by stepping in to relieve the distress of mothers in crisis. 

I believe these kinds of ministries have been effective and are one of the reasons why abortions have decreased since Roe v Wade when the United States was then considered the most extremely prochoice legal regime in the world. I can’t help but believe ministries like the ones I’ve listed have been part of the factor that has influenced that. Let’s help women have hope for choosing life. 

This is why at Northside we support financially and with volunteers the fatherhood program at Pregnancy Care Center which trains and equips dads for being fathers. Many of them did not have a father who was engaged in their life, and these volunteer mentors make a difference in their lives.

Chad Ragsdale said, “There are three victims of every abortion, the unborn child, but also the mom and the dad. A child’s life is taken in the process. But a mother’s and father’s life is also taken in a way. Women lose the opportunity to be a mother. Men lose the opportunity to be a father. Such a loss leaves many women and men living with a considerable amount of pain and guilt following an abortion. They should be treated with care, compassion, and grace.” 

Thankfully, God has given grace for all of us who have participated in sin of any kind. God forgives entirely, heals deeply and restores completely. God comforts those who mourn, and he frees us from bondage and shame (Isaiah 61:1-3) 

Our goal is not to make a point but to make a difference.

It’s easier to make a point. It’s hard to make a difference. It’s easier to rant on social media than it is to personally engage a situation and bring about healthy change. 

The reason this is hard is because making a difference is slow going, steady plotting. It can be confusing to people on both sides of an issue because you are not drawing lines in the sand and distancing yourself from others and creating an opposition. You are showing lots of grace even as you live in truth. 

It means leaning relationally into people who you disagree with the most in an effort to build bridges. 

I want to do better at this, as I enter into a lost world. I know there are people who are frightened and scared by this ruling and what it might mean for them, and I want to build bridges to them relationally.

Jesus and Paul built bridges to people who were completely opposed to their message. They built relationships with people who were nothing like them. 

When Paul (Acts 17:16,22-23) was walking around in Athens and noticed an altar to an unknown god, Paul used that as a bridge to connect to the people and tell them about Jesus.  Some people responded by saying his message was ridiculous, but others wanted to come back the next day to hear what he had to say. No one would have been interested in what Paul had to say if he had not made an effort to build a bridge or a relationship first. 

When Jesus met with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), he didn’t initially call him out for extortion and greed, but asked him to go to his house and have a meal. Jesus ministered to people with different political leanings, spiritual openness, belief systems, moral positions and I want to do that as well.

Following the footsteps of Jesus will lead you to the lost, the broken and a cross. We die to ourselves as we advance His Kingdom forward.

Regardless of which state we live in and the laws it will adopt, we must make the focus of our lives advancing God’s kingdom forward by making disciples. More than ever we must serve people with sacrificial love. This is what Jesus calls us to do (Luke 22). 

Years ago, Ben Cachiaras, senior minister at Mountain Christian Church said, “in a time when we are more needed than ever, the church is pushing away the very ones who need the gospel, because of our refusal to be more interested in advancing the kingdom of God than we are preserving America’s moral foundation.” 

Think about that for a minute. Preserving America’s moral foundation is not as important as taking the gospel to a lost world through our words and our actions. Engaging in cultural wars is not the most effective way to advance the kingdom forward.

This is why we follow in the footsteps of Jesus and die to ourselves to live sacrificial lives. This is why we pray passionately for the lost, enter into the harvest field to make disciple makers and point people to Jesus regardless of the cultural issues of our day. 

Matthew 5:14-15 says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Jesus says “You are the light in a dark world.” Let your light shine in such a way that they may see your good deeds (not your rants).  

Jesus is saying if you want to make a difference – want to be a light that attracts – live your life in such a way that, after seeing your good deeds, they connect the dots and glorify your Father in heaven. 

The most effective way we can engage culture is in the way we live our lives. Reflect our love in practical ways.

We will be full of grace and truth.

Jesus came full of grace and truth, so if you follow Jesus, you’ll be full of grace and truth.

When you look at who Jesus is and what Jesus did, you have an example of how to neighbor with grace and truth in a hostile world.

Jesus often engaged people who were leading sinful lifestyles, but he rarely (save the religious) slammed them about their sin in his initial welcome.

Jesus often met with them for dinner, chatted with them by pools, told stories in the marketplace, and pointed them to the Truth. He showed grace and truth but seemed to lead with grace. I think grace comes first because without grace, truth is harder to digest. Jesus did this with the woman caught in adultery in John 8. He showed her grace, then instructed her to go and sin no more.

I want to show grace then truth while holding firmly to both as I interact with people in this world. The reason we do this is because of the mission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19: to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded us. We must commit to loving God and loving people well. 

I believe keeping these principles I’ve listed in mind will help us love God, love our neighbors, build bridges, make a difference, advance the kingdom, value life and, like Jesus, be full of grace and truth, regardless of what each state eventually decides. 

 

Wayne