Abortion as an Act of Love? PDF Print E-mail

by Timothy Bayly
Common Ground - Occasional papers from Presbyterians Pro-Life
No. 4 - April 1989

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love;
Love is all you need.
John Lennon

Love is all we need
Since John Lennon's smash hit of the sixties, American culture has been mesmerized by this theme of love. Authors, psychologists, pop-musicians,and preachers have illustrated its popularity by the titles given to their books, songs, and sermons. One cartoonist lampooned this obsession with a drawing of a pastor posting the month's sermon titles on the church sign:

Sunday, February 1: "God Loves You"
Sunday, February 8: "God Loves Me"
Sunday, February 15: "God Loves Us"

Toward the end of 1988 B. George, director of the ARChive of Contemporary Music, searched his files and found that six-hundred and forty songs recorded in America so far in 1988 contained the word "love" in their titles.

Love sells: in pop music and in gothic romances, in movie houses and in the House of God. But has all this talk of love led to lives of love within our culture? Has the preaching of love from our pulpits led to acts of love on the part of the people of God?

Talk is cheap; especially love talk. Wise parents will warn their adolescent daughters not to believe all the sweet nothings whispered in their ears. But cheap love talk isn't just a social danger; it's also a spiritual danger:

Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.
I John 3:18 (LB)

Obedience is the proof of love
Love proves itself through actions. For instance, the sincerity of love for God is proven by one's obedience to His commands. "If we love God, we will do whatever He tells us to." (II John 1:6) And love for others is proven by self-sacrificing service: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) If one claims to be a lover of God and to have love for others, there should be visible proofs of the truth of these claims.

Looking back through church history provides a wealth of examples of sincere love displayed by followers of Jesus Christ. Under threat of death, members of the early church were commanded to bow their knees before Caesar. Those who truly loved God refused and paid for their love with death. But martyrs weren't the only ones who demonstrated the sincerity of their love in the early church; others proved that their love was genuine by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and rescuing those being led off to death. In his classic work, The Early Church, Henry Chadwick acknowledges that it was such acts of self-sacrificing love which were "probably the most potent single cause of Christian success. The pagan(s) comment(ed):`See how these Christians love one another.' "

Down through the centuries Christians such as Polycarp, St. Francis, Amy Carmichael, and Mother Teresa have gone beyond talking about love and have modeled true love by obeying God and giving themselves to self-sacrificing service. And for this we have called them our heroes. But, what of us? Have we seen their example and are we carrying on their legacy?

Our care for those not yet born is a test of our love in action
In an effort to answer this question we could look at many different areas of our lives today and scrutinize our response as Christians to the needs which surround us. But let's examine one particular area: the way we respond to the needs of unborn children.

Our response to babies in the womb presents possibly the most eloquent testimony to the bankruptcy of our love talk. Though Christians in the early church unequivocally condemned the pagan practices of exposure and abortion of unwanted children, many Christians today either unequivocally support "the woman's right to choose" abortion or opt for a halfway position which decries the massive numbers of abortions but defends the need for abortions in certain "hard cases." In this latter view, children who are in their mother's wombs as the result of rape or incest or who are found to suffer any of a variety of deformities or handicaps could be aborted and such abortions may even be termed "courageous acts of love."

Courageous acts of love? To sacrifice the lives of tiny helpless infants because of the circumstances of their conceptions or because their bodies are deformed? Are these little ones to blame?

For over sixteen years now it has been legal in the United States to have an abortion for any reason at any point in the pregnancy. In that period an estimated twenty-three million babies have died from abortion in our country alone. Add to our own figures the estimated fifty to sixty million babies who are killed each year worldwide and the staggering dimensions of this monster become clear.

Where is the Church's opposition to this child sacrifice? Where is the obedient self-sacrificing love?

Christians are called to shun the "fruitless deeds of darkness"
Instead of standing against the heathen practices given birth to in our modern post-feminist culture Christians have, too often, allowed themselves to be led into silence, a muted voice of protest or dissembling. Whereas Scripture commands us to "have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11), Christians today seem to feel called to defend these fruitless deeds.

Arguments such as the following are heard in our churches:

"A person of faith shows their trust in God by being willing to exercise dominion over creation."

"No one ever wants to make a decision to abort but there are situations where we must choose the lesser of two evils. After all, the world isn't perfect and no decision can ever be perfect. All of life is grounded in ambiguity."

"Abortion is sin but all sin is forgivable. And in some circumstances, out of our desire to avoid adding more suffering to a woman's life, we must extend the love of Jesus Christ to that woman; and the love of Christ in her life at that time might very well be the freedom to abort her child and trust his soul to God for eternal safekeeping."

After awhile one gets the distinct impression that all this talk is nothing more than the emperor trying to cover his nakedness.

Suffering as a standard for living in love
Love talk is easy, but love in action--true love--is difficult, because it often involves suffering. This is an ancient truth; the fifteenth century writer Thomas a Kempis said: "There is no living in love without suffering." Why then is suffering love so rarely held up as the standard for us today as we face this great evil of abortion? Why do we Christian leaders fail to call those for whom we have spiritual responsibility to show Christian love by caring for women in crisis pregnancies, bringing them into our homes and lives and loving them day by day? Or calling others to show Christian love by refusing to kill the child in their womb?

Abortion--the killing of a child in its mother's womb--is the very opposite of both obedience toward God and self-sacrificing love toward others. For a person to choose to take someone else's life so that they themselves can escape suffering is not love. If the deliberate dismemberment of a baby in its mother's womb can be "the loving thing to do," then God is dead, the Bible is false, wrong is right, and hell is heaven.

Abortion reverses Christian history
For two-thousand years Christians have called abortion "murder" and have loved both the women caught in, and the children produced by, crisis pregnancies. For two-thousand years Christians lovingly cared for retarded and handicapped children instead of killing them or casting them off as the pagans were in the habit of doing. They cared for them because they had read the words of Scripture where God said to Moses: "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?". (Exodus 4:11)

What has happened to cause us to change our message to suit the itching ears of our day? Who has forced us to abandon true love for free love?

The curse of our freedom to choose abortion
At its heart, what is commonly referred to as "the problem of the exceptional cases" is not a medical, sociological, psychological, ethical, or even a theological problem. No, what we have here is a spiritual problem: do we as Christians believe enough in the cross of Jesus Christ to carry it ourselves and to call others to follow its path?

Our freedom to choose abortion is not a blessing, but a curse: a curse because it compromises our faith. Today, instead of losing our lives, we save them. And when we tell our sons and daughters, as well as those for whom we have spiritual responsibility, that "there are some tragic situations in which abortion is the lesser of two evils," we condemn them to the same loveless life into which we ourselves have been enticed--a life where obedience toward God and self-sacrificing service toward others is a thing of the past. A life where unborn children have no advocate but God.

Speaking of the Christless love which has invaded our land, Flannery O'Connor observed:

We govern by tenderness...which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. (But) when tenderness is detached from the Source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gaschamber.



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