C. John Steer is pastor emeritus of Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester, Minnesota. Steer was raised in London, England, and was educated at Eltham College, Newcastle University and Spurgeons Seminary. After ordination, he served a church in Los Angeles for 13 years. Steer then moved to Rochester, Minnesota, where he was the senior pastor of Autumn Ridge Church for 30 years. In retirement he enjoys driving his red MG and attempting long distance walks with his wife, Gretchen. His goal is to walk coast to coast across Britain.
“Choose life so that you and your children may live.” This was one of God’s laws in establishing a new society for his people in the Promised Land. It remains vital for Christians today as we seek to protect the unborn, the most vulnerable members of our society. But how are we to do this when the right to choose is favored over the right to life?
We start by teaching Scripture, which contains all the power and wisdom of God. Our words may not change minds but God’s Word does.
Abortion may not ever be abolished politically. Even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the issue returns to the states, and many of them are pro-abortion. If outlawed in the United States, abortion clinics would spring up along our national borders to serve the need, much as Irish girls formerly traveled to England for abortions that were illegal in Ireland. What we long for is a change of heart, so that women and men want to choose life. The Spirit of God with the power of the Bible can accomplish this.
We start by teaching the opening chapters of Genesis, which reveal that all of us are made in the image of God. In Exodus, preach the stirring story of the Hebrew midwives, who feared God and refused to obey Pharoah’s order to kill all male babies. It is a marvelous example of civil disobedience when the laws of God transcend the laws of men.
In the Psalms we discover God created our inmost being and knit us together in the womb. In Jeremiah, God tells the prophet “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I set you apart,” while the gospels inform us that an embryonic John the Baptist leapt for joy in Elizabeth’s womb in recognition that Mary was carrying the Messiah.
From a human viewpoint, we may have unplanned pregnancies, but there are no accidental conceptions. God numbered the days of each child before birth. He has a purpose for every baby, even if we don’t.
We need to be winsome in making our case. Those advocating the right to choose do so to support women. They are often appalled to learn that girls are being aborted at a higher rate than boys.
As the book “Unnatural Selection” puts it, there is a gender-based genocide presently afoot with profound implications. China and India now have a gender imbalance, which The Economist refers to as a marriage crisis. In the United States, there is also a strong racial disparity in abortion as babies of color are aborted at a far higher rate than their Caucasian counterparts. No person of good will should accept this.
It’s essential that we do address this subject, for as Luther observed, “If I profess with loudest voice and clearest exposition of the truth of God, except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing him.”
Personal experience adds power to biblical exposition. Several women at our church have spoken about their own abortions, along with the grace and forgiveness they found in the gospel. But perhaps the most powerful story came from a man who had encouraged his girlfriend to have an abortion against her will, before he became a believer. We heard the anguish in his voice. The truth is: Abortion hurts men as well as women.
At Autumn Ridge, the director of a crisis pregnancy center spoke about the center’s vital work on Sanctity of Human Life weekend, bringing information and opportunities to volunteer. Modern ultrasounds have amazing clarity, and we took advantage of this by having a pregnant woman volunteer to have a live sonogram that was shown on our screens. It was one of the most powerful visual aids we ever used.
Pastors are reluctant to speak on the subject of abortion for fear of causing offense or unnecessary pain. The Guttmacher Institute reports that almost one in four women in the United States will have an abortion by age 45. That means potentially one quarter of the female audience might feel singled out. We must teach the truth that abortion is not the unforgivable sin, and like every transgression, was paid for at the cross of Christ.
Years later, some women still need individual help. Autumn Ridge provides a one-on-one Bible study, “Binding Up the Broken Hearted,” taught by compassionate women. Fifty have benefited from this ministry. It’s also important to point out alternatives — the most beautiful of which is adoption. We can celebrate those who adopt a child, for it is a central Christian doctrine. All Christians were adopted into God’s family.
The Good News
We have good news. Abortions are now at their lowest number since Roe v. Wade. I believe this is the result of the prayers of God’s people, our advocacy for the unborn, and the crisis pregnancy centers. By protecting the unborn, we follow in the footsteps of the first Christians. Church fathers like Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Basil, Ambrose, Jerome and John Chrysostom urged their congregations to choose life, with words like these:
“Almighty Lord our God, direct our steps into the way of peace. Strengthen our hearts to obey your commands. May the Day-Spring visit us from on high, and give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death; that they may adore you for your mercy, follow you for your truth, and desire you for your sweetness. Amen.”
This article originally appeared in Evangelicals magazine.