It is likely that by the last Thursday in June 2022 the Supreme Court of the United States will release its ruling regarding what is possibly the most contentious issue facing our nation today, and will potentially reverse legal precedent that has lasted nearly 50 years. SCOTUS appears to be poised to undo Roe v. Wade, which declared state anti-abortion laws illegal on the basis that they infringed on a woman’s constitutional right to privacy. On January 22, 1973 a thirty-year-old lesbian Texan bankruptcy lawyer named Linda Coffee, along with a younger, married activist, former-classmate lawyer named Sarah Weddington, were granted victory resulting in the legalization of abortion as a constitutional right in all fifty states.

This victory has consequently allowed for nearly 63.5 million lives to be terminated in the womb over the last 49 years.  For the sake of numerical comparison, consider that the combined population within our EFCA East District is approximately 57 million people (NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD & VA). Greg Strand makes an illuminating point:  “These numbers are not bare statistics. They are lives. Human beings created in the image of God (imago Dei), who have worth and dignity. And these human beings are and represent some of the most weak and vulnerable of the human race, which means they ought to be protected and preserved with the utmost vigilance and care. And yet, these infants are treated as less than human and disposable.”

Before abortion is a privacy issue, before it is a political issue or a rights issue or a constitutional issue, abortion is a moral issue. And if it’s a moral issue, then abortion is a church issue. It is a church issue not in the sense that it is steeped in tradition and faith, but in that it relates to the existence of God and compliance to God. At the core of abortion is the question as to what the Lord our God says.

However, admittedly, it is difficult to contend against abortion in a society that refuses to acknowledge the existence, much less the pre-eminence, of God. But difficult does not mean impossible. The fact that abortion is wrong is a truth not only found in the Bible. We know that abortion is wrong because it is the extermination of life. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live…To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue.”

Bonhoeffer is correct, but we can add to the discussion that indeed, the embryo is a human life and that the stage of gestation does not determine its humanity. For this very reason obstetricians provide prenatal care, rightly and naturally pointing to the humanity of the life in the womb. What astounds me in Roe v. Wade is that a right to privacy trumps the right to human life. Still, there are those who will admit to the humanness of the child in the womb but dismiss the developing child as being of lesser value than a full-grown adult, which is nothing more than age discrimination. A human being is a human being despite age, ability, or consciousness. These natural truths are not neutral.

Truth always has implications and for humanity to benefit from truth, truth must be applied evenly across all our reasoning.

Right to life is a natural matter but it is first a moral matter. The fact that our culture has little tolerance for God and his things should not prevent us from using the Scriptures as our proof for the sinfulness of abortion. As you well know, the Scriptures are God’s verbal plenary inspired revelation described to us in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians as a sword, and offered as the only offensive weapon by which we pierce the darkness that surrounds us. Hebrews describes this sword as being double-edged and able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. The word of God can penetrate through the layers of a callous heart and create conviction where it does not exist.

I am reminded of the words of Spurgeon who described the Bible as a caged lion. The preacher is to simply open the cage and let the lion do what lions do. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” said the prophet Isaiah. We continue in this prophetic tradition when we offer God’s principles as the road map for society. Society will prosper most when it complies with God’s standards. Then children in the womb will not have to be threatened even before they breathe their first breath of air.

As strange as it may sound to some, our greatest apology for the defense of children in the womb begins with the Scriptures. You’ll recall that David confessed that he was conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5). If the pre-embryonic David can be accused of being a sinner, then undoubtedly, he was at that point also both living and a human. Not only that, but it was a baby in utero who was the first to recognize Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah when Mary approached her pregnant cousin. Throughout Scripture, the sanctity of life is valued, childhood innocence is treasured and the pregnant woman is cherished not only because she is a woman, but because of the child her womanhood allows her to bear.

As our world rapidly changes and moral standards rapidly decline, we find that the church is following not too far behind.  In a recent survey conducted by the Arizona Christian University in conjunction with the Barna Group, it was discovered that only 37% of American pastors possess a Christian worldview. It appears that it is time to preach to the choir. The church needs to recapture the truth regarding God’s moral standards, including the moral truth of abortion. Amazingly, Linda Coffee grew up in a Bible-preaching Baptist Church and was very much involved in children and teen ministries.  Likewise, Weddington is the daughter of a Methodist minister. How can two intelligent young ladies venture so far from God’s mandate?

Certainly, this is not solely the church’s fault, but it does give us a commentary of the dangers of neglecting the full counsel of God and shying away from doctrinal truth for the sake of growth or community. When inviting Weddington to join her in filing a brief against the Texas abortion law, author Joshua Prager notes that Coffee wrote to Weddington saying, “Would you consider being co-counsel in the event that a suit is actually filed? I have always found that it is a great deal more fun to work with someone on a lawsuit of this nature.” It is scandalous to think that the topic of abortion would be categorized as “fun.” What an outrageously disgraceful placation of a war on babies in the womb. But unfortunately, the idea of fun is too often the motivating factor among the saints as well. And if fun is not the goal, then often avoiding the drudgery of doctrine is. The church, not conservatives, has to be convinced that abortion is a defacing of the imago Dei and it must be doctrinally explained from our pulpits.

It is very plausible that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, and it will be as radical in 2022 as it was in 1973. This will be a great victory for children in the womb, but also for all those who have prayed for a change in American law. Our years of prayers have gone up to the throne of God and they are being heard. However, this change in national law will not be the end of abortion. Instead, each state will have to take a stand, even as it was before 1973 and elections will be largely determined based on this one issue. It will be divisive, and people will be branded or embraced according to what word follows “pro” in their politics.

So, how should the church respond?

First, let’s not stop praying as states increasingly codify abortion laws. Second, remember that in our churches there are women who have experienced abortions. Seek to console them with compassionate conviction and continue to teach them the word of God. Third, teach your church what the Scriptures say about the image of God in mankind, the value of life, the responsibility of parenting and, of course, the joy of parenting. Fourth, remind your sheep that God gave married couples the responsibility of being fruitful and multiplying. Fifth, with fewer abortions there will be even greater need to teach parents how to parent. Sixth, with fewer abortions, there will be a greater need nationally for foster parents and adoptive parents which gives your church body the opportunity to show the love of Christ.

Glen Scrivener of Speak Life–UK makes a good point after examining the Scriptures on the matter of abortion: He concludes that the way to terminate a pregnancy is to give birth.

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Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire

Pastor Paulo Freire has been shepherding the congregation at Hope Church in New Jersey for more than twenty years. He is a native of São Paulo, Brazil, but was raised here in New Jersey. As a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute, Pastor Paulo brings a love for the study and application of the Word of God into the pulpit with him. He lives in Wantage with his wife Lisa. Pastor Paulo and Lisa have three sons, Tyler (attending Reformed Theological Seminary and married to Jeanna), Micah (attending Cedarville University), and Elias, who is still at home and one granddaughter named Maggie. When he is not behind the pulpit at Hope, Pastor Paulo can be found preaching and teaching in other venues, leading the “Abide” college and career group, training pastors through the EFCA Gateway program or working with the district Board of Ministerial Standing and the national board as well or coaching the community soccer team. While he still enjoys touring the NYC sights, Pastor Paulo is thankful to be ministering in the serene rural beauty of Sussex County.
Paulo Freire

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar Jeff Martin on June 22, 2022 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks Paulo for these thoughts. Abortion is indeed one huge part of the “sanctity of life.” But many church leaders and churches have spent little time and money talking about how we are to actually value lives beyond the womb. You rightly bring up adoption and fostering children as one example of “giving the church body the opportunity to show the love of Christ.” But there are many other examples where we can show we care about lives beyond the womb. These might include helping address the huge education gap in this country by providing summer programs for young children impacted by the huge wealth gap, opening up our homes and creating spaces for those impacted by our current and pending housing crisis, and courageously addressing the continued impacts of racism (in and outside of the church) so we can better fulfill our God-given mandate as those reconciled to be reconciled to one another (Eph 2:11-16; 2 Cor 5:17-21).

    • Avatar Paulo Freire on June 22, 2022 at 2:30 pm

      Good points, Jeff. There’s plenty we can do and ought to do. We ought to reflect what we believe. It is challenging, often inconvenient and uncomfortable, but essential as people called to be salt on this earth. SDG!

    • Avatar Kelly Burrington on August 27, 2022 at 9:51 pm

      I agree wholeheartedly with your comment! I am new to Sussex County and looking for a new church and came across Hope church and this post. I want a church that does not want to simply “console women who have had abortions” but wants to be a body of Christ that comes alongside a woman who chooses life and gives housing, food, day care, etc. to allow her to provide for the life she is bringing into the world. I believe foster care is amazing (as I’m a foster parent myself) but it exists because parents are unable to take care of their child usually because of abuse or neglect. Is it any better to bring a child into this world who will go through trauma starting in the womb than to terminate the life? At this point in our country (and mostly the church)’s level or protection for women choosing life, I’m not sure I can answer that.

      If your church had been in Sussex County New Jersey I would love to attend!

  2. Avatar Crisanne Simeone on June 22, 2022 at 1:15 pm

    Fabulous article! I am proud to call you my pastor.

    You expressed so eloquently all of the points both spiritually and practically that need to be said.

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