As today marks the forty-second anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, most Christians recognize, and rightly so, the loss of millions of unborn human lives. What we often forget is the second casualty of an abortion culture: the consciences of countless men and women.
Too often, pastors and church leaders assume that, when talking about abortion, their invisible debating partner is the “pro-choice” television commentator or politician. Not so. Many of the people endangered by the abortion culture aren’t even pro-choice.
In your congregation this Sunday, and in the neighborhoods around you right now, there are women vulnerable to abortionist propaganda, not because they reject the church but because they’re afraid they ‘ll lose the church. Pregnant young women are scared they will scandalize church people when they start to show, so they keep it secret. Parents are fearful their pregnant daughter, or their son’s pregnant girlfriend, will prompt the rest of the congregation to see them as bad families.
As they keep all of this secret from the Body of Christ, many of them fall prey to the false gospel of the abortion clinic. “We can take care of this for you,” these people say. “And it will all go away.”
Moreover, there are thousands of men and women in our churches who have aborted their children, or urged the abortion of their grandchildren. Bearing the shame of this, they keep it secret. And in the concealment, the satanic powers accuse them: “We know who you are; you’re a murderer, like us.”
Every time pastors and church leaders speak, they are speaking, at least potentially, to these men and women, the aborting and the abortionists. Many of these people don’t argue that the “fetus” is a “person.” Their consciences testify to that, and they’re either tortured by this or violently trying to sear over that persistent internal message.
The answer, for the church, is to preach the gospel to the conscience.
For many evangelicals, to “preach the gospel” seems to be obvious and ineffective because they think this means to, by rote, prompt people to accept Jesus and go to heaven. But the gospel speaks right where the abortion culture is in slavery, to the conscience.
For one thing, those guilty of this silent atrocity often don’t think we’re talking to them. For some, the demonic structures have helped them to conceal this secret, and to convince them the safest thing to do is to try to forget it altogether. Others are so burdened down by guilt, they really don’t believe they are included in the “whosoever will” of our gospel invitations.
Speak directly to these people. To the woman who has had the abortion. To the man who has paid for an abortion. To the health care worker who has profited off of tearing apart the bodies of the young and the consciences of their parents.
Speak clearly of the horror of judgement to come. Confirm what every accusing conscience already knows: clinic privacy laws cannot keep all this from being exposed at the tribunal of Christ. When the Light shines, there’s not enough darkness in which to hide and cringe.
But don’t stop there.
Proclaim just as openly that judgment has fallen on the quivering body of a crucified Jesus—accused by Satan, indicted by the Law, enveloped by the curse.
An abortion culture knows that hell exists, and they know judgment waits (Rom 2:14-16). Agree with them, but point them to the truth that God is not simply willing to forgive them. Show them how in Christ God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:26).
The woman who has had the abortion needs to know that, if she is hidden in Christ, God does not see her as “that woman who had the abortion.” He hasn’t been subverted from sending her to hell because she found a gospel “loophole.” In Christ, she’s already been to hell.
And, in the resurrected Christ, God has already told her what he thinks of her: “You are my beloved child and in you I am well-pleased.”
The consciences around us don’t believe what they’re telling themselves. They’re scared and accused. Shine the light in the eyes of their consciences. Prophetically. All for justice, legally and culturally, for the unborn. But don’t stop there.
After all, the spirit of murder doesn’t start or end in the abortion clinic (Matt. 5:21, 15:19; Jn. 8:44; Acts 9:1; Rom. 1:29; Jn. 3:15). And the blood of Christ has cleansed the consciences of rebels like all of us.
Warn of hell, but offer mercy. Offer that mercy not only at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but in the small groups and hallways of your church.
You can download the ERLC’s Sanctity of Human Life Sunday bulletin insert here.
A previous version of this article was published January 22, 2013.