“For we Christians look upon him as a man who is in embryo; for he is in being, like the fruit in blossom, and in a little time would have been a perfect man, had nature met with no disturbance.” — Tertullian
Last Fall, I participated with Christians across the city and 15 NAPCers in a 40-day prayer vigil called 40 days for life. It is led by an international pro-life organization committed to peacefully praying for an end to abortion in our time. I invite you to join me this year in the same effort. I will be there at two different times during the 40 days – Wednesday September 29th from 4-5p and Saturday October 2 from 8-9am.
Throughout the ages Christians have held the unshakeable conviction about the sanctity of human life at all sizes and ages, including those lives inside the womb. The early Church, a strange minority in the hostile Roman Empire, forbade abortion and infanticide, common practices at the time. They adopted children (mostly girls) who were exposed to the elements and left for dead. Relying upon the Scriptures, Christians developed a rich tradition of valuing and prioritizing unborn and infant children whom the pagans preferred to discard. This tradition has expanded and deepened over the last two millennia.
It has not been until my lifetime that Christians have wavered and waffled about abortion, when abortion rights became the law of the land. It is a stark reality for me that the Roe v. Wade decision was made the year I was born. Since that time there have been approximately 62 million abortions, the vast majority of them minority children. The abortion rate of African-American children is consistently five times higher than that of whites. The sheer numbers are astonishing. Yet we hesitate to talk about these realities openly or pray for an end to abortion. Why? There are numerous reasons, but here are some that I have felt:
- I don’t want women who have gone through the trauma of abortion and who grieve their decision to be ashamed of sin for which they have already repented and received forgiveness at the cross. The grace of God is deeper than any of our sins and Jesus stands ready to forgive all who repent, and that of course includes women who have made the tragic decision to abort a child, many under terrible circumstances.
- Men are complicit in many, many abortions through sexual assault, coercion or abandonment. This reality is easily overlooked, and the unavoidable focus on the decision of mothers feels like it minimizes the terrible sins of men who are involved in this injustice.
- There are many priorities in life, and we all want to order those priorities rightly. Being involved in a prayer vigil on Main street for an hour feels daunting or perhaps frightening. Is it doing anything to change the issue? Should I instead spend my time on the myriad other priorities in life (for me those include responding to emails or visiting people or meeting with staff or putting the finishing touches on sermon prep or taking my daughter out for coffee, etc. etc.)?
- Believing that abortion is wrong does not mean that we are doing all that we can to help single moms in poverty raise their children, and isn’t that hypocritical?
- In a time of tremendous polarization, the controversial nature of this topic is intimidating.
Despite these reasons for not doing or saying or praying about this awful issue, I want to pray for an end to abortion in our time with other Christians and with anyone who will join me from our church. One of the most powerful aspects of praying outside the clinic is the chaotic nature of it – cars whizzing by, people walking past us on the sidewalk as we pray, horns honking approval of our prayers. It is harder to concentrate, but more raw and invigorating. We are truly coming against the “powers and principalities” that Paul describes in Ephesians 6.
If you are interested in joining me, let me know.
Serving and praying together,
Below are Scriptures, and quotes of early church fathers, describing the blessing of children and the prohibition of killing them, whether inside of outside the womb.
Psalm 127:3-5 3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
Psalm 139:13-16 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Mark 9:36-37 36 And [Jesus] took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
Mark 10:13-16 13 And they were bringing children to [Jesus] that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Luke 1:39-43 39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Jeremiah 32:34-35 34 They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination.
“For we Christians look upon him as a man, who is one in embryo; for he is in being, like the fruit in blossom, and in a little time would have been a perfect man, had nature met with no disturbance.” — Tertullian
“Just as He brings an infant which has been conceived in the womb into the light of the sun, and lays up wheat in the barn after He has given it full strength on the stalk…” — Iraneaus
“We must not attribute to a woman the creation of her child, but instead to him who said to his servant, ‘I knew you, before I formed you in the womb (Jer. 1:5.).’ The mother’s consciousness can induce some special characteristics in the unborn child…. even so, the mother has not made the nature that is produced, any more than she has made herself.” — Augustine
“You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child” — Didache