Churches around the country are marking this weekend as Sanctity of Life Sunday. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court tragically legalized abortion in 1973, Christians have lamented unborn lives lost due to abortion on demand.
The voice of the church is important on this issue and other issues of human dignity. So how can a church serve as a faithful witness and mobilize to stand up for the most vulnerable in our society? Here are four practical ways to be pro-life:
1. Be Biblical
Seeing the humanity of the unborn isn’t and shouldn’t be a matter of politics. Unfortunately, abortion is one of the most contentious political issues of our day. But it doesn’t have to be this way in our congregations. Pastors who preach, Sunday school teachers who teach, and small group leaders who lead can lead well, not by adopting bumper-sticker slogans or coarse rhetoric from Facebook but by simply applying and teaching the Word of God.
The Bible is abundantly clear, from Genesis to Revelation, that every human life has dignity and worth. Genesis 1:26 reminds us that every person who comes into the world bears the image of God. And Psalm 139 tells us that every single baby was knit together by God, with care and love, in the mother’s womb.
It’s important that we base our pro-life witness on Scripture and not make our church services, small groups, and youth events political rallies, so that we both lament abortion on demand and pray that God would change the hearts and minds of a culture of death.
2. Be Compassionate
As you prepare your sanctity of life sermon, remember it is very likely some women in your audience have made the choice to abort and are suffering from guilt and shame. It’s important that even as you rightly decry a culture that refuses to see the humanity of the unborn that you sympathize with the vulnerable young women who are often faced with a difficult choice. Remind them that God offers grace and forgiveness for abortive women. We know this because we ourselves, pro-life and pro-choice, stand guilty before a righteous God. Only Jesus’ death and resurrection can offer us peace with God and forgiveness of sins.
The abortive woman needs to know that the people around her are not her judges, they are not the good people who’ve never messed up, but the redeemed people of God. If she is in Christ, she is free from her sin. Jesus has lifted her burden of guilt. She is a new creation.
Your tone, your articulation of this difficult issue, and the way in which you interact with the Scripture will go a long way toward communicating that you not only care about the dignity of the unborn, but also about the dignity of women.
3. Be Consistent
Your pro-life voice will have more credibility if you have consistently, in your preaching, your church’s outreaches, and in the way you apply the Scripture, championed the human dignity of all vulnerable people groups. To be a pro-life church is not simply to communicate why abortion is wrong one Sunday a year, but it is to apply the sanctity and preciousness of human life all year long and wherever human life is threatened.
So if your messaging and preaching on, for instance, the elderly or immigrants is dehumanizing or if you are silent when the Biblical text addresses some issue of injustice in society, your people will be hesitant to listen on the third Sunday in January.
It’s also helpful for pastors, teachers, and other communicators to remind us that we communicate a message of human dignity even in the way we interact with those with whom we disagree. People on the other side of this issue are not avatars to be crushed, but people created in the image of God.
4. Be Local
It’s good and right for us to be involved and advocate for laws that protect the unborn. Laws are moral statements. And yet while we are waiting for Congress or our local governments to enact pro-life legislation, we can actively get involved in saving lives in our local communities. One of the best ways to do this is to get involved with organizations who are already doing this good work, such as pregnancy resource centers. I’m amazed at how effective the staff and volunteers are in showing the love of Christ to vulnerable young pregnant women. By offering compassionate counseling, care, and connecting them to local churches, these organizations are saving unborn babies in communities around the country.
Most of the time, these local organizations run on a shoestring budget and desperately need money, volunteer time, and other kinds of donations. Sanctity of Life Sunday is a great opportunity to both raise money for a local ministry like this and to encourage your people to volunteer. To be pro-life is not merely about words or about being angry on Facebook every election time, but about living out that ethic every day in big and small ways in our local communities.