In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a ruling that had legalized induced abortion throughout the United States. As a result, each individual U.S. state can now determine its own abortion laws. Abortion became a hot topic in the recent U.S. midterm elections, with five states having abortion referendums on the ballot.
As a Canadian, I do not want to comment too much on U.S. politics. I echo the denomination’s statement online: “We are thankful for increased protection of the lives of unborn babies, and we pray that (the Supreme Court decision) will ultimately reduce the number of abortions in the United States.” The statement reminds us, however, that the denomination’s official synodical position on abortion goes beyond focusing on laws to protect the unborn. It also calls us to care for women: “The denomination expressed deep pastoral concern not only for children but also for women who have had an abortion and for women who have an unwanted pregnancy. These women are also God’s children and require our care and concern.” Synod 1972 called us to be compassionate rather than judgmental to such women. Our feature article this month, “Abortion: Seeing the Trees for the Forest,” is in that same spirit (p. 10).
I believe Christians need to go beyond the political framing of pro-life vs. pro-choice. We need to be Christ’s channels of grace and compassion to all in need. According to a Do Justice blog, “Four out of 10 women who have abortions are regular church goers, but only 7 percent of them talk to anyone at their church before making their decision.” Why is that? Is it because most of them are afraid of judgmental attitudes from fellow Christians? Why are we not known more for compassionate grace?
According to Matthew 12:17-21, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1-4. I am struck by the gentleness inherent in Isaiah’s description of the Messiah who won’t break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick (v. 3). Are we equally as gentle in our approach to those in (or out of) our churches who are emotionally bruised?
Our culture today seems to valorize harshness, bullying tactics, and even meanness. A noble goal is all it takes, it seems, to justify harsh words, whether the goal is ending racism or ending abortion. Labels of “racist” or “baby killer” are quickly thrown about. Thankfully, I know many pro-lifers and anti-racists who are gracious and kind. But the harsh, bullying few tarnish their movements.
“Speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) is not license to be mean or judgmental. It does not mean to simply speak the harsh truth out of loving intent. Yes, love rejoices in the truth, but love also is not rude, but patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4-6).
Gentleness is not optional. It is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Even when we are engaged in urgent matters, such as protecting unborn lives or eliminating racism, gentleness is not optional for Christians. God’s chosen servant in Isaiah 42 was gentle even in seeking justice: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory” (Matt. 12:20, emphasis mine). In God’s countercultural kingdom, we must, whenever possible, pursue justice with gentleness.
In my next editorial, I will tackle the rare exceptions to this rule.