If you plan to preach about the sanctity of human life, this January, then it is very likely you will be preaching to someone who has had an abortion. Are you prepared to preach to someone, or maybe even discuss the Sanctity of Human Life with someone who has had an abortion?
In the summer of 2015 the pro-life group, The Center for Medical Progress, released a series of undercover videos in which abortion provider Planned Parenthood was exposed for selling the dismembered bodies of aborted boys and girls. Around the beginning of August, the Internet-based market research firm, YouGov, reported that 70 percent of Americans said they had heard “little” to “nothing at all” about these scandalous videos.
Having seen the videos, which included live footage of aborted babies, I was already incensed by this human rights atrocity. But, when it occurred to me that many of the people in the church I pastored might not know the truth, it was settled. I had to make this known and remind people once again that, from the womb to the tomb, all people are created in the image of God and have human rights from the Creator of life (Gen. 1:26-28).
So on Aug. 9, 2015, I briefly described the content of the videos, and I pleaded with those I pastor not to ignore the biblical realities of abortion, and I challenged us to love our unborn neighbors and their hurting parents. It was a hard sermon to preach, but it was about to get harder.
Right after the worship gathering I was scheduled to do a membership interview with two prospective members. When they came in, I could tell immediately that something was wrong. The demeanor of the woman was downcast, and her sorrow was evident. The husband gently and carefully explained that it was a rough morning for them. The sermon had ripped open a wound created decades ago. The woman who was now in my office to become a member of our local church bravely shared with me that in college she aborted her baby.
I can’t express in words how terrible I felt in that moment. It was not my intent to do more harm. I simply wanted to protect babies and mothers and fathers, and sound the alarm to say there was (and is) injustice in our midst that demands loving action.
As I reflect on that gut-wrenching day, I have asked the question, “What advice would I give to myself and others when it comes to preaching or speaking about the Sanctity of Human Life, knowing that some of the listeners have participated in abortion?”
1. Champion the Gospel. We must frame the whole sermon in the saving grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we do, it reminds that there is none righteous (Rom. 3:10). This humbles and levels us all at the foot of the cross where no one can look down on another because we all must look up to the crucified Christ who bore our sins.
No one has any hope apart from complete trust and faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. And no matter what our sins might be (1 Cor. 6:9-11), there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). We must immerse the whole sermon in the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ from beginning to the end.
We must do more than condemn. We must hold out saving hope.
2. Explain the value of life from the Bible. We must show from the Bible why we unquestionably believe that every person is intimately created in the image of the Creator (Gen. 1:26-28), and therefore, has value from conception (Ps. 139:13-16) until death do they part.
3. Summon science as a witness. When it comes to when a human life begins, the science is clear. No one expects a tree or a dog to come from a human womb. Humans come from humans, and every single one of us got our start the same way. Explain human development. Show people the science of the human life in the womb.
4. Don’t just preach to the choir. We must not forget that there will be people listening who have supported abortion, paid for abortions and had abortions. Our tone and argument(s) must be presented in a way that wins their hearing, gives hope for their hurting, inspires courage to seek healing and changes their thinking. Only condemning with anger will bring about none of these.
5. Challenge your listeners to give and act. One of the greatest criticisms of those who are pro-life is that we are really only “pro-birth,” not doing enough to support families after the child is born. We must advocate and mobilize for adoption and foster care. We must support our crisis pregnancy centers financially and by serving. We must advocate for the unborn and families politically. Yes, let’s preach, but we must put our money and actions where our mouth is.
6. Preach with passion, but don’t forget compassion. We must speak with convictional kindness that expresses compassion and points to a healing and hope. Before you preach, ask yourself: “Would someone who has had an abortion seek help from me after this sermon?”
That hurting woman who came to my office for a membership interview began the journey toward healing that day. Since then, she has courageously continued to seek help and has made remarkable progress and has even gone public with her testimony of God’s life-changing grace.
Glory to God! He used a hard and painful sermon to help someone who, unbeknownst to me, had an abortion.
We must preach to protect all human life. To say nothing really says it all. But when we speak the truth we must do it in such a loving way that we give life a chance to flourish—both physically and spiritually.
Pastor, are you prepared to preach that sermon? I hope you do.