For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23)
The church in America recently entered a new reality. The era of Roe is over, many say. Supporters and opponents blasted away at each other on social media (including many Christians, sadly). Many other believers tried to step back, sort out their mixed feelings, and asked, “What now?” To put it another way, “What do we do now?”
Many (rightly, I believe) fear that in winning what essentially amounted to a political battle, the war for hearts, minds, and souls has been or is in danger of being lost. As usual, this is not a post about political strategies, debates, or outcomes. This is a post, rather, about the church’s role in a post-Roe era.
For the past 40 years or so, the “pro-life” momvent in America has been largely about abortion. Increasingly over the last 20 years, abortion was seen by evangelical Christians as the only issue that mattered when deciding who to vote for or what bills to support or oppose. What’s been the result of this thinking? In large part, the church has been seen as only caring about abortion, regardless of the circumstances, while leaving other issues behind–the needy, poor, justice for other vulnerable people, etc.
As some have opined over the years, pro-life does not stop with “anti-abortion.” Pro-life means that we are pro- ALL life. And indeed we should be. Jesus came to give us life. He had compassion on the vulnerable people of his day, and rebuked those who would hinder “the least of these” from coming to him. In fact, in Jesus’ picture of the final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), the sheep and the goats were separated based on how they treated the most vulnerable people of the day–but that wasn’t defined by just one group.
Those vulnerable people are still among us, church. They are the poor, homeless, needy, disabled–the list could go on.
And those with unplanned pregnancies are often just as vulnerable.
Now that the shock has worn off, read the statement again: Those with unplanned pregnancies are often just as vulnerable as other groups of vulnerable people. They are often faced with pressures few of us know. They are often scared, intimidated, manipulated, even coerced. Now, before you rise up and check out, read the rest of what I have to say. Many have and will continue to simply say something like, “Well, they just need to do what’s right,” consider this question:
Is that what Jesus did in your case?
He could have, you know. The law was out there. Even the Gentiles, without the written law of Moses, have the revelation of nature and conscience to tell them the difference between right and wrong. God could have simply said, “Hey, just do what’s right! You know what to do, so do it.” But, thankfully (for all of us, including the self-righteous among us), he didn’t do that.
Instead, Jesus came down and entered our world. He became a servant to teach us how to take care of each other–and then he died and rose again to give us new life and the power to love others, especially those trapped in sin, as we were.
For too long, the church has forgotten the lesson of Matthew 23:23. The church has focused on the outward “big” sins, giving time, treasure, resources to the causes, while neglecting the other parts. Now, am I saying that the church should have stayed away from the issue of abortion? Of course not. I’m saying that how the church dealt with abortion was short-sighted, and now we are reaping the fruit of that short-sightedness.
Perhaps now, with God’s grace, the church will wake up and begin to take care of all of “the least of these.” How should that look? Where should it start? I suggest it starts with repentance. Repentance for “fighting the battle” man’s way instead of God’s way. What is God’s way? The Gospel. And the Gospel is “two-handed.” Not only do we declare the grace of God, but we live it. We help. We listen. We pray. We love. We take care of “the least of these,” the vulnerable people.