• Daniel Baker
Posted in Pro-life
This Sunday we celebrated the Sanctity of Human Life, annually timed to be near the anniversary of the January 22, 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.
We looked at 1 Thessalonians 5:1–18 and considered how it speaks to us about how we should engage this battle. Right in the middle of this passage is a text that offers a powerful summary of our different responses:
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thess 5:14)
The call from a verse like this is to really see the person (or situation) in front of us. Then we are to discern whether it’s a time to “admonish” (speak forcefully, rebuke, confront), “encourage” (come alongside someone to bring new courage in the Lord), or “help” (provide whatever short- or long-term resources are needed for a person to persevere).
But then we’re reminded that whatever the particular person or situation is, we are to be “long-suffering,” which is the meaning of “be patient.” When we minister to people we always do so as sinners ministering to sinners and as someone slow to change ministering to someone slow to change. We also do so as someone who has received undeserved grace through Christ. This means self-righteousness, impatience, and pride have no place. Instead, we are to “be patient with them all.”
In working with people there’s no one-size-fits-all response to them or their circumstances (with the caveat that all receive patience). In the pro-life battle this is really helpful counsel.
Admonishing the Rebellious and Political Activism
Paul’s first command, “admonish the idle,” is better translated as “admonish the rebellious” (David Powlison). It’s not limited to only the “idle.” It’s a command to speak forcefully when someone is willfully and obstinately rejecting God’s revealed path.
In the pro-life battle this calls to mind the ways we might engage in political activism. We might appeal to representatives (or become one!) to write and enforce laws consistent with the Bible’s clear message that the being in the womb of a pregnant woman is a person (Psalm 139:13; Jer 1:5; Gen 25:22–23; Luke 1:44) and no simple extension of her body.
If that being in the womb is a person, then that person should be treated with appropriate protections and rights. Right now there’s some encouragement that maybe after almost 50 years, the Roe v. Wade decision could potentially be dismantled in significant ways. If that happens the fight isn’t over, however. The battle simply shifts back to the states. There will soon be even more opportunities for Christians to “admonish” the culture to have laws that protect the unborn.
Events like the March for Life in Washington, DC, are also forms of “admonishing” our culture. They are public ways to confront the lies a culture might be believing. We were excited by the half-dozen of our young adults that took part in it this year’s march. We’re also excited by our college students who are trying to thoughtfully engage these issues as they come up in their classes.
Encouraging the Fainthearted, Helping the Weak, and Gateway
The next two commandments—“encourage the fainthearted, help the weak”—challenge us to recognize the profound hardships and turmoil that go along with abortions and unexpected pregnancies. Someone considering an abortion is more often than not feeling profound desperation and isolation. There’s a good chance they simply aren’t aware of the many people willing to come alongside them and help them in a whole variety of ways. Sometimes the person before us has had an abortion or been part of one and deeply regrets it. Such people require something completely different from the “rebellious” or “unruly” in the first category.
This is where partnership with a ministry like Gateway Women’s Care can fit in. Their ministry is dedicated to providing gospel-centered care “without condemnation or manipulation.” They are often dealing with couples who think “abortion is their only choice” and work to introduce solutions to help them truly thrive and flourish in Christ-centered ways.
This fall we, Cornerstone, began looking into this ministry more specifically and exploring ways we might partner with them. Learning about their work and considering our members, it seemed like there was a lot of potential for ongoing ministry opportunities.
Gateway is similar in many respects with Hand of Hope, a ministry we've partnered with for years and continue to support. Gateway simply expands our footprint in engaging with this issue in our area.
Adrienne Gross is our primary contact with Gateway right now. Ideally, four of our members would go through Gateway’s training in the spring and begin their volunteer efforts together. There are various ways to be involved, but for those interested in being a mentor to a couple (positions available for both men and women), the commitment is to four hours weekly for one year.
I asked Adrienne what made her excited about Gateway. Her response was great:
Pro-Life ministries have always spoken to me as an area of interest since becoming a Believer in my 20s and then a mother in my 30s, suffering three miscarriages during that time of waiting for God to make us a family. Something about seeing a heartbeat on a screen, that first proof of life inside me, only to be told it was no longer there and that my child's life ended without a chance to thrive gave me a desire to speak for those most innocent lives, the ones whose voices are never heard.
But this starts with building relationships with women and men who often feel they have no options when they find they have created an unwanted life. These young women and men are often in pain, ashamed, afraid and alone. What I liked about Gateway Women's Health is that they have created a warm and welcoming environment where potential parents feel safe enough to discuss their fears, inclinations, thoughts and questions about pregnancy and abortion.
Gateway Women's Health has an 85% success rate of convincing clients to choose life over abortion because their mentors establish ongoing, trustworthy and reliable relationships with potential moms, and they provide connections to free community resources for parents that they may never have known existed, from support groups, to free pre and post natal care for the mother and baby for the first year. Digging deeper into their site, you will see that these mentor/mentee relationships truly are gateways for sharing the Gospel and often become redemptive opportunities to lead men and women to Christ.
Abortion is often seen as a women's issue, but I really liked that Gateway sees it as a human issue, and they minister to men as well. Their male mentors are integral in coaching potential Dads on how to take responsibility for their families and support their partners, how to lead in a Biblical way.
Too often, the shame and weight of abortion is heaped on women, leaving emotional, mental and spiritual scars for years. Gateway intentionally communicates to the couple that pregnancy is a shared responsibility, and that there are people who are not just pro-life as a talking point, but who are invested in seeing their families thrive and are willing to step in and support them the whole way. I want to be a part of a ministry that is not just pro-life, but life-changing because of the redemptive and and healing power of the Gospel at work.
If you’re interested in being part of the spring training, please contact the church office and we’ll put you in touch with Adrienne Gross. Of course, if you’re a member, you can see her info at Church Center.
An Expansive Gospel
Finally, all that Paul says in 1 Thessalonians is built on the historical and theological reality of the gospel, the reality faith in Christ "delivers us from the wrath to come" on the "day of the Lord" (1 Thess 1:10; 5:2). Informed by the gospel—the good news that Jesus’s death for sinners brings complete forgiveness and newness of life to all who trust in him—we can be “patient with all” we meet. We can “admonish” without being self-righteous, we can “encourage” a person no matter the sins of their past or the trials of their present, we can link arms with other Christians and “help” those in the most desperate of circumstances. The gospel that has transformed us individually and brought us together into Christ’s church will also work through us in transforming the culture around us. We’re excited to see how will do this in the pro-life battle before us.