Imagine a home with the coos and cries of a newborn. A constant din of excitement filling each room whenever the baby is present in it. And yet, the child’s sibling has not quite taken to the little one. As a toddler, he has not fully grasped the permanence of his new sister. He wonders aloud, “When she going back?”, believing she is simply a houseguest for a season. With time, however, he grows into a loving big brother. One day, the brother hears the word, abortion, as his mother listens to the news. He asks, “Mom, what is abortion?”
This scenario is quite possible in light of the Supreme Court’s historic decision regarding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and its continuing repercussions. The weight of the son’s question is made more burdensome by his baby sister sitting nearby. He has no frame of reference for such defiant evil. On an intuitive level, he understands wrongdoing, for he has momentarily hated his sister or a friend. So when he learns of murder, his mother can point him to 1 John 3 and explain to him how extreme hate can lead to murder. But there is not an obvious frame of reference for such a wicked thing as taking the life of a child, much less celebrating it.
Many of us will find ourselves in a similar position in the coming days and years. When we feel our children are ready for this discussion, how do we begin to help our sons and daughters grasp abortion in an age-appropriate way?
Setting the stage
Paul, in Romans 1:18-32, shares the logic of sin’s effects on all. At its core, sin, positionally, isolates us from God. Sin’s corrosive nature erodes the ability of a man or woman to know basic truths about God, themselves, their actions, and their actions’ impact on society. Therefore, their thinking becomes “futile”—it does not accomplish what they desire. And “their foolish hearts [are] darkened.” This corrosion leads to a rejection of God’s moral order (in whole or in part) and an embrace of the most destructive acts imaginable. Their choices have severe consequences. At this point, Paul writes that God gives “them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.”
The isolation from God has produced confusion, darkness, and self-delusion that securely wrap themselves around the mind and heart of the person. It is in this place great evil takes root. And its manifestations are manifold, both inside the church (to her great shame) and outside of it. These products of isolation from God are reference points we can use to build a mental framework our children need to understand abortion, the grave impact of it, and more fully know the beauty of the gospel of grace.
Every child has demonstrated confusion when isolated from one’s parents. My daughter has demonstrated many times over her inability to match clothes for an outfit when she has been told to get dressed. She trots off to her room and in her mind patterns and colors match in ways that mystify me and my wife. Or, for another example, a son believes his sister’s toy baby stroller can double as a sled down a flight of stairs. Both children are isolated from their parents. And when they make choices, the results can be improper, humorous, or injurious.
Hence, children can understand the confusion they experience when they try to do things apart from their parents, and this can be used as a reference point when speaking about great evil. In a state of confusion, people truly think they are doing the right thing (Isa. 5:20). They believe they are using the right tools or methods or are heading in the correct direction. People can sincerely believe they are being compassionate to the preborn child who would be born into a situation of distress or danger. Or they can believe life in the womb is insignificant or of little value. This thinking and the resulting actions come from one being isolated from God and his Word and being confused about what love is and the God-given dignity each person has.
Darkness is the second section of the mental framework. “God is light and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Apart from God the only reality is darkness. And as the distance grows between the sinner and one’s acceptance of God’s moral order, the deeper the darkness, as outlined by Paul in the first chapter of Romans.
Many children have stepped on a pointy object while navigating a dark room. Or they have grabbed the wrong toy or piece of clothing from an unlit closet and found the item unsuitable for their play or outfit. In the darkness, these mistakes are commonplace. Darkness does not assist. It hinders. It hurts.
People, in spiritual darkness, may not see the abhorrent action abortion is because they have refused to follow even a portion of light God has given to them via their consciences. They can neither see (recognize) a baby in utero is a person regardless of size nor can they see how their actions will ultimately affect them and others down the road.
Self-delusion is the final piece of the framework. Children regularly fail to view reality correctly, and yet, they often speak or act as if they do. For example, during a downpour, a young son will exclaim, “I can run so fast I won’t even get wet.” His mother knows the truth and tells him to wait until the rain ends before leaving the car to enter the house. Or there is the child who declares she is able to get the plate out of the cabinet above the kitchen counter despite her height saying otherwise.
In addition, like the rest of us, children often think the world revolves around them. They can be found balking against authority and throwing a fit when they don’t get their way. And they usually act this way because they believe their way to be best.
Not long after mankind was made, Adam and Eve were tempted with a delusional idea: that they knew better than God and could be like him. “You will not surely die. . . when you eat of [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” the serpent hissed to Eve. Our ancestors failed to recognize those who are created cannot become like the one who created them. The created will always remain inferior (and this is for our good). We make the same mistake.
It is pride that leads us to delusional thoughts. We think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Rom. 12:3). We are duped regarding the true, limited extent of our nature. Therefore, some people do not see the horrificness of certain actions, like abortion, and its harmful consequences. And others push past the horror in order to make sure that nothing interferes with their perceived right to live life as they wish.
A biblical illustration
It should be noted that people can either live in confusion, darkness, and self-delusion or experience moments of these realities. The story of King Nebuchadnezzar may be a good place to begin the discussion with your child(ren). During his reign over the empire of Babylon, the king walked onto the roof of the royal palace and surveyed the empire’s capital city. Upon taking in the grandeur, he immediately praised himself, attributing his monarchical success to the depth of his kingly strength. In his darkened state of mind, Nebuchadnezzar failed to see “it is Heaven that rules,” not him. In his confusion, he believed he had built and expanded the Babylonian empire “by the might of [his] power.” He did not understand God, for his glory and purposes, had permitted him to build and rule the kingdom. Drowning in self-delusion, the king believed the empire existed for “the glory of [his] majesty.”
While Nebuchadnezzar was being impressed by and touting his accomplishments, a heavenly voice declared judgment on him. The voice stated God was casting him to the fields where he would live with the beasts of the field. His respectability would be stripped from him, and he would eat grass like the cattle. The morning dew would collect on him as it does on other animals. His hair would resemble the feathers of a bird more than the locks of a royal. And his nails would be more savage-looking like a bird’s claws rather than well-kempt.
At the end of the king’s time of humiliation, God allowed his reason to return to him, and he was no longer dominated by confusion, darkness, and self-delusion. Nebuchadnezzar no longer praised himself for what he saw. He praised God. With this story and the truth in Romans 1, we can provide a framework onto which our children can fasten the awfulness of our day.
Light, the Way, and humility
Yet, the good news is that a few key statements by Jesus can teach children these sinful forces are defeatable. First, Jesus stated he is “the light of the world. Whoever follows [him] will not walk in darkness” (John 8:12). Children easily understand how quickly darkness is expelled from a room when the lights are turned on. Darkness flees from one’s heart when he/she is a faithful disciple of Christ.
In another passage, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14). If one knows what path to take and what is true, then confusion will dissipate quickly. The correct path and the truth are only found in the One who created us. The Sermon on the Mount is one passage parents can walk through with their children that will help them contrast God’s ways with the world’s. These verses are filled with pertinent teaching regarding our minds, our actions and reactions to people, and the natural disposition of our hearts. In addition, there is truth about the content of faith and the righteous manner of living produced by it.
Finally, to tackle self-delusion, Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19). Following the Father’s leading kills pride, which in turn, eliminates self-delusion. Jesus is God the Son, creator of heaven and earth. He deserves worship, obedience, and utter devotion. But, “He humbled himself, became obedient to the point of death, [and not just any death], even death on a cross” (Phil. 2).
Children can learn an invaluable lesson about humility and obedience from Jesus, even more so when he is contrasted with Satan who exhibited great self-delusion. Near the beginning of time, the Enemy was filled with pride and proclaimed, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14). Cast to earth, Satan corrupted mankind with sin. Sent to earth, Jesus redeemed mankind with his life. The once-called “son of Dawn” will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire, wailing in anguish. The Son of Man will spend his time at the right hand of the Most High, ruling the new heaven and the new earth.
Abortion is a difficult and challenging topic to discuss with children. It involves untangling the twisted nature of sin and its hellish impact on precious, little lives. But as horrific as one act is, it is an opportunity to share the gospel, which tells of the most loving and selfless act ever committed. Prayerfully, conversations about abortion can lead to a greater understanding of Jesus Christ and eventual belief in him. May that day come soon for those of us who long to see our children walk “out of darkness into his marvelous light!”