Welcome back to the Questions and Ethics program with Russell Moore. I’m Daniel Patterson, and Dr. Moore, today we’ve got a question from a pastor who says I’ve got this situation: I’ve got a church member who is pro-choice and vocal about it in the congregation. Should I pursue church discipline for this church member who is pro-choice, he asks.
Well, that’s a good question. I mean first of all I think we need to keep in mind that abortion is a biblical justice issue and a gospel issue. What’s happening in an abortion is that a vulnerable human being, created in the image of God as God tells us in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, is being sacrificed in a way that is killing the one vulnerable person and harming the mother and often in many or most cases also wounding the conscience of the father of this child as well. And so that spirit of murder and that spirit of violence is one that we see in the scripture as always being contrary to the gospel and in fact is part of the works of the flesh, the works of the devil in the scripture. And part of the responsibility of the pastors of the church is to give sound instruction in doctrine and as Titus tells us in Titus 1:9 to rebuke those who contradict it. And so, the understanding that a child in the womb is not a person deserving of protection is not just a political issue. That’s a biblical, theological, and moral question.
Now, having said that, it would depend on the state of life that this pro-choice member of your congregation is in, first of all, and it would also depend on what kind of power that pro-choice person has. And here’s what I mean by that: what I mean by that is often there are people who are new believers who just are not discipled yet. They don’t understand the issues involved yet. And so I have a friend who is leading a lot of unbelievers to faith in Christ in a very secular northeastern city, and he says when the Planned Parenthood videos started coming out some of them started saying now wait a minute, am I pro-life because I’m a Christian? Did I commit to that? And so he is having to walk them through here’s what the scripture teaches about life and here’s what the scripture teaches about the unborn and so forth. That’s not someone who is in rebellion against the truth of God. That’s someone who they’ve spent their entire lives in one ideology and way of thinking, and now they are being introduced to a biblical reality that is very different, and they are simply being taught. I wouldn’t discipline that person who is initially saying now wait a minute, why can’t I be pro-choice?
I would deal with that in terms of someone who is long in the faith and who nonetheless is rejecting what the scripture teaches about the image of God and about the vulnerable. I would also take into account, as I said, the sort of power that this pro-abortion rights person would have. So, again I would have patience with that person who is a relatively new believer who says well, I don’t agree with abortion, but I think that the government shouldn’t have anything to do with it. I would have a very different perspective on that from someone who is making decisions right now about the abortion of innocent children. So, if you have someone who is an abortionist, for instance, or someone who is serving as a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood or some other abortion rights organization, well now you have an immediate sort of conflict between that person’s life and biblical truth. And in that case I would do exactly what one would do with someone who is involved in any other pattern of sin or injustice. Following Christ means ending this abortion practice, or following Christ means that you are no longer going to be lobbying for the destruction of innocent human children and the harming of their mothers.
And so you take into account that, and then beyond that I think long before you ever get to the question of church discipline what we need is the careful teaching from the Bible about the sanctity of human life. What does it mean that the first time that John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus meet one another it’s not on the Jordan River, it is in utero where our Lord Jesus is within the womb of his mother Mary, and John the Baptist is within the womb of his mother Elizabeth and is filled with the Spirit, and he’s referred to as John. And he recognizes, Elizabeth says, his Lord by leaping within the womb. So taking time not just on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, not just kind of the Sunday before some federal election, but to walk through this is what the image of God means; this is why the unborn matter to God; this is why the poor and the vulnerable matter to God; this is why women who are in vulnerable pregnancies and in time of crisis, this is why they matter to God. Start teaching that from the pulpit and then in the ministries of the church.
Just yesterday, before I’m recording this, teaching the junior high and high school kids at my church, and we had kind of an open question and answer time, and someone asked about the Planned Parenthood videos, so I taught on abortion, and then I spent a lot of time saying it might be that someone in this room is going to end up in an unplanned pregnancy, maybe even while you are in high school. You become pregnant or you get someone pregnant—here’s how you address that. Come to us, come to the church because I want to try to circumvent the sort of going underground that tends to happen in pregnancy situations where young women believe that if they were to come to their church they would be shamed or rejected, and so they go under cover of darkness to Planned Parenthood or some other atrocious abortion industry outlet promising them to fix it and ending up with violence. And so to stand up and say here’s how you will be received by the body of Christ if you come forward in that situation, and here’s how we will seek to minister to you when you are in that situation. Make sure that you are taking time positively teaching what the scripture says so that people aren’t suddenly surprised when they realize that God is committed to life and that that life includes the lives of the unborn. That would be my counsel.
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