This past Monday, the Supreme Court struck down a series of Texas laws restricting the operation of abortion clinics. Here’s the short version: Texas law required abortion clinics to meet the standards of stand-alone surgery centers and doctors performing the abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Most clinics in Texas were unable to comply with the new requirements and a lot of them closed. Because access to abortions was limited by the smaller number of clinics, lawsuits followed.
On Monday, the Supreme Court struck down those laws ruling that these laws did, in fact, unlawfully restrict a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.
The point of my writing is not to debate whether or not the ruling was right or wrong. There have been enough experts and pundits doing that. I don’t want to go back and talk again about whether or not Roe v. Wade is correct.
What I’d like to do is talk to the church about:
- Where we are now, and;
- What we can do to move forward.
So, where are we? First, like it or not, Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. In some form or another, it has survived numerous challenges, and given the make up of the court, will likely survive any challenges in the future. Certainly if Hillary Clinton is elected president, any judges she appoints will be vetted and shown to be supporters of Roe V. Wade.
For that reason—and several others—I really don’t think we’ll be successful in continuing to legally challenge the law as it stands. I’m not a lawyer, and I know there are those who consider it their calling to try and find a way to change the law. I’m not saying that we don’t continue to challenge the law.
I know abortion is a complicated issue. I’m not talking about abortions where the mother’s health is in question or the result of rape or incest. These issues need to be addressed in different ways. I’m talking about abortion as post-conception birth control. This is the vast majority of abortions in America.
I am saying, as a pastor, I believe it’s time for the church to address the issue in a different way.
How do we do that?
First, we need to be mindful of how we talk about abortion. On any given Sunday, our congregations will have women in attendance who have had an abortion. There will be men there who in some way participated in an abortion. You will have women who are considering an abortion. Like it or not, with very few exceptions, people dealing with this issue will be attending our worship services.
And what they most need to hear is a word of grace. I know, we’re called to speak the truth, but we’re called to speak it in love. I’m not sure we get that last part across. Yes, I’m pro-life. Yes, I want every mother to choose to have her child, but that’s not reality. Reality is broken, ugly, and filled with guilt and remorse. Grace is the only thing that gets us through.
Second, we need to be sure women in this situation knows there’s a way out. That’s why our church is so excited to be in partnership with Hope Clinic for Women in Nashville (www.hopeclinicforwomen.org). Hope Clinic offers the full range of medical care, counseling, and support needed for any woman or couple experiencing a crisis pregnancy. It’s not enough to be against abortion. We have to stand for life. We’ve worked very closely with Renee Rizzo and her team toward several happy endings to stories that didn’t necessarily start out so happily.
Third, churches must become centers of adoption and foster parenting. Too many times, we’ve been accused of being pro-life until the child is born. We have to make sure we put the same energy into children and mothers after the child is born as we do before they’re born. What shows the power and love of God more than adoption? A child is given a name and a chance with a family who is called by God to love that child for His sake.
Here’s the brutal truth: The world doesn’t care for the woman or her child. They’re simply pawns in a political argument. The church has to be different. We have to be part of the loving solution. Christ calls us to be more for the sake of the “least of these.”
I may be wrong. Perhaps Roe V. Wade will be overturned. I don’t think it will be, but it might. Until then, the church must address this issue with an opened arm of grace and a love that just won’t quit. This is a tough issue…and Christ followers are just going to be have to be tougher in love.
We inherit a lot more than our eye color from our parents. We inherit their stories. We become an extension to their stories. We become the next chapter of the story of their lives. What does this mean? Well, sometimes it means we become the next chapter of the pain in their lives. Their pain—wherever it came from—is passed down to us and now becomes our pain.
Sometimes our parents know what they’re doing. Because they’re hurt, they’re going to make sure everyone around them is hurting. They strike out like wounded animals and hurt anyone who dares to get close.
Most of the time, however, our parents don’t know they’re doing it. Remember, the dysfunctional family they grew up in was “normal” for them. It takes a lot of personal courage and hard work to break this personal cycle of suffering. Most people simply don’t have the courage to face it.
So, what do you do if you have inherited this family heritage of pain?
First, recognize that you are not a victim. You are not a prisoner to anyone else’s decisions or actions. In the power of the resurrection, Christ has given us the power to overcome. Our lives are defined by His love, not someone else’s anger. As Paul wrote in Romans, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us…”
Now that sounds great, but how does it work in real life?
We begin by offering our parents a little mercy. Our parents, after all, are just human. I know, they should have done this or that, but sometimes, people are so wounded they just can’t. So, first, begin by trying to understand your parents’ story—how they became the people they are—and treat the moment with a lot of mercy.
Second, forgive your parents. I know this is hard, but let’s understand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is releasing the person from the expectation they can fix what they did. Once you’re wounded, the pain is yours to deal with. No one can take pain out of your heart. You have to deal with it. The first step is forgiveness.
The next step is prayer. I’m not talking about “now I lay me down to sleep…” kind of praying. I’m talking about gut-level, down to the bone, honest prayer. The kind where you scream and weep and stomp your feet at the injustice and unfairness of it all. Where you cry out from the depth of your pain asking Jesus to heal you because you know Jesus is the only one who can heal you. This isn’t an easy process. Sometimes it takes days and weeks. How long it takes depends on the depth of the wound. (Sometimes a good counselor can act as a guide to walk you through this process.)
Then, you need to choose to become the person you want to be. OK, let me fine tune that…you need to choose to become the person Christ intended you to be. The world will tell us we can be anything we want to be. No, we can’t. But the good news is we can become all Christ intends for us to be.
But we have to choose to follow, regardless of what we’ve been through. It doesn’t matter where you start; we all have to choose to follow. In our choice to follow, we find our ultimate freedom, our truest selves, and the peace of knowing Christ loves us despite it all.
We can change our inheritance. We can swap our pain for an inheritance with Christ, but it all begins in our choice of what we’re going to do with the inheritance we already have.
Today is the day after Father’s Day and to be honest, it’s where I live most of the time. Yesterday was great. I heard from both of my sons, and we were able to celebrate our relationship. No one has had more fun being a dad than me. I even heard from my daughters-in-law. Our boys married well, and Jeannie and I are very grateful for the love Nan and Deb have brought to our families.
Both Jeannie and I spent time yesterday missing our dads. Both of our fathers played major roles in our lives, and we miss them every day. There’s always something we wish would could tell them, ask their advice on, or most days, just hear their voices. Jeannie and I were very blessed to have our dads.
But now, it’s Monday—the day after Father’s Day. This is the day when the work is done that makes Father’s Day worth celebrating. This is the day when fathers do the dirty work of being a dad. For some of us, that means changing diapers and rocking babies to sleep. For others, that means countless trips around the block strolling with toddlers, playing catch, having tea parties, going to ball games or movies, or driving to vacation spots while everyone else sleeps in the car.
Being a dad is tough. It costs something to be a good dad. Your golf game may suffer. You may not be able to ride your Harley as much. You may miss a few things on TV, but that’s because you’ll be spending time doing what dads do.
Being a father may be an accident of biology, but being a “dad” is a title you have to earn. And when you get it, it’s the trophy you’ll be most proud of.
Because it will have been earned every day after Father’s Day, in one way or the other.