Pastors and the moral issue of our age
If you say you would have preached against slavery, you must preach against abortion
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Imagine that you are a pastor in the 1800s. Each day, men, women, and children with black skin are chained and whipped. Some are killed. And now, your congregation is about to confront a ballot measure regarding the legality of these practices. If you remain silent, some in your congregation will vote for slavery because they have uncritically accepted a cultural narrative. So do you preach the Biblical—and countercultural—truth that those with black skin are made in the image of God and just as valuable as those with white skin? Or do you stick to your preplanned sermon schedule that does nothing to warn about the sin of voting for the mistreatment and killing of the neighbors we are commanded to love?
You may view this as a ridiculous question. Of course, you would preach the truth before it is too late! But would you really? What if some in your church have owned and sold slaves and your message would prick their consciences in a painful way? What if those who belong to a pro-slavery political party would accuse you of advancing a political agenda? What if some might even leave your church?
Hopefully, you are still committed to preaching the truth in the hour of need—no matter the potential fallout. After all, you are not about to ignore the plight of your brothers and sisters with black skin. Nor will you be silent as the flock you shepherd is tempted to become complicit in the sin of slavery.
Obviously, you may consider your congregation’s composition in preparing your message so you can address the objections you anticipate. And you should ensure that you are delivering the truth in a spirit of love. That way, all will leave the service understanding what God requires and that His forgiveness is available to them regardless of their past. Indeed, that is the “amazing grace” John Newton wrote of after spending years furthering the slave trade.
Thankfully, in the United States today, your congregation almost certainly recognizes the evil of slavery. So why the thought experiment? Perspective.
It is easy to look back and fancy ourselves as ones who would have bravely proclaimed Biblical truth about what was once a divisive topic. But when confronted with one of today’s controversies—where the stakes are at least as high and the Bible is at least as clear—do we show similar resolve?
In the present era, children are poisoned, crushed, dismembered, and killed by the thousands each day with the blessing of our nation’s laws. For five decades, the U.S. Supreme Court said we had to allow this slaughter of children in the womb. But that changed last summer when the Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Now, we have an opportunity to provide strong legal protection for unborn children. But since Roe’s fall, voters have chosen death for children made in the image of God each time that a state-level ballot measure has addressed abortion. And many churchgoers are complicit in that evil.
Consider a study from this past summer, which revealed that only 54 percent of churchgoers believe that the Bible teaches that abortion is wrong (at least when the life of the mother is not in jeopardy). Put differently, a year after the Supreme Court told people that they could protect unborn children from death by abortion, only about half of churchgoers understand that the Bible condemns elective abortion.
Blind to the Bible’s teachings about the humanity and value of children in the womb, many churchgoers vote in favor of the killing of the most innocent and vulnerable. And unless educated and transformed, they will continue to do so. They will also kill their own children for their own convenience. Indeed, another study found that at the time mothers first ended the life of a child via abortion, 36 percent of them were simultaneously attending church at least monthly.
Knowing this, pastors have a choice. They can stay silent and allow their congregations to participate in shedding the blood of the innocent—unaware of the scope of the basic command, “You shall not murder.” Alternatively, they can preach the truth in this time of confusion and make clear that children in the womb are among the neighbors Jesus told us to love as ourselves.
Recall that when you began reading this column, you probably said that you would bravely preach the truth if you knew that some in your church were prepared to choose slavery over freedom for their neighbors with black skin. So now, test the authenticity of that answer by answering this: Will you proclaim the truth about God’s love for the unborn and warn of the evil of abortion knowing that many churchgoers are poised to choose death over life for their neighbors in the womb?
These daily articles have become part of my steady diet. —BarbaraSign up to receive the WORLD Opinions email newsletter each weekday for sound commentary from trusted voices.