So, let’s talk about life.
I am pro-life because God is pro-life. God is the creator, redeemer, sustainer, and savior of life. God is so invested in life that not only did He create humans to be born, He also designed them to be born again so that their life would not only be a natural and finite life, but could also become an eternal life.
In fact, the Bible explicitly tells us more than once to choose life,
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” – Deuteronomy 30
So, as a Bible-believing Christian, I’m pro-life. Seems only rational as I value my life and the opportunity I have to enjoy all of the blessings this gift of life that God has given me includes.
As Ronald Reagan famously observed, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”
But even more than that, the fact is that regardless of who the parents are, the human life that results from a union of two into one has unique value and a unique contribution to make. Consider the fact that Confucius, Leonardo da Vinci, William the Conqueror, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, Billie Holiday, Oprah Winfrey, Eric Clapton, Steve Jobs, and my own Grandmother among many, many others were all born in complicated situations in which their biological parents were not married and having children was not their intent — and then imagine a world in which these lives had been prevented from having their impact. This little reflection is enough to convince me that regardless of circumstance, stress, poverty, or struggle we have very little, if any, ability to understand the future impact of ending a life.
That said, I have heard many people challenge my pro-life beliefs by suggesting that, to be truly pro-life, abortion can’t be the only issue. To this, let me just say, “I heartily agree!”
Being opposed to abortion, like being opposed to murder, is just an extremely basic defense of every human’s right to life. God has so much more in store for every human life than just the simple right and opportunity to draw breath and experience the world. So, clearly, abortion is not the only issue surrounding the right to life. However, I do believe that both the Bible and the U.S. Constitution support every individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and abortion is very clearly a violation of all three of those rights.
Now the other question that always seems to get thrown into the mix is, does human life actually begin at conception? Is abortion actually the death of a child or is it just the removal of excess tissue from the mother’s body? So let’s put that one to bed. Genetically speaking the fertilized egg is the beginning of human life. There is a strong scientific case to be made that life begins at conception. But it seems that science is not enough by itself to fully confirm the fact that God created humans to live first in their mother’s womb and then be born into the world. So let’s explore that a bit in scripture to see what God has to say about it.
God is deeply invested in every human life He creates from conception to natural death (and then on forever in eternal life in heaven for those who choose to receive it). The Bible is actually quite repetitive in its message forbidding human sacrifice, particularly the sacrifice of one’s own children, which was apparently common in the cult of Molech in the territory surrounding Canaan at the time the Old Testament was written. So, assuming life begins at conception it is clear that abortion would be a violation of the Bible’s plain teaching “You must not murder“.
But, why do I believe the Bible says that life begins at conception? Maybe the most compelling argument for why human life is worth defending from the point of conception is this — ask yourself, at what point did Christ become Christ? Should Mary have gotten an abortion to cover up her pregnancy and avoid being stoned to death which was the penalty at the time for violating a betrothal vow?
“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.'” – Matthew 1
Did Jesus come into existence at the point of conception?
“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!’ Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!’ Mary asked the angel, ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin.’ The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” – Luke 1
“The child within her”, “you will conceive”, and “the baby to be born” all make it sound like Jesus became Jesus at the point of conception. However, perhaps even more compelling than this implication when considering at what point a life becomes a human life, is found as the story continues with Mary going to visit Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s mother,
“A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.'” – Luke 1
When John the Baptist heard that Mary (pregnant with Jesus) had arrived, he jumped for joy at the news.
Now, elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus said of John,
“I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!” – Matthew 11
So, in the announcement of the birth of Christ and the following narrative account it is clear that God’s greatest prophet and God’s son both were human, both were alive, and both had individual identities starting at the point of conception forward. But, to remove whatever doubts may be lingering, take a look at what was written in the Old Testament, in the book of Psalms about conception and child birth more generally,
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.” – Psalm 139
Pretty clear that the Christian view of human life as being worth defending beginning at conception is founded in scripture.
I could go on, but this article is not intended to be a comprehensive list of scriptural references, so, considering that human life begins at conception, the challenge to the pro-life position becomes one of human rights — the rights of the mother in contrast or conflict with the rights of the baby. In almost all cases, where the choice is between one life or two, the best possible choice is to acknowledge and protect the right to life for both human lives involved. However, this is not to say that all abortions are wrong. As tragic as it can be there are, in fact, medical situations in which the best balance of rights between the mother and the child involves the death of the child.
Take for example ectopic pregnancy, where the egg is fertilized, but gets caught in the fallopian tube instead of implanting in the uterus as it should. In this case the choice is not actually between one life or two, but between one life or zero as the fertilized egg has no chance of survival outside of the uterus but a ruptured fallopian tube can put the mother into a very serious situation indeed. I use this example as it is extremely plain in this situation that after evaluating the balance of rights between mother and child the clear balance of rights favors the right of the mother to life. So while everyone involved can appreciate the tragic loss of the pregnancy, there is no moral or ethical question or concern about aborting the pregnancy because it is clearly the best choice to acknowledge and defend the right to life for as many people as possible in the situation, which in that case is really only one.
So, rather than blindly and universally banning the medical procedure we call abortion, let’s consider thinking about abortion not as something to be universally banned once two lives are involved, but rather, as the Bible and the U.S. Constitution seem to agree, let’s approach this from the view that any decision regarding the life of the mother and the life of the child should consider, acknowledge, and defend the human rights of both lives involved in arriving at the best outcome for everyone. When considered as a balance of rights between a mother and her child there is already a large body of thought and legal precedent surrounding the decisions governing that relationship in even the most trying of circumstances. I am simply suggesting that the application of this kind of moral, ethical, and legal reasoning be applied starting at the point of conception rather than only starting at birth or at the first breath outside of the womb.
Just as there is a difference between murder and self-defense when considered morally, ethically, and legally, perhaps there is the same difference between the needless and intentional destruction of a child’s right to life and the legitimate defense of the mother’s right to life at the expense of the child. It is a situation that should be considered thoughtfully with a full appreciation for all of the human rights involved not just one side or the other, so that the decisions and the outcomes can provide for the best defense of every human life involved to the best of our ability as a society, culture, and community of believers.
Once again, this is not to say that avoiding murder is the sum total conclusion of scripture in conveying God’s vision of the full right to life and salvation (as that involves all of the commands of scripture to provide for and bless every human life from conception onward), but I do believe it is extremely clear both in scripture and from basic scientific, legal, and moral reasoning that putting a stop to murder (at any age) is definitely something close to God’s heart and worthy of our attention as a civilized society.
The loss of human life is a tragedy and with that comes grief, longing, and mourning. So, for all of those who have experienced the loss of a baby from whatever cause and at whatever point in the process from conception to natural death at a ripe old age, you should know that embracing the reality of the loss of that life, celebrating whatever time you got to share with that life, and knowing that you will carry the memory of that life with you always is truly a good thing and a gift that should not be denied or avoided even when it is accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, helplessness, and/or despair. Every human life is a treasure of inestimable value, and it is natural and proper to both mourn the loss and find the strength in God to carry on. No matter where you are coming from, and no matter what has happened to you or what choices you have made, God loves you and every human life deeply, passionately, persistently, and forever and is dedicated to the purpose of blessing you with new life, new peace, new hope, and a new future every day. It’s like Jesus said,
“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” – John 10
God is deeply invested in the life of both the mother and the baby. God has plans to prosper, bless, support, and provide for both the mother and the baby. God has promised to be there every step of the way with both the mother and the baby. God is calling believers everywhere to invest along side of Him in both the mother and the baby — to provide support, encouragement, options, and a future for both the mother and the baby. It can seem easier in the moment of realization surrounding a pregnancy to accumulate the negative impacts of having a baby and assess the risks to quality of life and financial burdens and more that come from knowing your life is never going to be the same again. And it can seem harder at that moment to appreciate and sum up the benefits, the blessings, the strength, the opportunity, the value, and the joy that are on their way with that new life in even the most challenging of situations.
So, let me conclude with this reflection — one of the most famous statements of hope in the Bible is found in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 29,
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'”
This is true as stated, but it becomes even more meaningful and powerful when it is realized in its full context. Understanding that God didn’t say this at a high point in Israel’s history, but actually at their lowest point when they were feeling the most challenged and hopeless. Jeremiah is speaking to a conquered and defeated people who have been dragged from their homes into captivity in a foreign land. They are struggling to see God’s purpose, despairing of God’s promises, and feeling the loss of God’s blessings as they can’t understand how their current circumstances lead to God’s plan and they know that their lives will never be the same again. And so, God reminds them that He knows where they are and the challenges that are facing them, and He wants them to know that even in the hardest times He is bringing them forward to ultimate blessing, success, and victory if they will continue to follow Him there.
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: ‘Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.‘ This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,’ says the Lord. This is what the Lord says: ‘You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.'” – Jeremiah 29