But by the power of God and the fervency of His people, the list of hopeful outcomes goes on and on. And standing above all of this, uniting and summarizing every good outcome, is the transcendent and paramount glory of God, who undoubtedly will receive the honor and praise.
As you’ve likely heard, on June 24, 2022 the Supreme Court upheld a 2018 Mississippi law and in the process, overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision will allow individual states to determine the parameters and accessibility of abortion in their respective states. The practical result will be a smorgasbord of state-by-state parameters on abortion that are determined by state legislatures. It is likely that the result will be the limiting, and in some places severe limiting, of access to abortions.
The decision of the court is both good and at the same time a little strange; but mostly it’s really good. Good because this decision promotes and moves towards a more righteous standard of living by the proper use of the sword entrusted to governing authorities for the thwarting of evil (Romans 13:1-7).
“When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15).
These prohibitions are long overdue. In the last 50 years more than 50 million babies have been aborted in America (1.5 billion worldwide). Abortion in America disproportionately targets minorities, girls, and children with physical disabilities (more than 90% of down syndrome babies are aborted in America each year). And the reality is that an overwhelming number of abortions in America are not out of necessity but out of fear or convenience or ease.
At moments like this the church must not waver in her commitment to pursue that which is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Human life is not a random concurrence of human tissues that magically evolve into a little version of a person at some supposed week of gestation, but rather human life is a sheer act of creation, fearfully and wonderfully crafted, by a living God who breathes life and then sustains that life minute after minute of every day according to His power. And so, the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man (1 Corinthians 1:25). It is a good decision because righteous laws and precepts bring glory to God.
At the same time, the decision of the court is also quite strange to me. Strange because it comes at the advent of what has been described as a post Christian era. And yet, this decision of the court is happening now and not say 30 or 40 or 50 years ago, where a student of history might expect to find it. In the late 1900s, while Christianity maintained an outsized influence on society, abortion continued rather freely as a normative part of our society. While many stores remained closed on Sundays and prayer was still being offered at major sporting events, before gay marriage was legal or transgender was a thing, abortion stood out as an odd and progressive outlier of our society. Now, as all of society seems to be changing at light-speed, when the majority of Americans seem to have no serious religious convictions at all, we experience this decision of the court that will promote goodness and righteousness.
So, since this decision is both good and oddly placed, Christians find themselves in a curious position. We rejoice over just outcomes but we also struggle to find our place in a world where we can so often feel like the annoying antagonists of an apathetic generation. The clear message for the church is this: there is work to be done if we can expect any lasting change. A just legal standard has been established but the hearts of this people are still overwhelmingly against the Lord. My prayer has been that God would use the potency of the law to sear hearts and so to revive many. To accomplish this, the Lord often uses the movements of history to direct the affairs of His kingdom, movements like the ones we now witness. And He has called us to be part of this work and so work we must. “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35). There is work to be done! To that end I offer a few simple suggestions:
Pray. Pray for our elected officials, at every level, that they would pursue righteousness apart from vain ambition. Pray for our judges that they would seek the truth, be guided by God, and that they would sense the gravity of the work they undertake. Pray for expectant mothers of wanted and unwanted children that, whatever their circumstances, perhaps God would give them a tender affection for their children, husbands who love and care for their families, a community that will support them, and the courage to honor the image of God in the gift of life. Pray for revival in our communities and neighborhoods, for hearts to be turned to the Lord, that many would “cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s case” (Isaiah 1:16).
“The sins of others work for good to the godly, as they set them the more a-praying against sin. If there were not such a spirit of wickedness abroad, perhaps there would not be such a spirit of prayer. Crying sins cause crying prayers. The people of God pray against the iniquity of the times, that God will give a check to sin that he will put sin to the blush” (Thomas Watson, All Things For Good ).
Declare. Declare our God and declare His truth to the watching world. Too often over the last 50 years the church has emphasized a call to be compassionate and gracious at the expense of the call to be righteous and true. We have been suppressed or have wrongly thought that the only way to appeal to the world is through love and kindness, and so we’ve neutered our message and created a version of truth that seems more amiable to those around us. Yet there is rarely a time the Word of God mentions love apart from truth or kindness in the absence of righteousness. Contrary to human wisdom, the declaration of God’s righteousness is often the very tool that He uses to draw people unto Himself. Look no further than Nineveh upon whom Jonah pronounced judgment leading to their repentance.
“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
We must be active in our communities and influential in culture and engaged in science and medicine and fervent in our exhortation and in conversations with neighbors and discussions in our book clubs or trivia groups. With abortion, the masses have been duped into believing a sterile and inconsequential version of manslaughter. Those types of opinions don’t change overnight but rather with thought provoking conversation and by the grace of God. Let us be winsome, humble, measured, and peaceful – but let us not cower from the moment as we distinguish between what is good and evil, right and wrong, true and false. And where the Bible speaks clearly, may God make us willing and able to speak clearly ourselves.
Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them (Jonah 3:2-5).
Advocate. Here is where I hope to leave you with maybe the greatest burden and exhortation to action. For many years, legal abortion has disguised and concealed the vulnerabilities of many of our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family. Many single mothers have been saddled with the weight of carrying a child by themselves, and often, without obvious means to care for that child, abortion has offered a “manageable alternative.” Other mothers have had to deal with the heaviness of discovering their baby had a disability that would impact them for the rest of their lives and abortion offered a way to maintain a “normal life.” Some have been affected by the sin of others through rape or other terrible actions and are without answers, save one, abortion. Many argued that these women and others would be left helpless, without any answers, and many thousands of them would endure great pain and suffering, some may even lose their lives. Let’s not pretend that some version of these are not a logical and expected outcomes. However, far from being a call to relent and give ground to “necessary evils,” this is a call to the church to step up and let faith be demonstrated by action. Consider some of the great triumphs of American history that were simultaneously overtly righteous and exceedingly painful. The abolition of slavery and the triumph of WWII come to mind. These were costly decisions that were blatantly righteous. More importantly, they were opportunities for godly men and women and the church to step into the void and to courageously go where God might lead and to act as God might call them, serving the afflicted and the oppressed.
So too is the moment before us. Now is our time. Christians everywhere must step-up, in an uncomfortable and sacrificial way, in the lives of those impacted by the changes in abortion laws. Young women in many communities need advocates and support networks and help with childcare, with access to flexible work, and encouragement completing their education. Young men need male role models exhorting them to take responsibility and ownership of their decisions and espousing the beauty of fatherhood. Pregnancy and crisis centers will need more counselors, advocates, volunteers, money, and support from our churches. And many, many more Christian families must be willing to be involved with foster care and adoption in their communities in even some of the most challenging situations (e.g., children with disabilities). In most affluent countries the ratio of abortions to adoptions is somewhere between 100:1 to 500:1. This cannot be the case for us. The church must heed the call of our Lord, seize the opportunity before us, and step into the void with unequivocal truth and self-sacrificial love. It will be costly. It must be costly.
“Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18
Finally, let’s not forget that the law cannot bring life, only Christ brings life. Just as the Mosaic law does not give life or change hearts, likewise the American courts and legal determinations cannot give life or change hearts. But the law is by design a guide for what is good and a visible deterrent of that which is wrong. The expected outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the overturning of Roe v. Wade will inevitably produce this type of consequential legal standard.
We cannot estimate how many people will decline to even consider having an abortion if they understand it to be illegal or dubious under the law. Or how many of those same people will ask clear and discerning questions about the value of life and the source of truth. Or the numbers of human lives that will be saved by limiting access. Or the activities and agendas of ungodly people that will be limited or muffled through the curbing of the work of organizations like Planned Parenthood. But by the power of God and the fervency of His people, the list of hopeful outcomes goes on and on. And standing above all of this, uniting and summarizing every good outcome, is the transcendent and paramount glory of God, who undoubtedly will receive the honor and praise.
Bryan Rigg is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Mercy PCA in Lynchburg, VA.