Dear Ulster Christian, I mourn with you.
As an Ulster man living exiled (joke) in England I keep updated and continue to pray for our country. I am grieved to hear of the decision to legalise the killing of unborn bearers of the image of God.
However, at such times, instead of responding in Christlikeness, there is the temptation to respond in less than gracious ways. I want to encourage you to search your heart in all of this. We Ulster folk have a history and tendency to lose our cool easily (or is it just me?).
In Luke 9v52-56 James and John wanted to send fire down from heaven on a Samaritan village that rejected Christ, remember? And what was His response? He rebuked them. Christ had come to save, not destroy. Scripture makes it clear that it is not our business to judge outsiders, that is God’s responsibility (1 Corinthians 5v12-13).
1. Be Angry but Not Hateful
Yes, be angry at murder. Be angry at the slaughter of innocent lives. God is angry. God hates the shedding of innocent blood. God hates all injustice and cruelty. It is right to be angry, but it isn’t right to be hateful. We are commanded to love our enemies. We are commanded to love the lost. When Paul wrote to Timothy he urged him to teach with gentleness and with the hope that people would repent as they come to the knowledge of the truth.
Our cry is that the baby is a human, a bearer of the image of God, and should be valued. The truth is, the baby in the womb, the woman seeking abortion, the doctor involved, each of them are image of God. Each of them, then, are to be treated with respect and worth, dignity and value. We must show that in how we treat every human. Yes, call it what it is. Yes, speak up. But do so in a gracious, kind, Christlike way. Be patient. Be careful about name calling. Be careful about responding in the flesh and not in the Spirit. Be careful online as you share your thoughts and respond to comments.
2. Be Truthful but Not Prideful
Abortion is murder. Scripture is clear about the nature and value of the unborn. Scripture is clear about the slaughter of innocent life. We must be certain and clear about this.
However, as with all truth, we must hold it with humility and not pride. Remember that every one of us was a slave of sin before Christ rescued us - “such were some of you”. Romans 1 doesn’t just describe the world around us; it describes us before we were rescued by Christ, it shows us what we could have been if Christ hadn’t transformed us (consider also Titus 3v3).
According to scripture, an unbeliever is blind in sin, enslaved to sin and condemned by sin. Scripture teaches that they hate the light, that they hate God, that they hate righteousness, that they hate the people of God. But Scripture also teaches that we were once such people before the gospel transformed us. We are no better than those who are for abortion.
3. Be Broken but not Discouraged
Mourn. Weep. Grieve. But do so with hope. There was abortion in the time of Christ, Paul and the Early Church. There is nothing new under the sun. Slavery, idolatry, sexual sin; these were all common in the day of the Early Church. What did they do?
They didn’t trust in legislation and politicians. They believed in the proclamation of the gospel. They believed that Christ was mighty to save and that when He saved, He saved to the uttermost. They believed that when a person trusted in Christ they were completely transformed into new creatures who would treat other human beings with love, grace and mercy.
Paul and the Early Church turned the world upside without walking on one march, without casting one vote, without signing one petition, without changing one profile picture on facebook, without writing one letter to a politician.
By all means, do these things, by all means, continue to defend the lives of the unborn. But don't let these things be a replacement of the proclamation of the transforming gospel message.
Perhaps we are asking for the fruit of Christianity without the roots of it. We want the lost world around us to have biblical views on marriage, sex, abortion without the lost world around us coming to know and love Christ.
Perhaps we are trying to legislate morality on the outside without doing the internal gospel work of declaring redemption to immoral people.
Perhaps we have trusted, for too long, in our culture and our politics and lost our selves in a false sense of security that all is well in our wee country.
Perhaps we have gotten distracted by our "flegs", our secondary doctrines, our traditions, our separation to the point that we are not doing the main work of the church in being salt and light.
Have we been salt and light in our communities and estates? Have we graciously and humbly served our neighbour and our enemy? Have we clearly and lovingly shared the good news of Christ?
Have we proudly considered ourselves better than the lost and looked down upon them? Have we happily attended our church meetings, sang our hymns, listened to our sermons and then carried on with our lives without considering the world of darkness around us? Have we cloistered ourselves in with Christian friends without seeking to befriend, love, serve and bring the gospel to the unsaved?
As you weep, love the lost, pray for the lost, serve the lost, bring the gospel to the lost.
May this sad part of Northern Irish history be a rousing wake up call to get back to the gospel message, without our cultural, traditional and political trappings attached,
I pray with you.
Alan Campbell is from Belfast, Northern Ireland.