With the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, “pro-life” Christians in America grew increasingly hopeful that the high court will overturn Roe v. Wade. This can be a complicated subject, but as someone who believes that striving to give a voice to the most vulnerable human beings (those in utero) is undoubtedly a worthwhile cause, and who has seen people struggle with the devastating aftermaths of an abortion, I would welcome such a development. For “pro-life” Christians in America, this would be a long-awaited and hard-fought victory. However, as worthwhile as it is to protect the rights of unborn children, the church’s call to be truly pro-life—to help God’s image bearers flourish—extends far beyond opposing abortion.
Does the church’s responsibility for protecting life cease once a child is out of the womb? The harsh reality is that while Christians in America have been vocal and active against abortion, we have been noticeably silent in areas that involve caring for disadvantaged individuals in our society. In his book The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark attributes some of the Church’s growth in the early centuries to the powerful witness of Christians who risked their lives to take care of the sick in times of plague. Whether these arguments are valid or not, it’s a sad truth that many Christians today run the risk of being perceived more as people who are more against abortion than they are loving the unwed mother.
Why have American Christians seemingly focused on abortion while remaining so silent about pursuing care for those children born into hard situations? I believe the answer is straightforward yet indicting: one is a lot easier to do than the other. One involves a tweet, a debate, a vote, which allows for engagement from a safe distance while the other involves a personal engagement requiring a sacrifice of time, finances, and heart. The other, as Rosaria Butterfield writes in her book The Gospel Comes with a House Key, involves opening up our home and giving up comforts and conveniences to turn our “castle into an embassy.” Embracing a holistic view of a flourishing life requires hard work and sacrifice on a personal, direct level. It involves working in messy situations and oftentimes serving those who look very different, hold opposing religious and political viewpoints, and reside in other socio-economic circles. The pro-life tweets and rally attendees are legion, yet the few crisis-pregnancy centers doing the good work of reaching those in need continue to beg for volunteers and funding to keep their doors open.
A truly pro-life church understands that brokenness is not just someone else’s undesired pregnancy. It understands that brokenness pervades every facet of our lives and world; that everyone is equally broken but in different ways. It obliges broken image bearers move toward other broken image bearers for the sake of mutual flourishing through all of life, to walk humbly and lovingly alongside brokenness from conception to death. It means coming alongside the woman with an unplanned pregnancy for the sake of caring for all the lives involved, not just the unborn one. As followers of Christ, we do not have the option of simply believing that killing babies in the womb is wrong, but that walking away from that life after birth or walking away from the woman even if she chooses an abortion is acceptable. We need to be convicted and convinced that it is also wrong to ignore the brokenness and despair of those in need as it is to ignore the dysfunction and perversion that permeates 21st century society. We need to confess and repent of making our lives and homes safe and sacred places where even true religion cannot penetrate.
Our God is clear about his heart for the broken and suffering. The apostle John stated “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). The writer to the Hebrew church admonished them to not neglect to show hospitality to strangers (Heb. 13:1-2), and Peter exhorted them to extend hospitality without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). Paul reminded Timothy to not neglect widows in the daily distribution of food, and Jesus himself said to the disciples that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him (Matt. 25:34-46). Throughout Scripture we see a transcendent God who draws intimately close to a suffering and hurting people. He enters our hard, lonely, and devastated places to offer peace, help, and salvation, coupling love with action. He is not a God of merely talk and ease, and he promises throughout Scripture to provide refuge, help, and comfort to the vulnerable, the oppressed, the lonely, and the fatherless. Ultimately, he fulfilled his promises and provided for our utter need through the sacrifice of his son, and that is what grounds and motivates our service to others—we care about all human life, in all stages and phases, because Christ has cared for us. It is because of his love and care that we are free to obey the Scriptural admonition to care for the vulnerable, oppressed, and marginalized, and it is through that ordinary, humble obedience of his people, the body of Christ, “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23), and through which God reveals his manifold wisdom.
We must couple our love with action, draw close to those in need, enter into messy situations. The local church must act not from a place of guilt and shame, or worse, superiority and self-righteousness (which will inevitably hurt both the helped and the helpers), but rather humility. True faith, as we see throughout Scripture and history, is consistently manifested in one’s concern and care for those in need (James 2:14).
There are many things the Church can do it its pro-life work, in addition to fighting for the lives of the unborn—here’s one: encourage your local churches to involve herself in the work of the local foster care system. It is a great sadness that there are over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system on any given day. Over 100,000 of these children are eligible for adoption and waiting for families. How many churches do we have in the United States? The math isn’t complex—we don’t need local churches to each care for hundreds of foster children, we just need them to consider caring for even one.
We need to break down the bulwarks we have placed around our homes and personal lives. This desire to care for the fatherless calls us to invite into our lives and homes strangers but fellow image bearers, beautifully and perfectly created by our good Father. Like any fallen image bearer, they will bring into your home pain, trouble, discomfort, inconvenience, and surrender of plans and dreams. It is hard work—as an adoptive mother, I experience and understand the hesitancy and fear in moving toward the difficult and uncertain, but if we truly believe that our homes and families have been given to us to steward well instead of making into a castle for our pleasure or comfort, then move we must.
Before we become too terrified by the magnitude of this task, let’s take encouragement in the fact that the local church is uniquely equipped for this difficult work. The local congregation already has the team of individuals and families to do the work of patiently, lovingly, and humbly walking alongside each foster child, orphan, or family in crisis. Their needs may involve childcare, transportation, counseling, encouragement and prayer, mentorship, job training, financial counseling, etc. Individuals and families in crisis are in crisis because there is not a simple solution to their problems. It needs the work of a whole church, not just an eager individual. I’m thankful to be involved in an organization in Northern Virginia called Project Belong, whose mission is to inspire, recruit, and resource churches and families to foster and adopt, in order to spread the love of Christ to children in crisis. Project Belong understands that the work of coming alongside a foster or adopted child involves so much more than just providing a home and family for a child in need. They want to help churches come around all the lives involved in that one child—the biological immediate and extended families, the foster families, the adoptive families, the social workers, etc. I hope all of us can join in this kind of work.
As believers, we have an eternity of rest and mansion-living that awaits us in the New City. Let’s not make our homes into castles where we fortify ourselves, but lower the drawbridge and use them as embassies and hospitals to serve the vulnerable and weak, the fatherless, the destitute, and the lonely. We cannot focus our pro-life efforts simply on overturning Roe v. Wade. In thankfulness for all the lives that have been saved through the church’s anti-abortion work, we need to move toward the born but fatherless and be for their shalom as well, until he makes all things new.
Bora Jin is a homeschooling stay-at-home mother. She is the Director of Mercy Ministry at NewCity Church in Falls Church, Virginia and co-founder of Project Belong. She and her husband have adopted two children and are in the process of welcoming a third.
This article was originally published at MR on April 18, 2019.