“I have a question for you,” my friend said, seizing upon a lull in the lunch conversation. “What would you say to a friend who came up to you and said 'I'm going to have an abortion?'”
The question hung in the air for a moment, and all eyes turned towards the person to whom it was addressed – a confident freshman who had carved out a place in his class as the defender of the Calvinist Orthodoxy. He shot back a response we expected, “I'd tell her it was murder, and that it was a sin.”
“Hm,” my friend replied -- one of those matter-of-fact, short, and pointed verbal pauses that communicate more than a word ever could. It was obvious he was not pleased.
Justice and Redemption
I asked another friend the question during dinner.
“Well, she's likely turning to abortion because she feels trapped,” he said. “She feels scared, abandoned, and pressured. She feels if she can just have an abortion, things will stop, and go back to the way things were.”
But there is no going back. Things are different. A child has been brought into being, whatever objections there may be. Whether or not she decides to have an abortion, her life has already been changed.
“Instead of hammering into her head that it's sin, I'd try to communicate that the child is not a punishment, but redemption,” he continued.
Redemption. It carries with it the ideas of sin and salvation, law and gospel, love and justice. It brings to mind the words of Christ – “neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
It's a good line, I suppose, for someone who's gotten themselves into the quandary out of their own volition. But the tragic fact is that there are a lot of people who didn't ask to be in this situation. What are we to tell those who have just lived through the horror of rape, or who have been abused by someone who ought to have protected them, and who is now pressuring them to cover it up?
But as we talked, I realized that the theme of redemption is about more than just the forgiveness of sins. Redemption, after all, is the narrative theme that holds all of history together. It's found at the centerpiece of reality – the Incarnation – where God not only descends to us, but also draws us up to him. It's about pulling us up out of the depths, whatever miry clay we've found ourselves in, and setting our feet on a rock. It is about taking that which is evil and turning it into good.
And that is something that only a miracle can accomplish. Fortunately, God has provided a miracle, in that mysterious, otherworldly experience of bringing a new person – the image of God – into existence.
It's difficult to figure out how to answer an abstract question posed by an abstract friend in an abstract situation. But since I've posed it, I suppose I'll try.
Listen. Ask questions. Seek understanding. Communicate God's love. Declare God's law when necessary, but always point back to redemption. Point back to the infinite mystery and wonder of a brand new person.
Picture by Andrés Nieto Porras (see Wiki)