ROE VS WADE
Last week, I gave a bit of a spoiler alert and told you that this morning I was going look at how we, as Christians, respond to the United States Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe vs. Wade. I think it’s important to talk about this in the church because we need consider how best to respond faithfully to this hot button issue.
But before we start, let’s ground our thoughts in Scripture. I’d like to share Galatians 6:7-10 which says:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 1 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
The lesson of this passage is not difficult to understand. There are really two basic teachings here. The first one is highlighted in verse 7 which says that a person reaps what they sow. If you sow good seeds you will reap a good harvest. But if you sow bad seeds it might come back to bite you. The other teaching is found in verse 9 which reminds us to never be weary of doing good. In other words, seek to do the right thing always. Let’s examine both of these in a bit more detail.
REAPING WHAT YOU SOW
Let’s start with people reaping what they sow. I don’t think that is any truer then with the issue of abortion. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade the seeds that have been sown through the media and through social media are seeds of division. There has been a concerted attempt to line people up on one side of the issue or the other. People are being asked to take sides. You are either for abortions or you are against abortions. You are either in favour of a woman’s right to choose or you are against it. You are either pro-life or you are pro-choice. There is no middle ground. There are no gray areas. We are being asked to choose sides and take our stands.
The seeds of division that have been sown into our society have taken root and began to bear fruit. But the fruit is not good fruit. The fruit of seeds of division end up being divisive and that is rotten fruit. Society is polarized. People line up, one side against the other. There are protests and counter protests. There is violence in the streets. Churches have been vandalized. Pregnancy clinics have been attacked. The homes of Supreme Court justices and their families have been targeted. And that’s not to let one side off the hook. In the past there have been lots of attacks on and protests at abortion clinics and Planned Pregnancy centres across the US. But this just goes to show the severity of the divide.
I think I can say quite unequivocally that this is not of God. Our God is not a God of division and discord. Our God is a God of peace who desires harmony in his creation and among his people. But when seeds of division are sown, we should not be surprised if division is the fruit that follows.
But what of the other teaching, that we should not weary of doing good? What does that even mean right now and how do we ever hope to achieve it?
The only way to counteract the seeds of division are to sow seeds of peace. That’s important to note because just as the fruit of the seeds of division are division, the fruit of the seeds of peace are peace. And how do we sow seeds of peace? We sow them by never becoming weary of doing good because, as we read in Galatians, if we continue to do this, we will reap a good harvest.
But what does it mean to do good in this situation? I think it begins by being discerning and being careful to find out the facts in this case. I’ve mentioned before my concern that the media is often biased and dishonest in its reporting. Or to paraphrase Mark Twain: “If you don’t listen to the media you are uniformed. If you do listen to it, you are misinformed.” I don’t think that is anymore true than in the reporting of Roe vs. Wade. There has been a lot if misinformation put out there and sometimes it’s hard to know what to believe and what not to believe.
I’m not a lawyer so confess that I might be wrong about this but I don’t think I am. But if I am wrong, please let me know because it’s important to understand what the Supreme Court ruling did and what it did not do. First of all, what did it not do? It did not ban abortions. It did not criminalize abortions which means that women are not going to be put in jail for getting abortions although abortions providers could be charged if they break the law.
That being said, what did the Supreme Court ruling do? It said that there is no federal constitutional right to abortion in the United States because abortion is a health care issue and health care falls under state jurisdiction not federal jurisdiction. The natural outcome of that decision means that, while abortions are still legal and available in the US, access may vary depending on the individual states. That, I believe, is a fair summary of what the Supreme Court decision means for our American sisters and brothers. But again, if I am wrong on that, let’s have a conversation so that we are all better informed.
Interestingly, what overturning Roe vs. Wade did was bring American law much closer to the situation here in Canadian. You might be surprised to learn that there is also no legal right to abortions under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And abortion in Canada, as a health care issue, is under provincial not federal jurisdiction. Each of those provinces manages abortions differently. What is odd to me is that so many Canadians are up in arms about Roe vs. Wade when we have a very similar situation in Canada.
My concern about this type of information is not being shared in the media. Media coverage is being presented in such a way that it causes great divisions both in the US and even here across the border in Canada. So now, more than ever, we have this great gulf that exists between two warring factions. The seeds of division have grown fruits of division and disunity.
How do we get past this as a society? How do we sow seeds of unity and peace that will bring people together even on this issue? I think it begins by having honest conversations with one another about what we believe. When I say honest, I mean conversations in which we really listen to what the other person has to say and seek to understand why they believe what they believe. That is a very rare things these days when we are far more used to people shouting at one another as they seek not understanding but rather to win the fight.
If conversation is the place to start, then let me begin. As you know, I don’t normally speak about my own political or social leanings from the pulpit because I think it is inappropriate to do so because while I am up here I am speaking from a place of power. But I’m going to risk breaking that rule today in the hopes of getting the conversation started.
So where do I stand on abortion? I’m going to be very clear about two things. First, my default position is that I am pro-life. What I mean by that is that I believe that life begins at conception. I believe that at conception an entirely new life is formed with its own unique genetics and potentials and there will never again be another one like it. I believe that all life is sacred and needs to be treated with dignity and respect. I believe that this position is supported in Scripture. That’s the first thing I believe. That is my default position.
The second thing that I believe, however, is that women should have access to safe abortions which, I suppose, also means that I am pro-choice. I realize that that will confuse some people who have been led to believe that the two positions of pro-life and pro-choice are incompatible. But they aren’t. I saw a Facebook post the other night where one of my friends said that just because he is pro-choice, that does not mean that he is pro-abortion. I replied that just because I am pro-life, that does not mean that I am anti-abortion. While my default position is pro-life, I also understand that there are times when abortion might be the best option and I need to be open to that.
The other interesting thing is that, when I actually sit down and talk with people face to face – not on social media – I find that most people can accept my position. In fact, most people I’ve spoken with actually agree with me but you’d never know it from the way this is portrayed in the media.
Let me try to explain my position in more detail. What I have discovered over my years of talking about this issue is that there are actually very few people on the extremes. What I mean by that is that there are very few people who think that all abortions should illegal and there are very few people who think that every abortion should be allowed. Most people are somewhere in between.
For example, even the most radical pro-lifer will admit that there are times when abortion is the preferred option. There are very few people who would deny a woman an abortion if her physical life is in danger. While I’m pretty sure there are people who might take that position, I’m pretty sure that they are a tiny minority. Lots of pro-lifers would also not force a woman to carry a baby if she was pregnant due to rape or incest. Another reason where most people would agree with abortion is if the baby is horribly deformed and not viable outside the womb. Why force a woman to carry that child? Remember I’m just throwing examples out there. You can agree or disagree with them. My point is simply that even most pro-lifers will allow abortions in certain circumstances.
At the same time, I have met very few pro-choice advocates who will say that there should be no restrictions on abortions. Even the most ardent feminists will usually admit that it is wrong to abort a baby just because it is female. Can you imagine the great hue and cry that would arise if a woman wanted to have an abortion because her baby was homosexual or transgender? I say that knowing that there is no such test available but, if there was, having an abortion because of the sexual orientation of the baby would be repugnant to most of us and rightly so.
I say all of this just to emphasize that most of are not at the extremes on this issue. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. Our middle ground may be different but, for most of us, we have a lot more in common that we’ve been led to believe by the media. For most of us, this is not a black and white debate. It is highly nuanced and if, as Christians, we are to seek the good and find peace, we need to understand those nuances. We do that by having honest conversations with one another.
WHERE ARE WE HEADED?
So where are the Americans heading on this issue? That’s a really good question. Right now, abortion is back in the hands of the individual states and each of those states has the option of drafting its own abortion laws. Some of those states will maintain the status quo. Others will be more restrictive and limit abortions to a certain number of weeks of gestation. The Mississippi law that sparked the overturning of Roe vs Wade set the limit at fifteen weeks. Still others will be too restrictive and try to severely restrict abortions. This should not be surprising because when a pendulum swings back, it often goes further than it should before returning to the centre.
So, the question for us as Christians becomes how do we sow seeds of goodness and peace into war torn environments? Maybe we begin by looking at those parts of the world that have found relative peace on this issue. What we sometimes don’t understand is that the abortion debate is a very American phenomenon. This debate does not rage in most of the world because most other countries have already found the middle ground that most people find reasonable.
This is because in most other countries there is a balance between a woman’s right to a safe abortion and the need for reasonable restrictions. This applies to most major countries in Europe where abortions are legal. But in most countries there are limits. Most countries allow abortion on demand in the first trimester. After that various countries have different laws. In Belgium, Norway and Switzerland, abortion on demand is legal for up to twelve weeks. In France it is fifteen weeks, Sweden eighteen weeks and Great Britain twenty-four weeks. While there are a few tiny countries where abortions are almost banned, the only major country in Europe with restrictive abortion laws in Poland.
That, by the way, is also the situation in Canada. While we do not have any abortion laws per se, each province or the medical associations within those provinces has restricted abortions to a certain number of weeks. They range from twelve weeks in the Nunavut and Yukon Territories to twenty-four weeks in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
Most of the world has other reasonable restrictions. For example, generally abortions need to be performed in an approved facility by a qualified person which I think we can all agree just makes sense.
All of this is to say that this is where I suspect the Americans are heading when it comes to abortions. Will everyone agree with these laws? No, they won’t. There will always be people on the fringes but, as I’ve already said most people are not on the extremes. In fact, what studies consistently show is that while the majority of Americans agree that abortions should be legal and accessible, they also tend to agree that there should be reasonable restrictions. Again, those surveys are available and you can easily find them online.
The good news is that most people are somewhere in the middle and it is that middle ground that we need to explore. It is that middle ground where we can sow seeds of peace and goodness.
There is one more thing I want to say. One of the reasons why some women seek abortion services is because they aren’t sure they can afford to raise their child. That is also where the church can come in. If society as a whole wants to put restrictions on abortions than society must be willing to support the women who are unable to obtain abortions for whatever reason.
This is especially true for the church. It brings to mind James 2:15-17 (NIV) which says:
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
These verses relate very well to the issue abortion. They are about how we respond to people in need. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes or daily food” can easily be replaced by, “Suppose a mother is without diapers or formula for her baby,” The rest of the passage falls into place, “If one of you says to her, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
In James 2:18 (NIV) it goes on to say this: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” In other words, if we want to be faithful we need to be willing to support mothers who decided to keep their babies with the things that they need to raise their children.
It begs the question, what kind of faith do we have. Do we have a living faith or do we have a dead faith? Do we just say all of the right words or do we put those words into action by doing things that make a difference.
That’s my challenge to you today. Is this something that we can do? Can we partner with and support another organization that is already doing this? Is there another organization doing it? I don’t know. Maybe someone should find out. In doing so, we might just be planting good seeds that will lead to a good an abundant harvest,
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of All Creation, your Spirit flows around us reminding us of your love and care for even the least of your creatures. We give thanks that you are as close as a prayer. When life seems to be too much to bear, your hand reaches out to us offering hope and help and healing. We give thanks for all of your precious gifts.
Thank you for the hope that you give to us in the difficult times of life. Regardless of how hopeless or unsolvable our circumstances may appear, you can enter in and change things for the better. Strengthen our faith and help us to believe every hope, every possibility, and every promise that you have made.
Summer is here and the activities of the season are upon us. We are grateful for cool swims in clear lakes, trails and roads upon which to ride our bikes, early morning fishing and refreshing evenings spent on the front porch. We pray, especially, for the new federal government in Ottawa. We pray for better, more responsible government and justice and fairness for all people.
On this Canada Day weekend, we give thanks for the freedoms that we enjoy and for those who work hard to preserve our way of life. Enable us, as a nation, to be beacon of hope to those seeking justice and peace.
We pray for the Kyiv Home Project as we look towards putting shovels in the ground later this month. We are so grateful for all of the support that we have received. We also pray for the people of Ukraine as seek an end to this needless war. We pray for an end of violence and the pursuit of peace.
We pray for those who are sick at home or in hospital, especially Carol, Ron, Mark, Rachel and Hazel. Grant them your peace and your healing presence.
Holy God, we know that all life is valuable in your sight. We are grateful that your love and compassion are limitless and unconditional. When we are faced with difficult decisions or situations, help us to remember that you are always ready to help offering guidance, strength, patience and wisdom. You provide the example of how we should treat others. Keep us faithful as you are faithful. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
July 3, 2022 / Pentecost 4 / Proper 9
2 Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20; Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
CALL TO WORSHIP
ONE: Let us praise the one who lifts us up;
who carries us above our worries
and takes our burdens from our shoulders.
ALL: The glory of God is shining around us. Alleluia!
ONE: Come, let us worship.
We come, God of Life, seeking the hope that you make possible this day. Your love surrounds us in ways too numerous to count and too strong for us to comprehend. In that love there is also your challenge to us to daily walk closer to your way. In our worship, we ask for a fresh breath of your Spirit that our lives may be renewed with dreams and visions of a brighter tomorrow. Your Word is life and we call upon that Word to fulfill our deepest yearning. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Blessed Jesus, we thank you for your sacrifice that made it possible for all people to be renewed in their relationship with you. You abolished the barriers that once separated us from your Holy Presence. Forgive us when we, your people, erect walls of conflict that divide ourselves from one another. In the midst of separation, help us to be ministers of your love and healing to all people. Enable our lives to reflect the same forgiving and reconciling Spirit that you have shown towards us. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
In a world of strife and anger, there is a calming Spirit that hovers over the face of the earth. The Spirit of Christ reminds us of the power of God’s amazing forgiveness which is able to overcome the deepest and darkest sins of our lives. When we confess our sins, we are redeemed and made new in the cleansing blood of Jesus.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
What could we give that would adequately convey our need of you? What could we provide that is not already from you? Your generosity is beyond our need. May all of our lives and resources be set aside for the sharing of your Good News. Amen.
Jesus died as he lived – with great passion. Go now, and live with that passion. May our lives and our actions proclaim the Gospel which is for all Creation.