Pro-Life Belief; Pro-Choice Behavior
For the first ten years of my Christian life, I was internally “pro-life,” but externally “pro-choice.” I believed abortion was wrong, I voted like abortion was wrong, but I lived as if it were no big deal. At the heart of my indifference was the idea that combating abortion is not a kingdom priority. Abortion is a political issue… It’s not my calling... Why should I waste my time trying to moralize unbelievers? All of these excuses came crashing down on a Saturday morning in Nashville, when the story of the Good Samaritan was opened to me in a new light. Gregg Cunningham, the executive director for The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, was in town for a one-day seminar. My mom knew Gregg and wanted me to meet him. The trip I had scheduled for the weekend fell through. The tiny Baptist church hosting the event was a few blocks from my apartment. So I went. In fact, I was almost the only one who went, but the sparseness of that gathering has been a frequent source of encouragement ever since. Gregg could have packed it in and not bothered with such a small crowd. But he didn’t. And here I am. Central to his presentation was the story of the Good Samaritan—a story originally prompted by an extremely significant question: “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”8 When a lawyer asks this of Christ, Jesus asks him what is written in the Law. When the lawyer asks who his neighbor is, Jesus tells him the story of the Good Samaritan:
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”9
Who is my neighbor? The nameless, unconscious, socially-despised stranger on the brink of death. What does it mean to love him? To physically intervene on his behalf, even if it cost time, money, safety and prestige. Jesus builds his narrative on “neighbors” so different, so detached, so disconnected, that it becomes impossible to classify anyone as a non-neighbor. And though it is a relatively extreme example, it illustrates how far a genuine love for your neighbor is willing to go. When we understand the story of the Good Samaritan, not as an extraordinary act of kindness, but as an application of normal, neighborly love in extraordinary circumstances, we’re on the right track. But it still won’t hit us like it should if we demonize the priest and Levite. When you view them as self-absorbed villains, it’s much easier to escape conviction. When you see them as normal, busy, distracted people, the story hits much closer to home.
Jesus doesn’t tell us what the priest and Levite were thinking, but it’s unlikely that these spiritual icons were so hard hearted that they could look on a beaten countryman without feeling compassion. Nor is it hard to imagine the excuses that probably went through their heads. I’m on my way to the Synagogue… I can’t become ceremonially unclean… Mercy ministries aren’t my calling… I’m not a doctor… Someone else will help… I might be attacked and robbed myself… He’s probably dead already… I’ll pray for him as I go. Having used variants of these same excuses, I’m well aware how reasonable they sound in the moment. But Jesus makes it clear that feeling compassion and showing compassion are entirely different things. It doesn’t matter what they felt, it matters what they did. Since they did nothing, they stand condemned.
At some point in his talk, Gregg asserted that most Christians are responding to abortion in the same way the priest and Levite responded to the beaten man in the street. They feel bad but pass the victims by. His assessment was certainly true of me. Like so many others, I thought mental opposition to abortion was enough. As long as I knew it was wrong and didn’t endorse abortion myself, that was all I was accountable for. But what is the underlying warning in this passage? It’s not what we feel; it’s what we do. We can act without love,10 but we cannot love without acting. Loving your neighbor is not a special calling; it’s a response to those in need around you. And it’s worth noting that the hero in this story was not wandering around looking for someone to help. He was on his way somewhere else, but he stopped to help a neighbor in need.
How does this story connect to abortion? The parallels are many. Just like the man left for dead in the street, children threatened by abortion are utterly helpless. If someone doesn’t intervene, they will die. They have no capacity to communicate or ask for help. They are socially-marginalized strangers in a culture programmed not to care about them. And just like the people passing by on the Jericho road, we may be innocent of the crime, but Jesus still expects us to intervene. The violence of abortion is not as visible as a man lying beaten in the street, but it surrounds us every day. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Christ teaches us the significance of the insignificant. Even a nameless stranger on the brink of death is worth our time, labor, and love.
8 Luke 10:25
9 Luke 10:30-37
10 I Corinthians 13:3
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. You can also find him on Facebook and Google+. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.