New Standard of Righteousness

Many Christians have adopted a new standard of righteousness in which abortion has become the greater sin even than grieving the Holy Spirit. They believe that the thousands of abortions being carried out each year is preventing God from blessing their nation. They believe that Christians should use their political power to make abortions illegal, so God will send revival again.

This is not an issue of whether abortion is sinful or not, but about the church setting it up as a great abomination. The strange thing about the hatred of abortion by the modern church is that the Bible is totally silent about it. Abortion is not directly mentioned once.

The Old Testament law gives detailed lists of crimes and specifies the correct punishments, but abortion is missing from these lists. Abortion is not mentioned in the ten commandments; a strange silence.

The prophets challenged Israel with detailed descriptions of the sins that were upsetting God, but they never mention women having abortions as the big obstacle. They never suggested that abortions be banned, so God's blessing could return, whereas they did complain about mistreatment of the poor. The prophets criticised people who offered their children as sacrifices, but these practices were significantly different from abortion, because the perpetrator, the age of the victims, the method and the seriousness of the outcome are all different. Babies and young children were tormented by being burned while alive and the sacrifice was directed towards a false god representing demonic powers, which exposed the nation to their spiritual dominance. Worse still, these sacrifices would usually have been managed by men.

John the Baptist called on the people to repent and turn from their sins, but he never mentioned abortion.

Jesus challenged the behaviour of the people listening to his preaching, but he never criticised any of the many women that he met for having had an abortion (although either the woman at the well with six husbands or the well-known sinner who anointed his feet quite likely had). Jesus did not condemn the sins of ordinary people, because he expected them to sin, and he knew his death and resurrection would be a solution to the mess they have made of their lives. He got stuck into the people who claimed to know God's will, but passed judgment on other people while continuing to sin themselves. Christians should note that God is far more upset by the sins of the church than by the sins of the world.

Paul gave detailed lists of behaviours that would keep people from entering the Kingdom of God. In 1 Cor 6:9-10, he mentions adulterers, thieves and drunkards, but he does not mention women having abortions, although they would have been common in Corinth. A final list of people who cannot enter the Kingdom of God is given in Revelation 21:8. Cowards, sorcerers and fornicators are listed, but there is no mention of women who have had an abortion.

It is odd to make abortion the worst possible sin when it is never mentioned in the Bible (not once). If God hated abortion as much as the church does, you would expect Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles to have frequently condemned it. Christians try to avoid this problem by describing it as murder. They speak frequently about "baby murder" even though that expression is not used in the Bible.

The problem with this way out is that the Bible defines murder quite precisely. We cannot claim that any death at the hand of another human is murder. Killing a thief who has broken into a house during the night is not murder (Exodus 22:2). People who kill soldiers attacking their community are not guilty of murder. God put clear boundaries around what constitutes murder, so we cannot decide a murder has occurred without reference to his standards. Since abortion is not specifically mentioned in the scriptures, it can only be defined as murder by a deductive process that people can disagree about. If abortion is the sin that offends God more than any other, we would expect him to have specified it more clearly in his definition of murder.

Many of the Christians who hate abortion are ambivalent the thousands of children who have died as a consequence of their nations economic sanctions or their bombs being dropped on their schools and communities. This lack of concern about the violent consequences of continuing, but pointless, military adventures is hypocritical. The scriptures condemn military attacks on civilians, but these requirements are ignored by the Christians who hate abortion. They seem to be more concerned about unborn children in their own nation than they are about the suffering and deaths of children living in other nations.

Pharisee Issue

Abortion has become a "Pharisee issue" for many Christians because it allows them to focus on sins that Christians don't do, and ignore the sins of Christians that really hinder the advance of the Kingdom of God.

I am a male, so I have never been in a position where I needed an abortion. None of the women I am close to have ever thought about having an abortion. That means that I am not in the place where I have the right to judge those that do.

A single girl belongs to a Church when she gets pregnant is in a totally different situation from a girl in the bad end of town who finds she is pregnant to a man that she now realises is a loser. The girl in the church has a chance to make something of her life, whereas the latter doesn't. I don't have the right to judge her from where I stand. I don't have the right to judge a woman who gets beaten by her partner and finds that she is pregnant with a fifth child that she cannot afford after he forced himself on her.

I have observed that in many of these situations, the male walks away relatively unscathed, while the woman carries most of the scars. So it is odd that many of the organisations that fight against abortion are led by men.

The Pharisee stood and looked at the man who had sinned and thanked God that he had not committed the sins that the man had done. But he had never needed to commit those sins because he was rich. Jesus condemned him because he was totally blind to his own sin. Looking at other people and condemning their sins is a good way to make us feel better about ourselves, but it is hypocritical.

I believe that aborted babies go straight to be with Jesus, which is not a bad outcome for many of them. This means that abortion is really a self-punishing sin, so the people who suffer the most are the guilty women who had the abortions, and sometimes the people who have conducted them.

I don't think God is that worried about "their sin". He expects the world to sin. He is far more worried about "our sin", the sins of the church that hold back the advance of the kingdom of God.

Abortion is not a new problem. With virile young Roman soldiers wandering around the countryside, I presume plenty of young Jewish girls got pregnant, some willingly and others by force. No doubt some would have found a way of having an abortion to avoid the shame of carrying the baby of Gentile. However, there is no record of Jesus challenging the abortionists who operated in the towns he visited. He concentrated his criticism on unrighteous wealth and using the law to make people miserable.

The woman who anointed Jesus feet with precious oil in the house of a Pharisee was a well-known sinner (Luke 7:36-50). She had most likely been a prostitute, which would likely mean that at some time she had needed and obtained an abortion. Jesus did not condemn her by pointing out her bad sins, but told her that her sins were forgiven. Instead, he criticised the Pharisee's lack of hospitality and hypocrisy.

Deep Cultural Issue

Most Christians realise that abortion is a terrible sin. Some get really stirred up about it, but this prevents them from seeing the real issues affecting their nation. Abortion is not a legal issue, but a manifestation of a much deeper spiritual malaise. Something is seriously wrong with the spirit of a nation when many young women feel compelled to destroy their future (their children).

Prophetic people are wasting energy when they attempt to make abortion illegal, because banning abortion deals with the symptoms of the problem, but does not change the underlying cause that is rooted deep in the culture. The prophetic task is to expose the cracks in the heart of the nations that are manifesting through abortion. The solution is not a change in the law, but deep-seated repentance, a renewed world view, and powerful healing by God.

Prior to the 1960s, most young people lived with their families and were always chaperoned when single boys and girls were together. This reduced the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies, but the system was not perfect. Some girls were pressured into getting married, or giving the baby up for adoption, and few chose to have an abortion.

Towards the end of the 1950s, a dramatic social change took place.

These social changes created unprecedented sexual freedom.

A sexual revolution that followed gave young men and women much greater freedom to engage in sexual activities. Most young people welcomed the change. However, if things went wrong, it was the girls who were left holding the baby, sometimes literally. It is well-documented that single mothers have lower living standards than other young women, and their children suffer, too.

The sexual revolution was a two-sided revolution. Men gained sexual benefits, with very few costs. Women gained freedom too, but if things went wrong, they had to carry the can.

To deal with these problems, abortion laws were relaxed, and it became the standard way to deal with the problem. However, this was putting an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. It dealt with the unwanted pregnancies, but it did not deal with the real problem, which was the new social freedom and the casual sexual practices that went with it.

Now, there is widespread political pressure to tighten the abortion laws again, but again that does not deal with the underlying problem caused by the social and sexual revolution. It is an attempt at using law to deal with a social and moral problem.

The political pressure to ban abortion laws does not deal with the underlying problem caused by the social and sexual revolution. Using law to deal with a social and moral problem is pointless. I am not in favour of abortion, but trying to ban it is dealing with the symptoms while ignoring the deeper underlying problem in modern society.

Christians should be thinking about better ways of living in society that would keep young people, and particularly young woman, safe. That would require a radical change in the way we live. I suspect that most men are not willing to pay that price. It is easier to change the law and keep the benefits of the sexual revolution.

Silent on Adultery

In contrast to their rage against abortion, Christians have gone silent about the adultery and casual sexual relationships that have become common in our culture. No one is saying that these must be eliminated before we can receive God's blessing.

Reading the Old and New Testaments, the sins that stand out as upsetting God the most are adultery and sexual immorality. Adultery is specified in the Ten commandments, as a serious crime. The penalty is the same as for murder (although it was never intended to be enforced because adultery is so common amongst sinful people). The sin of adultery is also condemned frequently in the New Testament. The ultimate manifestation of evil in the book of Revelation is described as an adulterous bride.

Given the silence about abortion in the scriptures and the frequent condemnation of adultery, it is odd that Christians are so strident against abortion, but seem to be ambivalent about adultery. When church leaders, including prophets, commit adultery (as happens frequently these days) they are set aside for a while but are usually quickly restored to a prominent place.

I can't help wondering if the reason for this distortion is that abortion is a woman's sin, whereas adultery is man's sin. This double standard is not surprising in a church culture that requires women to submit to the dominance of men. It is natural that the sins of women will be amplified and the sins of men minimised.

The irony is that abortion is the outcome of other sins. Most abortions are the consequence of adultery or casual sexual relationships. I am sure that God is more concerned about the men who engage in careless adulterous or casual sexual activity than he is about the unloved and abandoned women who choose to have an abortion because they believe their situation is desperate.

I presume that God is not so angry about abortion as many in the church is that aborted babies go straight to be with him. This is not a bad outcome for most of them, so abortion is really a self-punishing sin in that those who suffer the most are the guilty women who had the abortions, and sometimes the people who have conducted them. They carry their own burden, so they do not need further condemnation by the church.

Abortion has become a hot-button issue for Christians, but they do not seem to care so much about adultery and divorce, which have become rampant in the church, even amongst pastors. The prevalence of divorce in the church shows that that sexual revolution is deeply entrenched amongst Christians, despite their horror at abortion. Divorce and abortion are both symptoms of the sexual revolution. Both are sinful, but Christian attitudes to the two issues are very different, which is a bit hypocritical.

Salvation by Law

Some of the greatest pressure to change abortion laws comes from Christians. They say that they live under grace, not under the law. They agree that laws cannot change human hearts. Yet in this situation, they are demanding changes in the law to solve a social problem, which they know the law cannot achieve. History shows that salvation by law does not work, especially when the culture is still going the other way (Casual sex is still the norm on popular television shows and films and Christians watch them without realising what they are absorbing).

Rather than using law, which is a very blunt instrument, they should be wondering why society changed so much at a time when the church was supposedly strong. Using laws to outlaw behaviours that we do not like is "salvation by law". Christians know that salvation by law does not work, and they do not believe in it, so it does not make sense that they are trying to use political power to bring social change. Advocating salvation by law is wasted effort because it will not eliminate the need for abortions in a culture that has adopted sexual freedom.

The church has an amazing gospel, and the Holy Spirit. These together are far more effective for bringing social change. The gospel can transform human lives and society. The gospel and the Spirit are effective tools for changing lives and transforming society. They deal with causes, rather than just suppressing the symptoms.

People who think that legally banning abortion would bring the Kingdom of God closer do not really understand the nature of the Kingdom of God. God wants people to freely do his will because they love him, not because they are forced to obey with threats of retribution. Using threats of punishment to prevent abortion is not the way of God's Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God will only come when parents no longer see pregnancy as a disaster due to their faith in Jesus and hope for the future inspired by the Holy Spirit. It will come when men and women freely stop engaging in irresponsible sexual activity because they love Jesus and walk in the love peace and joy of the Spirit. Abortion will only disappear when every pregnant woman feels loved and supported by a husband and a wider community. The best way to bring about these changes is to preach the gospel of Jesus. This will not be helped by condemning women who have abortions or trying to ban them.