The following three sermons are intended as an example of a series of sermons which build upon each other to cover all seven steps of the JERICHO PLAN as previously outlined in the introduction. Because some people may not hear all three sermons, each sermon is also designed to stand on its own, at least in the sense of achieving two principal objectives: (1) establishing at the very beginning an attitude of understanding, compassion, and non-judgmentalism toward those who have been involved in abortion; and (2) in all cases building up hope that those who have been involved in abortion can be released from any shame or guilt which continues to hold them bound to their secret.
These sermons are meant only as examples of what can be done. Additional issues, topics, quotes, testimonies, and topic “bits” suitable for formulating your own sermons are provided in the following chapters.
(1) Increasing the congregation’s empathy and compassion for post-aborted women.
(2) Reducing the defensiveness of those involved in abortion and stimulating their desire to be understood.
(1) Approach the topic of abortion slowly so that by the time your listeners know what you are talking about, they already know that you are not seeking to condemn them.
(2) Build first on our general duty to avoid judging others, while maintaining the rightness of judging the objective moral content of specific acts.
(3) Clarify the distinction between objective evil and subjective culpability.
(4) Build a basis for understanding the many pressures women face which make abortion appear to be their “only choice.”
(5) Share a testimony so that everyone can empathize with why women feel pressured into abortion and how deeply they can suffer from it afterwards.
(6) Preview some of the emotional baggage carried by those who have been involved in abortion and suffered its detrimental effects on their lives.
(7) Close with an appeal for compassion and understanding so that, as a community, we can help to alleviate the powerful sense of shame which obstructs confession and healing.
“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” How often have we heard that warning? Yet it is such an easy one to forget, especially when another person’s sins seem to be so grievously wrong, so obviously wrong. Sometimes we can’t help but ask ourselves, “How could anyone do such a thing?”
It’s so easy to think that the sins of others are the result of a terrible selfishness, callousness, moral bankruptcy, or some deep flaw in their character. But if the truth were known, under the right circumstances, the right pressures, the right fears, we are all weak and susceptible to sin–even the gravest of sins.
“There but for the grace of God go I.” This is how we must look on those who committed sins which we abhor. We must look on them not with an air of superiority or condemnation, but with an attitude of humble sympathy, empathy, and compassion, being thankful to God that we have been spared their great trials and falls. In humility we must all remember that without the grace of God, each one of us is capable of any sin. If we have been spared knowing this sin or that, it is the grace of God alone which has protected us, not any virtuous excellence of our own character. We are all flawed. We all make bad judgments. We all make decisions in haste, ignorance, and confusion. We all have made bad decisions based not on moral reflection, but on the basis of emotions such as fear and despair.
Another reason we should not judge others is that we are in no position to judge their culpability, their personal responsibility for a sin. For example, stealing a man’s wallet is a grave sin which always offends God–that is, it is never approved by God. But if a young child, such as Dickens’s Oliver Twist, is told by a trusted adult, Fagan in this example, that taking the wallet of a merchant is a “game,” the child’s culpability is lessened, or even eliminated, by ignorance, or even uncertainty, about what is right or wrong. Or if, instead of being ignorant, Oliver had been threatened with injury to himself or a loved one unless he stole the merchant’s wallet, that, too, would lessen or even eliminate his guilt because then his decision to steal was not truly a free choice. In either case, the act of stealing is objectively sinful. Let us make no mistake about that. Stealing, under any circumstance, offends God. But because God understands when our choices to sin are the result of coercive pressures, confusion, or ignorance, He may not hold us fully responsible for the consequence of our actions.
In this way, God is like any good father or mother who knows that we must judge the behavior of our children with both firmness and compassion. Parents know that it is important to always disapprove of acts which are objectively wrong, yet, at the same time, they understand that their children may not always be fully responsible for their actions. This knowledge tempers both their judgment and punishment of their children.
Another way of looking at this is to remember that we should always condemn acts which are morally wrong, but we should never condemn the persons who commit these acts because we can never know what was in their minds or hearts that may have lessened their culpability.
To live our lives in defense of the truth, we must be able and willing to judge the morality of acts. But the judgment of individuals must always be left to God. He alone knows the hearts and minds of us all. He alone knows how to judge how culpable we are for any of our actions. The old saying that we should “hate the sin, but love the sinner” is intended to remind us that we must be compassionate and understanding. Indeed, out of humility and generosity, we should always assume, and pray, that the sins of others are mitigated by some sort of ignorance or lack of freedom which will lessen their culpability in the eyes of God.
This reminder that we should not judge others is especially important with regard to the issue of abortion. It is extremely unfortunate that at least a few pro-lifers have become so preoccupied by the horrible reality of abortion that they immediately assume that those who have abortions are horrible people. It’s simply not true. It is even extremely unfair. The women and men who choose abortion are often acting out of ignorance or fear, or under tremendous pressures.
Indeed, studies show that 70 percent of the women choosing abortion believe it is morally wrong. This fact alone tells us that women are choosing abortion not because they think it is the right thing to do, but because they think, due to whatever pressures they are facing, that it is the only thing they can do. They feel trapped. Consider, for example, this testimony from an eighteen-year-old girl whom we will call Tracy:
My family would not support my decision to keep my baby. My boyfriend said he would give me no emotional or financial help whatsoever. All the people who mattered to me told me to abort. When I said I didn’t want to, they started listing all the reasons why I should. They said it would be detrimental to my career, and my health, and that I would have no social life and no future with men. Could I actually do it alone? I started feeling like maybe I was crazy to want to keep it.
I finally just told everyone that I would have the abortion just to get them off my back. But inside, I still didn’t want to have the abortion. Unfortunately, when the abortion day came, I shut off my inside feelings. I was scared to not do it because of how my family and boyfriend felt. I’m so angry at myself for giving in to the pressure of others. I just felt so alone in my feelings to have my baby.
Was Tracy responsible for her decision to have an abortion? Yes. But was she fully culpable for that decision? No. She was faced with tremendous pressures and confusion. In her story we see that Tracy had no support to help her do what her heart told her was right. Instead, she was being “socially aborted”; she was being cut off from all of the social support she needed and expected from her family, friends, and boyfriend. She was being made to choose between her love for her baby and her love for everyone else in her life. What a terrible choice! What an unfair choice. But it is a choice that thousands of women face every day.
Researchers have found that well over half of the women who are choosing abortions would have been willing to carry their children to term if they had received support to do so by the important people in their lives. But without this support, or indeed when faced with threats that they will lose their loved ones, it is very hard to resist the temptation to give in to abortion. One woman who made this decision has commented that she “made the decision to be weak.” She didn’t decide to have an abortion so much as she decided not to resist all the pressures which were pushing her toward the abortion. For years she lived with the pain of a great self-hatred. She hated herself for being weak–too weak to stand up for her beliefs, too weak to stand up for her child.
We also know from the testimonies of women who have had abortions, and dozens of former abortionists like Dr. Bernard Nathanson and Carol Everett, that there is a tremendous amount of deceit and manipulation which goes on in abortion clinics. Women are not only denied the truth about their unborn children and about the damage abortion will cause to their lives, they are also carefully maneuvered into believing that abortion is their only choice. After all, abortion clinics are operated to maximize profit. So-called abortion counselors are really specialists at only one thing: selling abortion. They treat abortion like a cure-all for every unplanned pregnancy. If a young woman admits, “I would really like to have this baby,” the counselor is trained to identify her fears and anxieties and then push all the right buttons to convince her that the idea of having her baby is just a romantic dream. “Where will you get $6,000 to pay the hospital bills?” they ask. “How will you ever pay for food or diapers? You’ve already hurt your parents once, don’t make it worse. Don’t make yourself into a burden on everyone. Besides, you’re not ready to be a parent, and who will be the one to suffer from your mistakes? Your baby.”
Yes. Abortion counselors are trained to make women feel guilty about not having an abortion. Every day, young girls are being made to feel that they are doing their unborn babies a favor by having an abortion. Some are even told that their desire to keep their baby is “selfish”; they are told that that only by submitting to an abortion will they be acting with maturity and taking “responsibility” for their lives.
In today’s society, the pressures to abort are so great that all of us should truly admire the young single women who are strong enough to stand up against those who want them to abort and say “No.” It’s not easy to take such a stand. It’s not easy to face the judgments of others. It’s not easy to be a single mother, and it’s not easy to give a child you love into the hands of adopting parents. We really need to admire the courage of these young women. And on the other hand, we really need to refrain from judging those whose courage failed them. Haven’t we, too, lost our courage at times, especially at the worst of times?
We must also have the greatest of empathy and compassion for those who have chosen abortion, or been involved in abortions in any more distant way, because the impact of abortion on a person’s life can be truly devastating. These women and men must live with the memory of a child they have never been able to hold. They suffer from feelings of self-doubt, lowered self-esteem, and grief. They may be their own most fierce condemners, often doubting even God’s ability to forgive them. The emotional pain of those who have had abortions can be extremely intense, and it can cause all kinds of disruptions in a person’s life.
In our example of Tracy, her negative reaction began immediately after her abortion. In this, her case is actually unusual, since most women don’t begin to confront their post-abortion feelings for an average of five years or more after their abortion. Most women are able to push down their negative feelings, hide them, or deny them for quite a long time. But in Tracy’s case, she immediately experienced a tremendous amount of self-loathing. To her, there was never any doubt that what she had aborted was her child, a child she wanted. She simply couldn’t see how she could live with herself after what she had done. So two days after her abortion, Tracy took her father’s gun out of its case and held it to her mouth to commit suicide. Fortunately, she heard her father come home for lunch, and she couldn’t bring herself to pull the trigger while he was in the house. So instead, she went upstairs and had lunch with him, and by the time he left, she was trembling with so much fear she couldn’t do it again. It was then that she came upon the idea of trying to make up for the abortion by tricking her boyfriend into making her pregnant again.
This desire for replacement pregnancies to make up for an abortion is very common. Approximately one in three women who have had an abortion try to become pregnant again specifically to replace the child they lost in their abortion. About 18 percent of women who abort actually become pregnant within one year of their abortion. But many times, they face the same pressures to abort that they did the first time, and so many end up having another abortion, or even a third or a fourth. For some women, repeat abortions can become a form of self-punishment. Each time they abort, they are hurting themselves and trying to harden themselves to the pain of the first. For other women, repeat pregnancies and repeat abortions are like a reenactment of what they suffered before. Each time, they hope on some level to break free of the cycle, and sometimes they do, but sometimes they don’t. So we must understand that, when women have more than one abortion, it does not mean that they were not bothered by their first abortion. It probably means exactly the opposite. It means that their first abortion has left them so psychologically disturbed that they can’t help but get into situations where they face another abortion decision. So even when a woman has had more than one abortion, we must not judge her. We must not make assumptions about her culpability for what she has done. God alone can judge her guilt.
In our dealings with those who have been involved in abortion–whether in one or thousands of abortions, as in the case of an abortion provider–we need to be generous in offering them our sympathy, understanding, and charity. We must do this because all of them, on one level or another, have been deeply bruised and battered by their abortions. By judging them harshly, we are putting up walls between them and the Church; we are driving them away from the God of Judgment instead of toward the God of Forgiveness.
If we truly desire to transform the world, then we must begin by replacing judgmentalism with charity. We must work to relieve these women and men of the shame which makes them afraid to seek reconciliation in Christ. We must be people who can listen to the words “I’ve had an abortion” and react, not with horror, but with compassion. To do this, we must first transform our own hearts. We must fully understand that the choice to abort is one which is filled with great doubts and pain, and those who mak it are driven by fears and confusion which will maintain a hold on them for years, decades, or even a lifetime. Instead of condemnation, we need always and everywhere to offer hope to all those who have ever been involved in an abortion. We must offer them the hope that we will be understanding, not condemning. And even more importantly, we need to lead and support them in the hope that, by turning themselves over to the loving mercy of God, they can and will be fully healed and even transformed into the champions of life that God wants them to be.
(3) Educating the congregation about the many symptoms of post-abortion trauma, including its destructive effects on the lives of women, men, and families.
(4) Explaining how and why denial and avoidance behaviors are obstacles to healing which prolong psychological and spiritual suffering.
(1) Continue to ostensibly be “lecturing” those who have not had abortions. This choice of audience allows those who have had abortions to avoid feeling that they are the ones being “lectured to” yet still “listen in” and learn more their own post-abortion experience and how it is your goal, and that of your whole community, to help them.
(2) Review and reinforce the need to have sympathy for those involved in abortion and the desire to promote healing and reconciliation.
(3) Discuss how despair can be used to lead us into error and how it can also be used to keep us away from being reunited with God.
(4) Describe some of the psychosocial problems caused by unresolved abortion guilt. This overview is important to help post-aborted persons and their loved ones see how the problems in their lives may be related to a past abortion. In this way, they are helped to begin to break through the denial that “my abortion didn’t affect me.”
(5) Discuss the emotional and spiritual importance of overcoming avoidance behavior and working through post-abortion issues. Note that this may be difficult to do at times, but that there is lots of help available, especially from people who have been through the very same experience.
(6) End with reaffirmation of the community’s support.
I’ve spoken to you before about the need to be compassionate and understanding toward the women, men, and families who have been involved in abortion. The temptation to judge them and condemn them is a great evil because such attitudes push people away from the embrace of God’s healing. Such attitudes build up walls and drive people away. Instead, while never condoning abortion, we must recognize the great pressures which make people feel they have no choice but to abort, and we must recognize the great need they feel afterward to be fully reconciled with God, their community, and themselves.
When women and men are faced with an unplanned pregnancy, their lives are turned upside down. They may face tremendous pressures to abort from other people, from circumstances, or simply from within, because the birth of a child threatens the status quo. It threatens what they have and treasure here and now.
Many women are openly threatened by loved ones that if they keep the child, they will lose the love and support they need and desire from their boyfriend, husband, or even their parents. Or maybe they feel that their future career plans are threatened, or they fear losing the chance to have the type of home and family they have always planned. After all, the problem with unplanned pregnancies is that they throw off our plans. They make us feel out of control. And we all like to feel in control, don’t we?
Now picture yourself like one of those cartoon characters who has an angel on one shoulder whispering advice into our ear and a devil on the other shoulder. You’ve just learned that you or a loved one, a spouse or a daughter, is pregnant. The news makes you feel trapped. All your plans for the future, for yourself, or for your loved one, now seem scattered to the wind. What should you do?
Your guardian angel whispers into your ear, “Trust God. What looks like a burden is actually a gift. You may not see how, but God has a plan for you and this child. The sacrifices you will have to make now will be rewarded a hundred-fold.”
But the devil whispers instead, “Sure babies are good. But not now! You’re not ready for it. It will ruin everything. Nothing will ever be the same again. You have to save what you have. An abortion will give you back control over your life. Then you can save what you have, save what you’ve been working for, save the love of the people for whom you and this baby will be just another burden. Make this little sacrifice now, give up this pregnancy and wait for another day, and you won’t have to lose anything. You can save it all.”
So it is that God asks us, in trusting Him, to risk everything on a future for which we have not planned, while Satan asks us to give up just one little thing, an unborn child, to keep control over our lives and save everything we have planned for. The devil uses despair, the fear of losing what we have, to make us do things which we would normally reject. No one likes abortion, but if we fear that we will lose more than we can bear without it, many of us will cave in and accept it as an “evil necessity.”
But the devil’s bargain is a false one. Abortion does not turn back the clock. It is not something a person can have and forget. After an abortion, everything is still changed. After the abortion, Satan, who used despair to drive the woman to choose abortion, now uses despair to destroy the woman in other ways. He becomes the woman’s accuser. “You’ve killed your own child. You’ve always wanted children, but now you’ve gone and killed a child instead! You’re a terrible person. You betrayed yourself and your child. God will never forgive you. He’ll punish you. Sooner or later, He’ll get you. And everyone else will despise you, too. So you had better keep this one a secret, especially from those goodie-two-shoes who don’t know what it is like. They would only want you to suffer even more than you are already. So if you need a little comfort, you might as well find it in the embrace of an affair, the bottom of a bottle, or even in the silence of suicide. You did this to yourself, and now you are alone and you will have to live with it–alone.”
So it is that Satan tries to use the same shame, fear, and despair which drive women to abort to keep them from finding the healing compassion of God and their communities. That is Satan’s agenda. But what is Christ’s? Does Christ desire punishment for those who have had abortions? No. He desires reconciliation. After an abortion, or any sin, Christ offers us hope. He stands with open arms greeting us, saying, “Come to me. I want to share your tears. I want to comfort you. Know that all is forgiven. See, your child is in my arms, waiting for you to join us when your day is completed.”
This is the difference between Satan and Christ. Before we sin, Satan is “on our side,” offering us excuses to defend our sin. After our sin, Satan is our condemner. Christ, on the other hand, stands before us with arms outstretched asking us not to go this sinful way. But afterwards, He, who has a right to condemn us, offers us forgiveness instead. But Satan does not want us to be reconciled with God. So he tempts us to fear God’s judgment and to fear the judgment of people around us.
No matter what our sins may be, we must always resist the temptation to despair of God’s forgiveness. It is true that we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, but it is a gift which He wants us to have.
For those who have been involved in an abortion, their sin was that of refusing God’s gift of life. To these people we must say, “Don’t commit the sin of refusing this second gift, the gift of God’s forgiveness, the rebirth of your spirit in Christ.”
And we must all play a role in bringing the healing gift of God’s mercy to others. As one woman who had an abortion has written, “It takes the blood of Jesus to deliver us from guilt, but it takes the acceptance of others to deliver us from shame.” By this, she is telling us that the road to recovery from an abortion is not always simple and easy. Even after one accepts God’s forgiveness, there is still the temptation to not forgive ourselves and to live in dread of the judgment of others. Such fears and doubts create obstacles to developing and maintaining open and loving relationships. They rob us of the joy in life which God wants for us.
This is why the emotional consequences of abortion are so severe. Women who have abortions are four times more likely to engage in drug or alcohol abuse. They are more likely to have difficulty maintaining good relationships with men and to experience sexual dysfunctions. They have higher divorce rates, are more likely to seek psychological counseling, and are more likely to be less healthy physically. Approximately half of the women who have had an abortion experience suicidal thoughts, with over one in five actually reporting having attempted suicide. Many experience difficulty bonding with later children because they have not finished going through the necessary process of mourning the loss of their aborted children.
Others become obsessive mothers; they are overprotective because they feel a need to make up for their abortions or because they fear that since God is planning to punish them, He may do so by hurting their subsequent children. Some struggle every day with intrusive thoughts of their abortion, which can make it difficult for them to concentrate on their work or family. Others struggle to avoid thoughts of their abortion; they get all up-tight seeing articles about abortion in the newspaper; they hate the sound of vacuum cleaners because it reminds them of the suction aspirator; or they are bothered by the sight of little children who would be the same age as the child they lost during their own abortion. They may have unexplained feelings of depression every year, during the month when the abortion took place, or during the month when the child should have been born, or on Mother’s Day or at Christmas.
In these and a hundred different ways, abortion can cast a pallor over a man or a woman’s life. And in many cases, it can result in severe physical and emotional problems from which it can take years, or even decades, to recover. One study has found that, on average, it takes over eight years for a woman to even begin dealing with the emotional baggage of a past abortion. Most women simply suffer silently because they feel that no one will understand. After all, in our society, abortion is supposed to be something that “helps” women. Women’s lives are, at least in theory, supposed to be improved by abortion. So most women endure their pains and doubts in silence, or they try to push them down and deny that they have those pains and doubts simply because they fear it would be too hard to confront them.
But by creating a healing environment, one which frees women and men from shame and fear of judgment, we can help them come more quickly to feel at peace with God, themselves, and our community. Only in this way will they eventually be free from the pain and temptation of despair. Only in this way will they recover the full joy and peace of mind which God desires for them.
But why, you may ask, don’t we simply “let sleeping dogs lie”. Why not just let memories of an abortion remain buried and forgotten? There are a lot of answers to this question, the most obvious being that, like the sleeping dog, these buried memories inevitably wake up. Worse yet, as long as these feelings and memories remain buried, they will continue to bubble up as an ongoing series of problems and disruptions in a person’s life. They demand our notice precisely because we are trying to ignore them. In this way, buried memories are just like a neglected child; the more we ignore them, the more trouble they cause.
Perhaps most importantly, the failure to reconcile a history of abortion has spiritual consequences. Many women and men will try to run from their past by trying to rationalize their choice. They become fixated on trying to make arguments to convince themselves and others that the abortion was somehow excusable, or even for the best. The spiritual consequence of such rationalization is that it involves a denial of objective moral truth. It is a choice which leads one to live in darkness, in a dreamland of one’s own creation, rather than in the light of Christ.
As long as one clings to rationalizations, one cannot truly cling to Christ. Which would you really rather have? The cold comfort of excuses or the warm embrace of our Heavenly Father, who not only forgives us, but kills the fatted calf to celebrate our return?
There are other women and men don’t try to excuse their mistakes; they know they did the wrong thing, but they simply try to push it out of their minds. To help them push down negative feelings and memories, they may become compulsively busy with work or hobbies because they simply can’t stand any quiet time for reflection or contemplation. Some bury their regrets and pain in drug abuse or alcoholism. In all these cases, people are denying themselves the greatest fruits of life. They do not truly know peace and contentment because they are running from their past. Because they are avoiding contemplation, they also end up avoiding prayer, and in avoiding prayer, they are avoiding God, who is actually the only One who can free them from their past.
These things are true for all sins, not just abortion. When we try to rationalize or excuse our sins, we are actually holding ourselves back from the embrace of Christ’s forgiveness. On the other hand, when we are afraid to confront and acknowledge our sins, it is then that we are most entrapped by them.
The solution is found in humbly and courageously facing our sinful past and in it over completely to God, not with an excuse, not with eyes averted from the truth, but with a humility born in the knowledge that God truly loves us. We are His children, and He so desires to make us whole in Him alone that He will forgive us anything. Indeed, He came to die for us, accepting the punishment we deserve for our sins, so that we would be free from the shackles of sin which hold us to the past. Instead of hiding from our past sins, we must confront them squarely and give them over to Christ. Sometimes the shame or pain is so great that it is not easy to do. But with prayer, and the help of each other, it can always be done.
(5) Building up confidence in the post-aborted that they will be understood, accepted, and supported by their community.
(6) Stimulating the desire for emotional and spiritual healing.
(7) Encouraging reconciliation with God through acknowledgment of one’s personal responsibility for the abortion(s), and inviting participation in post-abortion recovery programs.
(1) Build up hope in the truth that God can resurrect good from any evil.
(2) Build up hope in the eternal happiness of the unborn children who died by abortion.
(3) Build up faith that even our sins can be used by God to make us into better people.
(4) Develop the understanding that the only lasting victims of abortion are those who fail to embrace God’s forgiveness.
(5) Paint a picture of the joy of healing which has been experienced by so many women and men who have worked through post-abortion healing.
(6) Invite the members of your community to help each other and those who have been involved in abortion to participate in post-abortion healing.
The Resurrection! It is the miracle par excellence. It is filled with more meaning than we can ever fully contemplate. It is not just the miracle of Jesus coming back to life. Others have been raised from the dead: the widow’s son, who was raised by the prayers of Elijah; Lazarus and the daughter of the synagogue leader, who were raised by Jesus; and Tabitha, who was raised by the prayers of Peter. But the meaning of their resurrections was confined to a display of God’s power and love. The resurrection of Christ was a display of God’s forgiveness.
Unlike the other biblical characters who died from disease and were raised back to life, Jesus died after being tortured and executed. In the person of Jesus, God handed Himself over to be killed by sinners who represent all the sinners of history, including us. He died because of our sins. We are responsible for His death.
Imagine the guilt you would feel if you ran down an innocent pedestrian with your car. Perhaps you were selfishly speeding. Perhaps you were unthinkingly drunk. Perhaps you had been in a fit of rage and simply did it out of a crazed fury. But as soon as you did it, the guilt began to fill your belly with regret, fear and panic.
What are you to do? You are guilty! You deserve to be punished–but you’re afraid of being punished. So you run away. You hide the truth from others and yourself. But no matter how far you run, or how you try to push it out of your mind, you will never be able to forget that terrible sound and that bump of the car as you drove over your victim. That, my dear friends, that is guilt.
But now imagine that one day a person comes to your door. It is the same person you killed, but now he is alive. He was truly dead, but through a miracle of God, now he is alive! And not just alive, but alive with a heavenly splendor which is so beautiful and majestic it is almost terrifying. Why, you wonder, has he come to you, his killer? Has he come for vengeance? For retribution? You know you deserve whatever penalty he might demand of you. But no. Your victim has not come to condemn you, but instead to offer you forgiveness. His only desire is to free you of the guilt which has haunted you for all these years. All you have to do is to believe and accept this truth, and your guilt is gone. You will be saved not by your virtue, but by your victim’s immortality. He is not dead. He is alive, and your guilt is gone because he lives.
In just the same way we have all been forgiven of murder. Because by our sins, of whatever type, each of us is guilty of crucifying Christ. Because of our sins, He was killed. His blood is on our hands. Yet on Easter Sunday, He rose from the dead. He is not dead at all! The guilt has been lifted.
In the Resurrection, God shows not only his mercy, but also His unbounded ability to turn tragedy into triumph. From any defeat, He can draw out a victory. From any sin which brings death to the soul, He can bring forth sorrow, renewal, and a rebirth into a glorious life which was unthinkable before.
In the Resurrection we learn that the experience of sin need not conquer us; instead, Christ can use it to bring us back to Him with greater love than we would have ever known before. In acknowledging our sin, we find humility. And in humility, we find Mercy–for Jesus is Mercy incarnate. And in accepting Mercy, we experience the unconditional love of God which will transform our lives forever.
But the miracle of the Resurrection is not limited to our relationship with God. This miracle also extends to our relationship with each other. In the Resurrection, we learn that death is an experience, not the end our being. For “God is not the God of the dead but of the living. All are alive for Him.” (Luke 20:38.)
C.S. Lewis explains it well when he writes, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” Damned or glorified all people live on. (Matt. 25:46.)
Do you realize that it is one of the great mysteries of God’s grace that He can use our sins to make better people out of us? I don’t mean that He ever wants us to sin, but when we do, He can use our sins to teach us of our need to rely on Him. He can teach us humility.
I truly believe that there are no souls among us who have greater humility, or greater compassion for the failings of others, than the women and men who have had abortions, acknowledged their sins, and discovered the wonder of God’s healing compassion. Ask Paul, the persecutor of the Christians on the way to Damascus. Only those who have sinned greatly, only those with the blood of innocents on their hands, can fully experience the unlimited glory of God’s forgiveness. Is there no limit to His love, that we can be forgiven even the killing of our own children? Only those who have experienced such forgiveness can fully appreciate what I am talking about. It is life-transforming. It is the miraculous lifting of a great and terrible weight. It is not just being born again, it is the witnessing of a miracle. It is a participation in the Resurrection of Christ.
This is the experience which has been shared by many women and men who have carried the guilt of an abortion with them for years, or even decades. They have found that when they stop making excuses for their abortions, and instead confess them and trust in God’s loving care for their children–who are really our Heavenly Father’s children–they are made free, and clean, and whole.
It does not always happen in just a moment, because Satan tries to use the memory of our sins to hold us back. Even after we accept Christ’s forgiveness, Satan will try to use doubt, fear, and despair to deny us the full experience of healing which God wants for us. But if you have ever had an abortion, or you know of someone else who has, you must take heart in knowing that there are other people who have already been down this road. They want to help you. They can help you. They understand everything you have been through because they have been there too. The first step is prayer. The second step is trusting in others to help you along the way.
I invite any of you who have been through post-abortion healing and want to help the women and men in our congregation to contact me about how you can help to build an effective outreach and healing effort in our community. I also want to invite any of you who have had or have been involved in abortions and are still troubled by it in any way, to come speak with me in private, or to participate in post-abortion healing programs offered in our area, or to call a counselor at one of the national hotlines listed in the bulletin.
Finally, I would ask everyone to pray for the people in our congregation, our city, and our nation who continue to struggle with the guilt of abortion. Bow your heads now, and let us join together in prayer for all those who have completed, are travelling, or are about to begin, the wonderful, but sometimes scary and difficult journey to the joy of a complete post-abortion healing. (Lead the congregation in spontaneous prayer or in the Lord’s Prayer.)
Copyright 1996 David C. Reardon. Excerpted with permission for from The Jericho Plan: Breaking Down the Walls Which Prevent Post-Abortion Healing, published by Acorn Books, PO Box 7348, Springfield, IL 62791-7348 for internet posting exclusively at www.afterabortion.org. All Rights Reserved.