Ask the Thoughtful Pastor: Abortion Pain and the Choice Between Heaven and Hell

Ask the Thoughtful Pastor: Abortion Pain and the Choice Between Heaven and Hell September 30, 2015

Dear Thoughtful Pastor: I am interested in your thoughts–or your take on God’s thoughts–about abortion.  Many years ago I made the miserable and unhappy choice to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and while my reasons were very good, I have never been able to make peace with that decision.

How can I find peace?  Or do you think I have a right to find peace? ~Troubled

Dear Troubled,

When I see a question like this, I start aching inside for the amount of pain in the world. Life never plays out quite the way we’d like, does it?

The Bible itself says nothing specifically about abortion. The closest we come to direct mention of harm to an unborn baby comes from this passage in Exodus: 21:22-25.

When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.

If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

This particular passage places little value on the life of the unborn child. Anyone who states unequivocally that God always condemns the decision to abort cannot do so by claiming chapter and verse to support the stance.

Certainly we should respect life and seek to preserve it. However, much of our current rabid anti-abortion stance really springs from the mid-80’s. That’s when the now defunct Moral Majority decided to take over the US political scene.

Their leaders made abortion a non-negotiable plank in their platform, effectively eliminating nuanced discourse about the often agonizing situations that pregnant women may face. Before that, most religious groups saw the decision to abort as one that should be made by the women, informed by her reasoned faith and her physician.

Today’s rhetoric multiplies exponentially the pain of what is nearly always a very complex decision. This then leads you wonder if you have the right to make peace with your own decision.

So, does God hold this against you in some way? Must you see yourself as slightly less in the eyes of God?

The short answer is “no.” The Scriptures teach quite clearly that God overflows with mercy and lovingkindness. Grace, love, forgiveness, justice and reconciliation are the core of the nature of God.

If we lived in a perfect world, a world where only mature, self-knowledgeable people marry, where all children are planned and wanted, a place where everyone enjoys good mental, physical and emotional health and economic resources are universally adequate to rear families . . . well if we lived in that world, we probably wouldn’t be asking those questions.

But we inhabit a decidedly imperfect world, one often overrun with tragedies and sorrows, one invaded by sickness and insecurities.

In this troubled space, most make our choices to the best of our abilities with the limited knowledge and resources available to us. Often these choices are simply heart-wrenching.

After years of study and research, after hearing countless stories of heartbreak, after watching the pain of life and the pains we inflict on one another, I decided that God weeps with us.

And then, morning dawns yet again after the time for mourning passes.

You made a difficult decision that, again,  many today condemn. But this Thoughtful Pastor says to you, “Stop beating yourself up. Freely go in joyful peace.”

God did not abandon you even in the midst of that agonizing choice. Lift up your head and recognize yourself as God’s beloved daughter. Let your past inform your present. Receive the compassionate grace and pass it onto others.

 

Dear Thoughtful Pastor: 1 John 5 :19 reads: “We know that we are God’s children, and that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one.”  

Does this verse answer the question why bad things happens?

My reasoning: Unless people come to Christ in faith they have no choice but to obey Satan. There is no middle ground: people either belong to God and obey him or they live under Satan’s control. So on earth Satan controls ungodly people.

Why does God allow this? Is it because he gives a choice if we want life in Heaven or Hell? ~A Reasoner

Dear Reasoner,

Do you think you could possibly come up with a harder question? As in, “what is the full meaning of life?” Good grief, I thought writing the column would be a piece of cake–how wrong I was!

So, you contend there is no middle ground: people are either held by God or held by the evil one, whom you’ve named here as Satan.

Your stance suggests that there are two equal parties at war in the universe. The power of evil is as strong as the power of good. Or, to personalize this, God and Satan are locked in a never ending tug-of-war, each occasionally giving ground as people cross from one side to the other, but with no actual power imbalance between the two.

That’s just scary. What if God and the power of good wears down first?

So let’s look more closely at the words you’ve quoted. This particular sentence comes out of a letter that John apparently wrote to a group of beloved Christians to encourage them to stand firm in their beliefs and stay in the light of the love of God. It’s full of thoughts about the love of God, about the totality of forgiveness, about their victory over the evil one, about the nature of Jesus.

The book of 1 John itself doesn’t speak about the whys of bad things happening, but does speak extensively about the need to confess our sins and to learn to love in truth and action. The author states strongly that there is no fear in love–and therefore there is no fear in God, for God is defined as Love.

I don’t think the context supports the idea that people are bound helplessly to Satan. However, it certainly supports the idea that we who say we love God must, simply must, learn to love our brothers and sisters. If we want to know the source of bad things, it appears it springs primarily from our choice NOT to love those with whom we come in contact.

Now, those who choose to ignore the love of God may indeed choose hell. The Thoughtful Pastor sees hell as a place where no unselfish love exists, where everyone is self-serving, where all motives are inherently impure, and where whatever truths are told are done so only for the sake of winning personal advantage.

It is a place where one dares not trust one even one other person, for all are out only for their own good.

So, yes, we get to choose if that is what we want by the way we live our lives and spend our eternities. Doesn’t seem like all that hard a choice, does it?

 

All questions are welcome. You can email your questions to thoughtfulpastor@gmail.com, “like” her Facebook Page, use this form to send them or message her on Twitter. You can also send a question through conventional mail to the following address: Thoughtful Pastor, 314 E. Hickory St., Denton, TX, 76202.

[Note: a version of this column will appear in the Friday, October 2, 2015 print and online editions of The Denton Record Chronicle.]

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  • I appreciated the response you gave to “Troubled” regarding her having had an abortion. The Christian community needs more fully to embody the compassion of Christ and the forgiveness of God rather than seeking to heap shame and guilt on women who make difficult choices, as this woman did. Here is a link to some data on abortion compiled by the Guttmacher Institute. http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html For me, two items stand out: 1. About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children; and 2. The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner. The myths that are promoted by abortion opponents are too often disconnected from reality in order to manipulate the political conversation in their preferred direction. Though it’s unlikely it will ever happen, I wish we could go back to a time, as you noted, when a decision on having an abortion was placed squarely in the hands of a woman “informed by her reasoned faith and her physician.” No government or even secular or religious support system should have more authority in such a situation than the woman herself; and the role of a support system should be to surround the woman making such a difficult decision with the embodied love of God, and nothing less.

    • Ray

      Two things. First, I wish that these aborted babies could have been born and given up for adoption. Second, I think that loving others sometimes sometimes says No to the other person. If this were done all the reasons given for having an abortion would be avoided. God loves that aborted baby.