Monday, July 18, 2016

A “Floating” Controversy: Part 3

Note: The background for this series of posts is found in Part 1. I would deeply value you reading this series, as well as your prayerful thoughts and input. These posts reflect something I’ve been processing for a while now, and am still trying to work through.

How do we engage the public and expose/place the reality of what abortion is in a position that it can’t be pushed under the table . . . and still engage, and be welcoming to, and offer love and hope to, those (female and male) on the other side of an abortion? This is something I’ve thought a lot about, but not gotten a clear answer to. Each time I’ve addressed abortion in a group environment I’ve been aware of, and deeply sensitive to, the pain in the eyes of some in the group that my guess harkens back to an abortion they had, or maybe a part they played in one, or something they didn’t do to stop one. And these are people, often, who have sat and heard of God's love and forgiveness for years.

I’ve struggled with the idea of signs showing photos of aborted babies in public places. I know for me those images were a graphic wake up call that this is real, those are babies, and that the murder of babies is happening daily, all around me. There is no way to avoid the issue when you see one of those. But I've also had that same effect from Ultrasound photos (though, if I'm honest, not as powerfully). But . . . what about the small child that walks by and sees it, who isn't in a place for that subject yet? What about a parent's right to raise that issue with their child when they are ready? And, of course, on the other side, what about the rights of the baby inside the womb that needs people to defend him or her?

Too often I feel like myself and the church at large are too
much like this cow we saw on our anniversary—trying
to stand with feet on both sides of the fence.
And, what about the person who walks by a sign like that and feels waves of shame and guilt for an abortion they took part in, and maybe because of the bluntness of the signs and message feels too ashamed or intimidated or condemned to talk about it? What about when they go home filled with shame and guilt and isolation—or turn to sex or drugs or alcohol or even worse to try to escape or numb the pain? God loves those people as much as He loves the babies being aborted. And, while I believe that those babies will be in Heaven, many of those people might not be.

I don’t know how to handle the issue of abortion—and I mean by this the rubber meets the road nuts and bolts of walking out a stand against it, and the love of God for those who've already participated in it. I know the ideal "theology" of it that works so well sitting around a cup of coffee and talking, that it must be a mix of truth and grace. That is what Jesus modeled for us. But, I am talking about what does this mix of both look like on the street, in real life? Because, honestly, what is happening in this nation today isn't working—babies are still being legally killed and handling the issue "softly" and "non-offensively" isn't changing it.

So, for those who love babies, and who also love God and His work on the cross dying for the lost and for our sin, how do those two messages (truth and grace) mix, in a practical way? I remember talking with my friend about the float when it was in the "thought" stage and asking about the Gospel/forgiveness message. He made a good point. If there are too many messages on one float they all get diluted and all get lost. It reminds me of Mary Ann and my early days doing desktop publishing. The first instinct was to cram as many messages as you could on a sign or flyer, but the end result was a crowded mess that said nothing. We ended up fighting to preserve the "white space" (blank parts of a page) so that what was written would stand out. [Note: Danny intended to have people with Liberty Bell bags with gospel literature walking behind the float looking for people who seemed bothered so they could stop and talk to them, but it didn't happen with all the hassle they were given.]

It is easy to “pick on” abolitionists who stand there with "those" photos. The internet is full of people hating or attacking them (even many “Pro Life” people). And, if we are honest, they make us uncomfortable. But is the warm fuzzy approach working? Is this nation turning from abortion? Are churches having those hard discussions and being active in the issue beyond a few dollars to a C.P.C.? Will people confront this issue if they aren’t forced out of their comfort zones and ostrich holes?

Ultimately I know that the Holy Spirit needs to lead and direct every encounter, street moment, etc. Jesus rarely did the same thing twice the same way. Each encounter was different and unique to each person He faced. But if we aren't careful, "letting the Holy Spirit lead" can become a way to avoid the whole thing. How many of us are, really (be honest now), listening for Him to say, "Go and take your sign and stand at that intersection"?

And so I return to the original question that I am still trying to work through: How do we—how do I—confront this issue in a way that the nation can no longer let it exist in the background (and that Christians uncomfortable with the issue will still face the elephant in the room) and, at the same time, make sure that every person who is on the other side of an abortion (or participation in some way with one) knows the love and forgiveness and freedom from shame and guilt that God offers (and feels safe talking to us about it)? How do we do both?

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