This post is reposted from Chad Ashby's post on "After + Math."
There is a glaring hole in our fight against abortion. It is found in our churches among the quiet pre-service whispers as she walks by. It is heard at Sunday dinner as her name bounces back and forth across the table among interjections like, “But she comes from such a good family!” It is seen in the averted eyes and not-so-subtle head wags. “Wait you haven’t heard? She’s pregnant!”
If you’ve experienced an unwed pregnancy in your church, your family, or your circle of acquaintances—who hasn’t?—you know the typical reaction. It’s a mixture of disappointment, condemnation, and pity. But there are places across the country where this is not the response to the girl who shamefully mumbles, “I think I’m pregnant.” They are called pregnancy resource centers (PRCs). The women and men who serve in these safe-havens have comprehended something our churches haven’t yet: unwed pregnancy is not a sin.
When a young woman walks into a local PRC, and she makes the painful admission that she’s pregnant by her boyfriend, and she’s afraid what her family will say, and she’s pretty sure her dad is going to kick her out of the house, and she’s worried her college dreams are shot, the response she finds from her counselor is surprising. It’s Christian love, understanding, and joy. Perhaps for the first time since she missed her period, she’s found someone who actually celebrates her pregnancy as a gift from God and does not judge her for carrying a tiny baby inside.
It seems so obvious once it’s stated this way, but the Bible never condemns unwed pregnancies. In fact, the lineage of our Savior has several. Some of his ancestors were conceived through prostitution, incest, and adultery (cf. Gen. 38, Gen. 19:30-38, 2 Sam. 11:1-12:25). It is telling that Jesus himself was an unwed pregnancy. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary became the most vulnerable of women—an unmarried pregnant teen. She was deeply loved by God and in need of care and support. When she traveled to see family, she was not ostracized but welcomed with a beaming smile and these words from her cousin Elizabeth: “Blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42).
PRC counselors seek to be like Elizabeth welcoming these expectant mothers with warm, receptive, and loving arms. They treasure the fruit of the womb as the wondrous gifts from God that they are—no matter how they were conceived. Many of our congregations couldn’t dream of responding this way—even when we are technically pro-life. How do we follow the example of the PRCs across the country? How can we create this kind of celebratory, supportive, and loving culture in our churches?
First, we need to cultivate confession. Christians need to regularly confess sin to one another in concrete ways. In the typical church, the larger the sin, the quieter we whisper about it. However, there is freedom in the light of the Gospel—a light that shines on our sins and provides cleansing blood to wash them away (1 John 1:7-9). When an unwed expectant mother stumbles into this kind of fellowship, she will realize her problems are common to man. Her sexual past will not be gossiped about in the halls of the Sunday School wing or be the subject of dinner conversation. As she and others watch brothers and sisters confess their sins publicly before the church, they will see a church that joyfully celebrates the forgiveness—not condemnation—we share at the cross.
Second, we need to have a Biblical view of sexual immorality. Christians—parents especially—are often willfully blind to the sins of teens in their churches. We are able to keep up the charade until a swelling tummy appears in the youth group. The common reaction is to judge the pregnant high schooler, when it’s possible the only difference between her and the rest of her Christian friends is that her parents didn’t put her on the pill. When we overlook sexual immorality but condemn unwed pregnancy we spread Satan’s lie: “Fornication is fine, but babies are bad.” Churches and parents must be having honest conversations with their growing children about the temptations of sexual immorality. We must help them understand that it is both wrong and forgivable, and we must not allow our rightful stance against sexual immorality to taint our view of pregnancy.
Finally, we must cultivate an atmosphere where all pregnancy is celebrated. Our churches should have the warmth of Elizabeth on that sunny afternoon as she welcomed Mary and her newly forming baby bump with open arms. Rally to support and encourage these expectant mothers by giving of your time and resources to help them prepare. Throw them extravagant baby showers. Pray for them. Send them letters, emails, and messages of Scriptural encouragement. Fold them into your congregation. Disciple their young children. Live what it means to believe Psalm 127:3—“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”
Once we move from the realization that unwed pregnancy is not a sin to the reality that all pregnancy should be celebrated as a gift of life from God, then we will truly see what God can do to fight back the terrors of abortion. Don’t know where to start? Your local PRC probably has a volunteer counselor training coming up in the next month or two. Get involved and let them teach you how to rejoice in every new life.
Chad Ashby is the pastor of College Street Baptist Church and a grad of SBTS and Grove City College. After Math is a blog for theological ramblings on Christian faith and life.