By Seth Gruber —
“The pro-life mission is not the mission of the Church. The Church is responsible for the Great Commission.”
This is the response I get from many pastors when I ask them why they fail to address the abortion issue in their congregations. While it may sound like a spiritual answer that shows high concern for disciple making, in reality, the response reveals a deep misunderstanding of the responsibility of the Church.
In the Great Commission passage, Jesus says,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” — Matthew 28:18-20
We can see that the Great Commission is a two-fold command, yet the American Church typically defines the Great Commission solely according to the first command: make disciples. The second command is to teach those disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded.
Thankfully, Jesus boiled his commandments down to two:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” — Mark 12:28-31
Jesus’ brilliance in simplifying all of the Law down to two commandments has birthed the popular saying, “Love God. Love Others.”
All Christian pastors believe that the Church is called to love God and love their neighbors. In fact, I would wager that the same pastors who deny that pro-life ministry is the mission of the Church would never argue the same thing about orphans, widows, the poor, and women and children enslaved in sex trafficking. So why do pastors have a double standard when it comes to abortion?
In reference to the greatest commandments, the lawyer again questioned Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). I believe this is the most important question the pro-life movement needs to ask pastors: Is the unborn child our neighbor?
If the unborn is not our neighbor, then pastors are justified in separating the pro-life mission from the Church’s mission. If, however, the unborn is our neighbor, then the Church has the responsibility to love the unborn. The Church has the responsibility to work towards the total abolition of abortion because abortion intentionally ends the lives of innocent human beings made in God’s image.
How do we know the unborn are our neighbors?
Both science and Scripture teach us that the unborn are our neighbors.
The science of embryology proves that from the moment of conception, the unborn baby is a distinct, living, and whole human being. We didn’t come from embryos. We once were embryos. So science answers what kind of beings we are: human beings.
Then the Bible reveals to us that human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). God is the creator and knitter of human life and the shedding of innocent blood is strictly forbidden in Scripture (Exodus 23:7-9, Proverbs 6:16-19).
Science teaches us embryos are human beings and Scripture teaches us that all human beings are valuable. So we can see that the unborn is our neighbor, as is his or her mother.
If the Church is to be who Jesus has called us to be, we must include caring for unborn children and their mothers into our understanding of the Great Commission. This includes working toward the total abolition of abortion. To not do so is to redefine the Great Commission into a definition that makes us more comfortable.
I will end as any good sermon does, by answering the practical question of, “How?”
How do we love our unborn neighbor?
Rather than providing an exhaustive list of what churches and individuals can do to love their unborn neighbors, I’m going to let Jesus answer this one.
In response to the lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?”, Jesus responds with one of the most moving stories of compassion. He tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan. As familiar with this parable as you may be, I encourage you to read it again.
In the parable, a Jewish man traveling a popular road from Jerusalem to Jericho is suddenly attacked by a band of robbers. After being stripped and beaten, the man is left for dead. Thankfully, a religious man traveling the same road encounters the beaten man. But to the injured man’s horror, the priest passes him by on the other side of the road. The priest may have felt compassion for the bleeding victim, but he does nothing to help and continues on his way.
Hopelessly thinking his luck had run out, the beaten man was relieved when another religious man turned the corner and saw him. But then the Levite also passed him by on the other side of the road and went on with his journey. Compassion may have been in the heart of the Levite, but his actions were anything but compassionate.
Allowing himself to be consumed with despair, the bleeding victim readied his spirit to face death. But suddenly, he was given one last chance. A Samaritan turned the corner, saw the bleeding victim and rushed over. He poured his own oil and wine on the beaten man and bandaged his wounds. Fearing for the victim’s life, the Samaritan put the man on his own donkey and hurried him to the local inn. The next morning, unable to avoid prior responsibilities, the Samaritan was forced to leave. Before he left, he took money out of his own purse, gave it to the innkeeper to look after the man and promised to return soon and pay any other costs that might have accumulated in caring for the man while he was gone.
You can almost sense the crowd’s hushed silence as Jesus finishes this parable and asks the lawyer:
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “You, go and do likewise.” — Luke 10:36-37
The Church can sacrifice its time, energy, and money
In the United States alone, there are over 1 million unborn image-bearers killed through legal abortion each year. Over 55 million unborn children have been killed at the request of their mothers and at the hand of “physicians” since the legalization of Roe v. Wade in 1973. These deaths far outnumber any other genocide in human history.
The Church’s responsibility is to love its neighbors and carry out the Great Commission. The unborn is our neighbor and we cannot ignore the horror abortion represents and still claim to care about the Great Commission. The full definition and understanding of the Great Commission forbids us from claiming that pro-life ministry is not part of the mission of the Church.
I invite you to look to Jesus – the Greater Good Samaritan – and study the example of the parable of the good Samaritan as a model for our behavior. The good Samaritan loved his neighbor lavishly by making radical sacrifices of his time, energy, and money.
I hope and pray that the Church will adopt and live out the true definition of the Great Commission by sacrificing her time, energy, and money to lavishly love our unborn neighbors, who are being slaughtered through abortion.
Hear the words Jesus spoke to the lawyer and may the Church claim them and live them out:
“GO AND DO LIKEWISE!”
Seth Gruber has been speaking publicly on behalf of unborn children since the age of 19. He has spoken across the U.S. educating and equipping pro-life advocates to be a voice for unborn children. After graduation from Westmont College, Seth joined Life Training Institute as a traveling pro-life apologist and speaker. He writes regularly for Christian Research Institute and his own personal blog.