SBC leader says abortion affects local church
Russell Moore says pastors should speak about the sanctity of human life not as an “external issue,” but one that affects people sitting in their pews.
By Bob Allen
The head of Southern Baptists’ agency for moral and religious liberty concerns says an upcoming Sunday observing the sanctity of life is not just about politics or bemoaning a culture in decline, but an issue of private morality that affects congregations directly.
“We need to speak very clearly about the fact that there is judgment, that there is an accountability that is going to be given,” Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said in a podcast suggesting ways to observe Sanctity of Life Sunday Jan. 19.
“One of the most hair-raising things that I’ve read in recent years was a woman who was working in an abortion clinic talking about the Catholic and Southern Baptist women, young women, that she had coming into that clinic to have abortions,” Moore said. “And the Roman Catholic women were saying ‘I know this is wrong, but I’m going to go to confession.’ The Southern Baptist women were saying, ‘I know this is wrong, but once saved always saved.’”
Moore, who succeeded Richard Land as the SBC’s top spokesman for morality, public policy and religious liberty in June, said he heard in those words echoes of “Let’s sin all the more so that grace may abound” condemned by the Apostle Paul in Romans Chapter 6.
“That is a chilling thing to hear,” Moore said. “That is a false gospel. That is another gospel from the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be very clear about the justice of God, that he hears, as the Scripture says, the cries of the fatherless.”
The Southern Baptist Convention added Sanctity of Human Life Sunday to the denominational calendar in 1986, putting the nation’s second-largest faith group on record identifying with the pro-life movement that emerged after the Supreme Court struck down most state laws restricting abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Moore said Southern Baptists must address abortion as an issue of justice, “not only in terms of the person standing before the judgment seat of Christ, but also in terms of public justice.”
“There is a responsibility for the government to stand up for the lives of those who are being persecuted, those whose lives are being done away with,” Moore said. “It’s a necessity for the culture to stand up for those lives that are being depersonalized and dehumanized.”
It’s an issue he believes that preachers should talk about more often than once a year.
“Every time you address this, you need to address it not as some kind of external cultural issue but as something that affects your congregation and the people in your pews,” Moore said. “Based upon the demographic numbers that we have, there are women in your congregation right now who have aborted. Their consciences are speaking to them about this.”
In discussing abortion, Moore said it’s important to “speak clearly about the gospel, and about the fact that the blood of Christ reconciles people, guilty people, to God; there is no sin that is outside the reach of the merciful blood of Jesus Christ.”
“The power that Satan has over the women who have aborted, over the men who have paid for abortions or pressured women into abortions, the power that Satan has is really two-fold,” Moore said.
“On the one hand it’s that power of deception. ‘This isn’t really wrong or no one will ever know.’ But then the other aspect of his power is that of accusation. ‘I know who you are and I know what you have done.’”
“You’ve got to address both aspects of that,” Moore said, “speaking clearly that God is on the side of the vulnerable, that God loves unborn children, God will hold accountable those who take their lives, but on the other hand to talk about the fact that in the cross of Jesus Christ the justice and mercy of God have met.”
“You take away the sting of that accusation not by saying that the abortion was OK,” Moore said. “It wasn’t, and those consciences know it wasn’t, but by saying if you’re in Christ you have already been through the judgment of God, and there is therefore now no condemnation for you.”
Moore said other church members overhearing the conversation should be challenged to think about how it might apply to them, such as those “facing a pregnancy that seems like a crisis.”
“There are going to be women and men in your congregation who, if they are not facing that right now, they’re going to be facing that later on,” Moore said. “Give them concrete steps of what to do.”
“It may be that you stand up and say, ‘There are some of you who are going to find yourselves pregnant and you’re not going to know what to do.’ You want to make it very clear that we as a congregation are not going to be shocked. We’re not going to [say] ‘Oh my goodness, can you believe this unwed person?’”
“No, you’re not going to be shocked,” Moore admonished. “You’re not going to be horrified. You’re going to minister to her and you’re going to find a way for her to keep her baby and to live with it, to love that baby. That means you’re going to be the body of Christ to her. Or if she does not want to raise the baby, you’re going to go alongside her to help her make an adoption plan for her baby.”
Moore said the church speaks about the abortion issue at “multiple levels,” including the ballot box and decisions about family planning.
“We are shaping consciences to know when you are voting and you’re handing the sword — as the Scripture says we are are doing in voting to use it — if you are handing the sword to people who are going to use it against innocent children, you are wrong,” he said. “You are going to be held accountable for that.”
“We are speaking to those who in their minds and in their hearts see children as a problem, as a burden to be eliminated,” he said. “No, no, no, no, that’s not God’s perspective on this.”
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