What Does It Mean To Be Pro-Life?

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” (Gen. 1:27). This truth has profound implications. We should all work to promote, as the slogan goes, a culture of life. But what does it mean to be pro-life?

A Broad Understanding of “Pro-Life”

Being pro-life—honoring the sixth commandment against murder—means “avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any” (Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC) 135). To be truly pro-life we will “be patient, peace-loving, gentle merciful, and friendly to” our neighbors, protect them from harm as much as we can, and … do good even to our enemies” (Heidelberg Catechism (HC) 107). Truly pro-life people can’t be selective. We must wholeheartedly resist the satanic culture of death that has entered the world through the fall, opposing any policy or action that degrades human dignity.

We need the heart of Jesus who looked out at a large crowd filled with men, women, and children—born and unborn—and had compassion on them (Matt. 9:36). We must also be agitated, as Jesus was, by the principle of death that degraded his image bearers (John 11:33). How would you feel about executions of folks who were “defended” by court appointed attorneys who weren’t paid enough to even bother opening the defendants’ files? Or about children imprisoned with adult rapists and pedophiles three times their size? Or about drones dropping bombs that rip through civilian neighborhoods, killing and dismembering children, women, and men?

We must be committed to “protecting and defending the innocent” in every instance (WLC 135) even when the issues tousle our political commitments. We should listen when critics of the pro-life movement accuse us of being selectively pro-life. We can and we must be more consistently God-like in our advocacy for pro-life.

But we should also push back against critics for their own inconsistency. Sadly, those argue for being “holistically” pro-life sometimes get it wrong from the start. If personhood is not sacred in the womb, it cannot be sacred anywhere.

A Narrow Application of “Pro-Life”

In the womb the creator God makes a living person (Isa. 44:24). “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made … intricately woven” (Ps. 139:13–16). John the Baptist leapt in Elizabeth’s womb for joy (Luke 1:44). This isn’t an ignorant person’s way of saying, “Elizabeth got excited.” The author is a doctor.  He wants us to picture pre-born John the Baptist excited to meet Jesus. Jeremiah had purpose even before he took his first breath (Jer. 1:5). So did Paul (Gal. 1:15). So does everyone. Because life in the womb is sacred, God imposed penalties for those even unintentionally harming children in-utero (Exod. 21:22–25).

Additionally, children are always a heritage from the Lord (Ps. 127:3). This is not to say that all births are equally happy. Some children will come at what we feel are inconvenient times. It must have felt so for the Israelite parents of children born in Egypt. Some children will be born with complicating health issues. Still, the New Testament takes pain to exalt their value. One of the greatest evangelists of Jesus’ day was born blind (John 9). Some children will be born out of atrocious criminal sexual activity, and so the Bible lays out strict penalties for rapists (Deut. 22:25; but not for the child resulting from rape). Every unique life, from conception, bears God’s image and represents an opportunity for joyful service to the creator regardless of the circumstances of the birth.

The pro-life position shouldn’t simply be the Christian position. It should be the humanitarian position. It would be the creaturely position if not for human abortion. Can you imagine animals intentionally dismembering their young before they were born?

So let us be unashamedly pro-life. But let’s not allow our convictions to outrun sympathetic action. Christian are often better at answering the arguments of abortion than we are at answering the felt needs that led to the arguments.

  • How can I raise my rapist’s child?
  • How can I tell my father about my pregnancy? He’ll hate me!
  • How can I pay for another child?
  • I don’t even like children; why should I become a parent?

None of these questions justify infanticide. But without compassionate involvement, Christian answers will sound like clanging cymbals (1 Cor. 13:1; James 2:15–16).

We should be pro-life because God is pro-life (Ezek. 33:11). Abortion is only one awful example of the sin that separates us from God. But our great sin—including the sin of abortion—is met by a greater gospel. He sent his Son—into the womb of a young woman—so that sinners with scandalous pasts could live through his sacrificial death. Those who believe in him will share his life and become pro-life ambassadors. God wants us to choose life and help others see why this is the best choice they could make.

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