I Am Personally Opposed, But…
Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
I am sure you have heard it too. “I am personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t think I can or should force my convictions on others.” Get real! It’s time we recognize the inconsistency and foolishness of that notion. Yet, because a number of pro-life Christians have expressed this view, I think it is time to clearly explain why such a view is incorrect in this matter.
Understand Who You Are
You and I are, first and foremost, children of God. Paul tells us, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8 NIV). We should all know that we belong to God, but we must live in the world. While God acknowledges that reality, he does not allow that reality to compromise our relationship with God. Jesus told us, “No servant can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13 NIV). And Peter reminds us, “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4 NIV). Christian convictions reflective of God’s will reign supreme over efforts to accommodate a plurality in society.
Understand Different Types of Issues
There are essentially three types of issues which confront every Christian: 1) those issues clearly addressed by Scripture (the black and white issues); 2) those issues which may be addressed by Scripture but do not have a clear application (the gray issues); and, 3) those issues which are not addressed by Scripture and are left to personal judgment (in theological circles they are called adiaphoron.) The gray area issues are often resolved by evaluating motive. We ask ourselves “why” we would do, or not do, something. Gray issues often prompt us to dig deeper into God’s word to find the applicable principles in order for us to make an informed decision rooted in faith. This, in turn, causes us to prayerfully desire to do the will of God. The black and white issues are clear-cut actions such as stealing. God leaves no doubt that stealing is wrong (Exodus 20:15). Once that principle is applied, some may debate whether stealing $1 million or stealing a box of paper clips should or should not be punished differently. The issue, of course, is the resulting action (the punishment), not the action itself (the stealing). Likewise, we may debate how we might best help in protecting our neighbor’s property and business. While the “how” may be in question, the requirement to help with such protection remains (1 Corinthians 10:24).
The answers to “how” questions are often adiaphoron. God’s Word does not always direct us in exactly “how” to obey his will. That is left to our Christian freedom. We are free to choose the manner that best reflects our faith in following His will.
Understand Different Passions
An element that clouds this entire discussion is the role of passion. Many people become quite impassioned about issues of adiaphoron. Others show little if any passion regarding issues clearly addressed by Scripture.
Misguided passion is criticized in Scripture by Christ when he said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:25 NIV).
Christians may differ greatly in their areas of interest and the intensity of those interests. God, however, reserves passion to be directed toward himself. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 NIV). Misguided passion, therefore, is more than just impassioned extremism. It is often passion where it shouldn’t be. Paul’s directive for us speaks clearly, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV). A Christian’s passion is misguided when it is not directed to the glory of God.
Put It All Together
It is with this understanding in mind that Christians are compelled to reject the argument that they could be personally against abortion but they couldn’t take action to prevent others from having an abortion
Intentionally taking the life of an unborn child is murder. God speaks clearly against murder in his commandments, and God clearly speaks of the unborn child as a person from conception (Psalm 51:5). We, therefore, obey this commandment by not killing unborn children.
God also clearly directs us to protect human life (Proverbs 31:8, 24:11; Matthew 25:35-36). We obey this commandment by doing what is right to protect unborn human life. Perhaps the most impacting way in which we provide this protection is to assure that laws protect unborn lives. A Christian is compelled to force this “protectionist” view of life on all of society for the same reason he does so regarding stealing.
Stealing from others and murdering unborn children are both against the will of God. Christians are not free to go against the will of God.
The Other Issues
There are three issues raised when the above application is used in electing candidates for public office. The first issue is the argument that Christians must always and only vote for pro-life candidates. It is best to approach this issue from a different perspective. It is beneficial to consider the abortion issue on the same level as any issue involving killing.
For example, let’s say candidate John Doe is running for public office. He stands for everything for which you stand. He wants lower taxes, better schools, and a healthy environment, and peace in our land. He has the same views on every position with one exception: he believes that a mother should have the right to kill her two-year-old child at any time during that child’s second year. If you are like most people, no matter how much you agree with his other positions, his stand on killing two-year-olds disqualifies him.
We do a disservice to the Biblical principle if we treat the life of an unborn child with less respect than that of a two-year-old. Being pro-life does not make a person the best candidate for an office, but making a stand in support of laws that allow the killing of children, even those in the womb, disqualifies that candidate.
The second issue is the question of what to do when a candidate takes a pro-life stance, but his or her positions on other issues are unacceptable. That depends. One must ask, “What are those other issues? Are they matters of adiaphoron or are they matters of Scripture?”
While Scripture leaves no doubt about the incorrectness of killing it says little or nothing about such issues as raising or lowering taxes, building an arsenal or disarmament. While we may view these issues as related to some Biblical principles, they are not, in and of themselves, Biblical principles. Positions that authorize the wrongful taking of human life (i.e. the current practice of abortion) are direct affronts to a Biblical principle.
The third is the dilemma of what to do when a candidate takes both “right” and “wrong” positions with regard to the will of God. This is further complicated by the fact that the opposing candidate may be making the same errors on different issues. For example, candidate John Doe is pro-life, but he also is pro-homosexual rights. His opponent is pro-abortion, but he is against assisted suicide. These represent conflicting Biblical principles. What are we to do?
There are a number of approaches. The first is to refrain from voting for either one … to do nothing when there are no alternatives. A second option would be to provide a write-in candidate. This may be perceived as throwing away a vote, but remember that you may also be sending a message.
Another option is to vote for the lesser-of-two-evils. This wording is used cautiously as evil is evil and a Christian voter would never vote for evil. What is meant is that a vote is cast for the candidate whose incorrect position(s) have the least impact. For example, a pro-homosexual, pro-life candidate might be a possible choice if it is reasonably expected that his pro-homosexual position can be corrected or will not be an issue during his time in office.
Is It a Sin?
Is voting for some candidates (i.e. pro-abortion candidates) a sin? The answer can be “yes” or “no”. If motives are less-than-pure or hearts are less-than-focused on giving God all glory (1 Corinthians 10:31), there is that risk of sinning. So, yes, you can sin when you vote. A heart, placed against the clear word of God, will reveal whether or not sin has taken place.
“I am personally opposed to abortion, but…” should not come from Christians’ lips. We are, first and foremost, Christians… not civil libertarians. As Christians, we know that there are simply some things that are not right and our good consciences cannot allow others to do wrong things.