This blog post is Part 13 of a series entitled "May I Ask A Question?" by Pastor Jeffrey Dean Smith of Donelson First in Nashville, TN.
Message Date: August 20, 2023
There is nothing quite like hearing those words, “I’m pregnant!” I remember the first time Amy told me this. We had only been dating about two months! Just kidding. Actually, we had been married for 7 years. We also had been told that we might not be able to have children. So, when we found out she was in fact pregnant, as you can imagine, and every parent in the room understands when I say this... We thought, “Oh my! We are having a baby!”
And then we thought, “Oh my! WE ARE HAVING A BABY!”
I remember picking out a crib, getting the nursery ready, baby proofing the home, choosing a doctor, choosing a name, and so very much more that consumed our time and thoughts and dreams and plans during the months leading up to the births of our daughters Bailey Faith and Brynnan Grace.
I have had these thoughts on my mind this week as I have prayed through today’s questions. Last week I shared with you that today we would be answering several, actually 11, questions relating to the LGBTQ+ lifestyle. Well... as the Lord often does, He took my heart in a different direction this week. And I can be honest in saying that I was not thrilled about this! Today’s questions, as you will hear in just a moment when I read the first one to you are, to say the least, not for the faint of heart. However, for every person in the room who has love for life, particularly love for the life of a child, your own child, today will be an important day for you.
Once again, it is clear that God has called Donelson First to be a very unique church in the landscape of American religion today. I am so proud to be a pastor of Donelson First, a church willing to tackle everything and desperate to study anything that will draw us closer to the heart and actions and will of Jesus Christ. To accomplish this, we have to be a Church where no topic is off the table. So... here we go!
Question: The topic of abortion is very polarizing even within the Church. How would you respond to an expectant mother contemplating abortion?
First, thank you to whomever submitted this question. You are correct - - this question is one that has been extremely divisive among people and, no less divisive, within the Church. To fully speak into this topic is going to take some time today. I do hope you will listen to the entirety of my thoughts, and more importantly, to the detailed response I offer in Scripture.
I also want to briefly say to anyone here today who has had an abortion, please listen to the entirety of my answer to this question today. I have several comments to make to you as well.
I want to begin this discussion by reading what the prophet Jeremiah had to say about how very much God values the life of us each. If we are to truly unpack this question, we must first examine what it is God has to say about life and its origin. Look at what the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah had to say about His birth and how it is that God views the life of the unborn:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; Jeremiah 1:5
These are words that God spoke specifically to Jeremiah. Nonetheless, in these few short words, God reveals to us so very much about how He views life. Three truths I see here:
1. God forms me.
Formed /Greek/ yasar = shaped; created
The word Jeremiah uses here clearly embodies the truth that mankind is created by God. Yes, of course, it takes two people to make a baby. A mom and a dad are involved in this very special and intimate and holy of unions. We read just last week that Adam and Eve became one. Adam made love to his wife Eve... Genesis 4:1 And scriptures tell us that she gave birth to her first son, Cain. But something very, very important and critical and necessary is also revealed in this verse... and I dare say it is too a truth that is often overlooked. Look at the end of Genesis 4:1. Do you notice what statement Eve makes?
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man. Genesis 4:1
How amazing it is that at the announcement of the very first child born to humanity, the mother of this child acknowledges that, but for the hand of God, the life of this baby would have never been a reality!
Another truth we see revealed in the words the prophet Jeremiah spoke about his birth and more specifically about our Creator’s views on life:
2. God knows me.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; Jeremiah 1:5
Jeremiah too is revealing that: To be created by God is to be known by God. I recall how wonderful and curious and, if I’m being honest, how nervous Amy and I were during her time of pregnancy with both Bailey and Brynnan. I am sure every mom and dad can attest to some degree of anxiousness and uneasiness during the precious months of a mother carrying her child. I too recall several months into Amy’s pregnancy with Bailey, Bailey stopped moving. There too were other signs that caused concern for us. And to make the situation more nerving, I was traveling this particular week. And no matter how Amy tried, she could not get little Bailey in there to move! Of course, she visited her OBGYN, and everything was fine. Bailey was just peaceful and most likely sleeping away in there! I remember the relief I felt when Amy called me to tell me, “All is well.”
Now, just because our story came with a happy ending that actually never ends.... life with our girls is more joyous than I ever imagines it could be! But... I too know that the story does not always go as ours. There are many, some within our church family, who lose a child during these months or shortly following the days after a child’s birth. I can’t imagine such a pain. And if this is your story, I truly, truly am so very sorry for your loss.
Though difficult, and possibly seemingly intolerable when in the middle of such pain, it is so very important for me to allow Scripture to acknowledge within me... Humanities pains, no matter how unbearable and unimaginable, do not lessen nor devalue the Scriptural truth that I am made by God, and I am known by God, even if my life, or my baby’s life is short or if my baby’s life is never lived outside of the womb.
Death does not minimize the truth: I am known, and will forever be known, by God.
The third amazing truth revealed to us in the words of Jeremiah in this one sentence:
3. God forms me, and God knows me, before I am even born.
In this one verse, with four simple words, Jeremiah reveals to us a truth so important and so very critical to helping you and me understand the true value of life – of a child’s life before the little one is even born! Four words in this verse tell us so very much about how God has placed His very hand on the life of every single human, and He has done so before every child ever sees the light of day:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; Jeremiah 1:5. Do you see the four words: “... before you were born.”
David penned these words in Psalm 139 about this very truth: Psalm 139:13-16
Therefore, if God states that, as we have just read in the books of Jeremiah and Psalm, that God created each of us and gave us life while still in the womb, then too these two descriptive verses spoken by God at the beginning of time of His creation must also apply to the unborn:
So... if we are created by God, as His image bearer, formed by Him and fully known by Him, listen to this sobering verdict for anyone, anyone, who kills God’s creation, whether one living outside or inside the womb:
Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind. Genesis 9:6
In the books of Exodus and Leviticus of the Old Testament, we read where this new nation of 1 million + people is being led by Moses. And God gives Moses many laws on an array of topics as to how the nation of Israel is to live. Look at these laws that deal with the atrocity of murder in the book of Leviticus:
Look at similar laws in the book of Exodus: Exodus 21:12-14
Even one of the Ten Commandments handed down by God to Moses states: Exodus 20:13
These are very direct and sobering laws, stating an eye for eye, as it relates to murder. Now look at what God’s law has to say about the death of a child to a pregnant mother: Exodus 21:22-25
Notice, the same punishment is prescribed for one causing the death of a baby while still in the womb as for one who attacks or plans an attack or fight against another and causes death, as we have read in these other verses concerning God’s will for His people to follow!
Such a verdict is proof that God views the life of a baby in the womb to be just as viable and important and real as that of one born and living outside of the womb.
Now... A proponent of abortion often demands the right to an abortion proclaiming: “It’s a woman’s rights!” Or..“Protect a woman’s rights!” Or...“It’s my body, it’s my choice!” However, Scripture proclaims a different narrative entirely! You see... According to Scripture, abortion really has nothing to do with a mother’s rights. Instead, abortion is a choice of life or death of a human being God forms and God knows even before birth.
In my research this week, I stumbled upon the Wikipedia definition for an “abortion.” Here is the definition: Abortion /Wikipedia/ = the ending of a pregnancy. As I read this definition, I found myself wondering and pondering... Where is the mention of a “life” in this definition? Why is it that nowhere in this Wikipedia is there a mention of a baby... of a human? The definition felt to me cold and distant and very matter of fact.
So... with my curiosity aroused, I decided to dig a little deeper into the mainstream definition of the atrocious and murderous act of abortion. Here is what I found. Read how other mainstream non-profits and organizations define abortion: Abortion /Webster Dictionary/ = the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, or closely followed by the death of the embryo. Abortion /Planned Parenthood/ = a safe and legal way to end a pregnancy. Abortion /Live Science/ = an early termination of a pregnancy. Abortion /MedLine Plus/ = a safe procedure to end an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion /Britiannica.com/ = the ending of a pregnancy before it has reached the stage of viability. Abortion /World Health Organization (WHO)/ = a simple health care intervention that can be effectively managed in a healthy way for a woman.
Wow! Do you notice strangely what word or words is missing from each of these definitions of this barbaric act? Not a single one of these mainstream venues states that an abortion has anything to do whatsoever with a life, a human, or a child! Not a single one even uses such language.
So the omission of these words “life,” or “child,” or “offspring” stroked my curiosity even more! Therefore, I decide to turn once again to these mainstream outlets to further research the definition of the word “birth.” Interestingly, look at what I found: Birth /Webster Dictionary/ = the act or process of bringing forth a young life from the womb. Birth /Wikipedia/ = the process of bearing or bringing forth offspring. Birth /Live Science/ = a delivery of a baby by either vaginal or a C-section. Birth /MedLine Plus/ = the process of labor and delivery to a baby. Birth /Britiannica.com/ = the time when a baby comes out from the body of its mother. Birth /World Health Organization (WHO)/ = the extraction of a child from its mother.
How ironic... when speaking of the beauty of birth and of a child being born, the terminology used by these mainstream outlets is immersed with the words “life,” “baby,” “fetus,” and “child.” However, these same organizations and non-profits (several of whom receive an atrocious amount of government funding), when defining the murderous act abortion, contain no mention in their talking points of a “life” or of a “baby.” Most do not even use the word “fetus.” Is this of coincidence? My personal opinion - - I think not! My conclusion on such a revelation...
Mainstream celebrates the birth of a child as a wonderful process... until the child is inconvenient or unwanted.
In such cases, the murder of a child is incomprehensively defined as “harmless,” “legal,” “a termination,” “a safe procedure,” and a “simple health care intervention.” The Bible never specifically uses the word “abortion.” However, a careful examination of the wholeness of Scripture makes it completely clear to the reader how God views the choice for one to have an abortion. According to what we have just read in Scripture, assembling all of God’s Word together to formulate a biblical definition, I would say that abortion is:
Abortion /God’s Holy Word/ = the killing of a human being created in the image of God.
Question: I do not agree with abortion. However, what about in the events of rape or of incest? Is it okay in such instances to then have an abortion?
This is an argument I have often heard in times when people, and even the Church, argue over and for the right to an abortion. The latest research shows: Only 1 percent of abortions can be traced to cases of rape or incest. Torres and Forrest, cited by Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health and the Alan Guttmacher Institute in An Overview of Abortion in the United States, October 2001. This one can be difficult because, as humans, whenever we allow emotion and heart into a situation, it is easy to be misguided and misdirected. I believe this is why we read so very many times in Scripture the warnings to protect one’s heart:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Notice the wording Jeremiah uses, and too, consider his words in the context of what is happening in his life! Here is a man who has seemingly lost mostly everything. A terrible injustice, by all accounts from no decision of his own, has come upon him. And for the rest of his life, he will have to deal with this tragedy that has cost him so very much. Yet, rather than abandon the truths of God’s Word that has guided him throughout his life, he warns of the dangers of allowing his heart’s emotions to lead his next steps. Thus, he makes the statement that the heart is a thing of deceit, more deceitful than anything else in the world!
More than not, I am often in grave danger whenever I allow my emotions to lead my steps.
And Paul, whom we believe authored the book of Hebrews, warned us about the heart when he wrote:
...Their hearts are always going astray.” Hebrews 3:10b
Though I cannot imagine how emotionally and psychologically and physically difficult this would be if Amy, Bailey, or Brynnan were pregnant from a rape, I have to remember the definition of abortion that we have established:
Abortion /God’s Holy Word/ = the killing of a human being created in the image of God.
And knowing such is true, no matter how badly I might desire to do so, I could never, never encourage my girls that the killing of a human being would justify or change or erase the terrible injustice of such a horrific act of rape against them. I realize such a topic is deep and difficult and often immersed in emotion. I believe it to be imperative when contemplating such dark scenarios that are very real for so very many people, often young and innocent people, we must never consider our response as humans without doing so through the lens of Scripture.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
The Psalmist wrote: Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3
So, if we believe that, as John wrote, “Through him all things were made,” and if we believe, as Paul wrote to the Church in Colossae, “For in him all things were created,” and if we believe as Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus, “We are God’s handiwork,” and if we believe, as the Psalmist wrote, “The Lord made us,” then we too have to believe that... A child’s life, no matter the circumstances, should be protected. The circumstances surrounding the conception of a child should never determine a child’s value nor worth.
Another really important question we received concerning the issue of abortion:
Question: Is abortion okay when the life of a mother is at risk?
Dr. Irving Cushner, Professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, when testifying before the U. S. Senate, was asked how often abortions are necessary to save the life of the mother or to preserve her physical health. His response: In this country, less than 1 percent of all abortions are to save the life of a mother. Dr. Irving Cushner, Professor at the UCLA School of Medicine. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution of the United States.
Many OB-GYNs and maternal healthcare experts recently gathered in Dublin. While there, over 1,000 of these leading healthcare experts signed this statement: As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics (uhb-steh-tricks) and gynecology, we affirm that direct abortion - the purposeful destruction of the unborn child - is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman. Dublin Declaration on Maternal Health.
And in 2019, 30,000 doctors from around the world jointly made this comment, which is documented at the website I have included on the screen: Intentionally killing a late-term unborn baby in an abortion is never necessary to save a mother’s life. www.lifenews.com/2019/03/05/30000-doctors-say-abortion-is-never-medically-necessary-to-save-a-mothers-life
Now... Some say that such a conversation need not be had in the Church. I say this is exactly where such a conversation needs to be had. This is not a taboo topic as some might want the Church to believe. This is not an issue over a woman’s rights, as so very many want the Church and Christians and the world to believe. This is a matter of life and death.
As the Church, it is our responsibility to lead the way and to speak the loudest against this very atrocity doing so with love and with conviction and with grace.
The abortion industry has tricked and manipulated and lied and murdered millions of lives globally. As of 3p, Thursday, August 17th, 27, 934, 256 babies have been aborted this year – this year! Each year, there are 65 million worldwide abortions, approximating 200,000 abortions per day. 30% of these abortions happen right here in America. Nearly 20% of all pregnancies in the United States ends in abortion.
To the question, should a baby die so that a mother may live? No.
I can authentically say that I do not see anywhere in Scripture where God states that a child’s life is to be taken to save the life of another. I pray you are never faced with such a decision. I too pray you choose to see Scripture in the same light.
Last year I spoke at the Carenet International Conference in Austin, TX. There I spoke to 1,200 attendees from around the world who work with pregnancy resource centers and pro-life non-profits. These people are in the trenches just about every day. These organizations are often the last stop expecting mothers take before deciding whether or not to have an abortion, to hopefully, carry their child to term and then to either choose to parent this newborn or offer the baby to another family through adoption.
While in Austin, I ate at one of my favorite Texas restaurants. While there, a couple who was attending the conference, approached me to tell me their story. The story was one of heartache and guilt that involved a decision this lady made earlier in her young life to abort the child she was carrying.Through tears, she walked me through a story of both regret and redemption as she calendered her journey for me of finally finding peace over her decision as she received the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
I wonder if there is someone reading this today who too made this decision at some point in the past to abort your child. If so, please hear this today:
There is no decision I make that God cannot forgive.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. Ephesians 1:7
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14
Jeffrey Dean Smith is a husband, father to Bailey & Brynnan, author, and the Senior Pastor at Donelson First in Nashville, TN. If you are in Music City, meet Jeffrey and enjoy iced tea on the front lawn each Sunday at 10:30a.