The origins of the pro-life movement reach back to the mid-19th century, when it was made up of a smaller group of geographically dispersed medical doctors and Roman Catholics. At the time, their focus was on individual state legislatures.
In 1973, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide by its decision in a case known as Roe v. Wade. The pro-life movement then garnered national attention. What we know as the pro-life movement today surged in the late 1970s when evangelicals joined arms with Catholics to advocate for pro-life causes.
The pro-life movement can be defined as advocating for the legal protection of human embryos and fetuses, especially by favoring the outlawing of abortion on the ground that it results in the death of a human. In the political arena the issue of abortion remains deeply divisive. As evangelical Christians who hold a biblical worldview, abortion looms as a haunting moral scar on the American social landscape. Abortion remains a definitive issue for the moral character of our nation.
However, long before the articles of confederation established our centralized government, the Word of God established our ethical commands to preserve human life. For this reason, being pro-life has always been a theological conviction before it is a political nesessity.
In Genesis, the origin account of the creation of the world, we are told that God uniquely created humanity in His image with a certain dignity and distinctiveness that sets us apart from all other living creatures. Humans share, though imperfectly, the communicable nature of God in attributes such as intelligence, creativity, compassion and the like.
Humans were also given dominion over creation, meaning we must care for the world, its creatures and our fellow humans. The goal of our God-given responsibility is to be fruitful and multiply. In other words, we are to continue to work of creation in a way that honors God and helps others flourish.
There are at least two moral principles that come from this creation mandate. First, we should use authority and power for the good of all, not our own self-interest.
Second, we cannot forfeit our responsibility to work together in carrying out the creation mandate. In other words, we have a basic duty, as R.R. Reno argues, to participate in the communal project of exercising dominion and contributing to the processes that shape social life for the common good of all people.
Our savior Jesus Christ bolsters this mandate by instructing us, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them. Again, Jesus commanded his followers to love their neighbors with the same amount of intentionality and care that we would expend upon ourselves.
As Christians who live under the divine Word of God, we approach our pro-life efforts with the conviction that both an embryo and fetus is a person created in the image of God. Therefore, we cannot relieve ourselves of the responsibility to advocate for the pre-born. It is incumbent upon Christians to defend the sanctity of human life with our utmost and zealous efforts to oppose pro-abortion policies. At the same time, our pro-life convictions stretch beyond the womb.
As the church of Christ, we must also care for unwed mothers and unwanted children. If all life is sacred, then Christians must lead the way in adoption and foster care. We are called to exercise dominion in a way that uses our power for the good of others. This means that we must willingly and sacrificially step in to care for children who would have otherwise been aborted. In order to love our neighbors well, we must provide necessary care for mothers and survivors of this abortion crisis.
Seeing that the church is an outpost of the Kingdom of God, entrusted to carry on the mission of Christ, we must take up the call to care for the least of these. The Apostle James commends such efforts as pure and undefiled religion.
What would happen if Christians not only opposed pro-abortion policies, but also became a resource and refuge for those who choose life? What if mothers considering abortion knew that Christians in our churches were willing and qualified to foster or even adopt their unwanted children?
What if we as churches organized efforts to accompany those who choose life along their journey in making sure they have access to health care, vocational opportunities, consistent housing, family planning resources and counseling? What if we as Christians provided help in baby and toddler supplies, meals, child care and tutoring services? This type of neighbor love truly exercises dominion in creation so that others may be fruitful, and all of these efforts are motivated by the theological truth that all people are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and care.
The ancient Roman Emperor Julian, writing in the fourth century, noted that the early Christians had specially advanced their cause through the loving service rendered to strangers. The early church was known for rescuing unwanted babies from the city trash compounds and raising them as their own. In one of his letters, Julian proclaimed that it was a scandal that the Christians not only cared for their own, but the neglected of Rome as well, “while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”
What a powerful testimony from an opponent of the church! While we oppose pro-abortion policies, let us not neglect caring for those who may be tempted to follow the philosophies of the modern world. If they have a choice, let’s ensure that part of that choice is life. The call of Genesis 1:27-28 existed long before the cultural shift of 1973 in America, and the consequences will have implications in the new Jerusalem.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Matt Capps is pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, N.C. and president of the board of directors for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)