Yesterday I met with a friend who told me a troubling story. A lifelong friend of his had gotten pregnant. This gal was like a sister to him. She told him she was pregnant and was thinking of abortion. He tried to reason with her and even told her that if she gave birth to the child, he and his wife would adopt it. A few days later he got a text from her saying that she went ahead and terminated the child. My friend was utterly heart-broken and asked to meet with me to help him think through this tragedy. How should he proceed in his relationship with his friend in light of this horror that she committed? Here is what we talked about:
1. Some time and space from your friend for the purpose of grieving might be wise, healthy and necessary. In the face of such a complex situation emotionally, sometimes a little distance is good for the sake of healing and prayer. Emotional flooding can lead to confusion in our thinking in light of the pain of a situation like this.
2. We can’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians. Should we appeal to them and reason with them to do what is right? Surely. But we should not be surprised when unbelievers act out of pure selfishness as opposed to understanding that “it is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35). May we do our battling on our knees in prayer as we ask God to remove a selfish heart that desires to kill for the sake of convenience and replace it with a heart that loves to serve in light of how Jesus served. Our reasoning can only go so far. Sin is never reasonable or rational. Though we should seek to reason with people in light of God’s word, we should not be surprised when they forsake it. Pharisees saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead and hated him for it.
Thus we have to start with the gospel with unbelievers and not with asking them to stop sinning. Unregenerate people are doing just what comes naturally to them. Thus, we can’t ask them to get cleaned up and then come to Jesus. This is pure legalism. We ask them to see their need for a Savior and then we trust his Holy Spirit to “clean them up” after they are united to Him by faith in his work on their behalf.
3. The pain of this experience gives us a front and center window into the gospel. The Bible does not say that Christ loved us when we did all the right things and followed the law of God perfectly. What does the Bible say? “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). So if we are going to love like God loves we have to love in the face of horrific sin. Did not God do the same with us? Forgiveness and love are certainly costly and uncomfortable. Those descriptors would be an understatement when it comes to crucifixion. If we want to follow Jesus, should we not expect gospel-centered loving to be costly and painful as well?
So we move forward with a tear-filled and broken, yet prayful and hopeful heart remembering that we too would be selfish and murderous if not for the grace of God in our lives. Read what Paul says here to the church in Corinth:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
“Such were some of you” rings loudly in my head as we come face to face with the gospel in this situation. May God’s grace to us inform how we love those who are far from him.