As you have no doubt noticed, many of your Pro-Life friends and family members have been on an anti-abortion jag in recent weeks with the release of the Planned Parenthood sting videos. I realize that all the shared articles and hashtags and retweets may seem to you like an enormous wave of hate and judgment, so I wanted to take a minute to try to explain to you why we are doing this and why we do not hate you.
First, even though I am not a woman and my wife and I have never had an abortion, we have been asked by doctors to consider aborting one of our children, and we have faced complicated pregnancies. But regardless, I hope you will still receive this letter as an honest and genuine attempt to communicate, despite our apparent differences. I hope you can receive these words as coming from a fellow human being who is not perfect, has made innumerable mistakes, and I hope you can hear these words as coming from a heart of true compassion for the horrific circumstances many women have faced and endured that brought them to the point of terminating their pregnancy.
Second, and related that last point, I want to explain what the Bible says about sin. I’m a Christian Pastor so it’s pretty much inescapable to get a letter from me that doesn’t have some reference to God or the Bible or Jesus. I hope you can roll with that even if it doesn’t make sense or seem helpful. The Bible says that sin is any choice we make that turns us away from God and His goodness. God made us and gave us this world and intended for us to enjoy Him and all good things, but every one of us has turned away and gone our own way. And it turns out that this turning away is like choosing the wrong slide, the wrong parachute. Once we have chosen this path, we can’t unchoose it. And in this sense sin is like a disease, a kind of slavery. That means that part of the insidiousness of sin is that it comes at us and gets into us like an infection, like a parasite, and even though we remain responsible for our own choices, it often feels like we are trapped and we watch ourselves do and say things and somewhere deep down inside there’s another part of us screaming and crying, beating the walls of a prison that won’t let us out. This is why we lie. This is why we cheat. This is why we lust. We are infected with sin. And this is why we can’t stop doing things that harm ourselves and other people. Paul says it like this: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:15, 19). The main point I want to make here is that every human being understands at some level what it’s like to feel trapped, to feel like there are no other options, and to choose something awful and regrettable.
But the third thing is that this slavery, this trapped feeling is what frequently makes us defensive and angry. When someone posts something condemning something that we have chosen, especially when we chose it under duress, especially when it was a horribly difficult decision — it feels like that pain is being scorned. It feels like we are being judged, attacked, and hated. And this is frequently where we dig in and build brick walls of defensiveness in order to protect ourselves and our broken hearts from another assault. It’s hard enough to live with decisions that you regret, decisions that seemed like the best thing, the only reasonable thing at the time — it’s hard enough without a bunch of religious people reminding you that you murdered your baby. I get that. I hear you. But just for a moment, would you consider a different angle? A different perspective? What if the shots we are firing are not at you? What if what we hate is not you but the prison that is holding you? What if we’re shooting at the shackles on your hands and feet? Please hear this: We are not firing at you. We are not shooting at you. We do not hate you. We do not judge you. We are not attacking you. We are attacking your tormentor. We are shooting at your slave master. We hate the darkness that is crushing you.
And what if we actually understand the slavery of sin more than you think? What if every one of us knows what it’s like to have made awful choices? To choose horrible, ugly, shameful things and to feel trapped, to feel as though there is no way out, no way to change, no way to undo what has been done? I don’t know if you can hear this right now with all the noise all around us. But would you please believe that we have? We have felt that shame, that guilt, that entrapment, that feeling of complete paralysis, powerlessness, hopelessness, despair. Some Christians may pretend that they are perfect people with no struggles, with no problems, with no horrible decisions in their past, but let me tell you that those aren’t real Christians. Jesus didn’t come for them. He didn’t come for the healthy, for the righteous, for the clean. Jesus came for the sick, for the sinners, for the filthy. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners” (Mk. 2:17).
And this is the last thing: we aren’t working up this outrage at Planned Parenthood and all abortion providers because we want you to be more sorry or ashamed. We are in this because we want you to be free. And we have experienced what it’s like to be set free. After you’ve been in a prison for many years, all talk of release or escape seems like a dream, like a hallucination, like a mirage. And sometimes it can seem like good common sense to tell the voices to just shut up, to just go away, to stop talking such damned nonsense. After a while, your can only take so many heartbreaks, you can only take so many let downs. I understand that. It often feels safer to stop feeling, to put up the bars, to lock the door of your soul and stop letting anything in there where it only hurts and aches. I know.
But let me ask you to try one more time. What if the voices aren’t just in your head? What if there’s a jailbreak in process right now? What if all this posting, this article sharing, this hashtagging is actually a huge crowd of freed prisoners banging on your cell announcing that there is a way out? What if a Hero has arrived who has the power to free us all, to set us all free, to wash us clean, to undo the past, and to give us a completely new beginning?
We’re here to tell you that He has. And His name is Jesus. He suffered, bled, and died for all of us and all our sins. He suffered so that we might all go free. And there is no sin so awful, so sick, so perverse that His blood cannot wash you clean.
You are not alone. You are not the only one. Many women who have had abortions have found forgiveness and healing. Many Christians who have had abortions have found grace.
We’re not at war with women. We’re not at war with honest, life-giving health care. We’re at war with the darkness that has settled over our nation. And we are at war with it because we love the Light, because we love you, because we believe in life, because we believe in grace, because we believe in hope. We believe in a better future for you, for our children, and for the whole world.
That’s what this is all about. I hope you can hear that. And even if you still don’t agree with me, I hope you’ll at least think about it the next time you see another post from one of us.
Love in Christ,
Pastor Toby Sumpter
P.S. If you or someone you know would like to talk more about any of this, I am more than happy to talk further with you. You can use the contact form on this blog or find me on Facebook or Twitter. Numerous post-abortion ministries exist that may also help you find healing. Thank you for reading, and may God bless you.