In Hebrews 10:32-35, we find two groups within the church. One is suffering abuse and affliction in prison, and another is showing compassion as they identify with the first group and visit them in prison. Elsewhere, in Luke 10, we see the Good Samaritan showing that same kind of practical, messy, sacrificial compassion. Online, I see Christians with varied viewpoints spiritedly debating the best way to love Syrian refugees.
These are good stories of the body of Christ living out the gospel. We are indeed called to compassionately come alongside those who are suffering injustice. That includes children yet to – and possibly never to – be born on earth, as well as the children who are born and their parents.
But can we, as the church, ask others to choose and value life if we are not willing to do so with our prayers and support and actions? How can we respond to the realities I’ve shared in previous posts in this series on abortion and disability?
- Pray earnestly and regularly for awakening in churches.
- Increase awareness through relationship with others, in person and via social media.
- Support alternatives to abortion with money and time and prayers. Specific to people with disabilities, advocating for life means more than opposing abortion, though that’s a start. It also means educating yourself about and advocating for private and public sector efforts supporting those affected by disability in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
- In the US, we have democratic privileges of free speech and representation and demonstration. Use them to advocate for legal protection for the unborn, including those with disabilities, and for reasonable supports for the already born.
- Pastors and teachers, do not shy away from the topics of disability and abortion. When I first started exploring these topics years ago, I found rich treasures in John Piper’s sermons and John Knight’s blog, both out of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota. Why? Before Piper retired from his role as senior pastor there, he preached once a year specifically on abortion and did not avoid that topic or the subjects of disability and suffering on other Sundays in the year. Knight – as the dad of a son with multiple, severe disabilities and a wife with breast cancer – regularly writes about the topic as he loves and lives with a family whose lives are difficult but presently and eternally valuable to him and to God. I am thankful for both of those men, and I am thankful for other pastors, priests, and teachers of the Word who are not silent on this matter and who are willing, in the words of Ephesians 5:11, to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” with boldness and with humility.
- Show the love and grace we received from Christ with others, including those who have had abortions and those who are experiencing difficulties as parents of children with disabilities. Preach the gospel faithfully to those who did and those who didn’t choose life.
- And, finally, support and serve in disability ministry. Develop special needs ministries so that churches are known as welcoming places for all affected by disability. We see in 1 Corinthians 12 that the church is meant to include members who the world does not esteem or value – indeed, that those members are indispensable to the body of Christ that is the church – so we as the church ought to practice that. Furthermore, as I shared in my previous post about abortion statistics for families receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, we have to realize the implication that some faithful members and regular attendees of churches are among those numbers, sitting in congregations like yours on the weekend and aborting their unborn baby with Down syndrome on a weekday. Could it be that they look around most churches and see no one like their child welcomed or embraced or loved, or perhaps they see those members there but treated like burdens, if not to their faces then in conversations among other parents or leaders? Make your congregation a safe place for those parents to choose life for their unborn child, as well as a safe place to receive support if and when they face difficult times after the birth of that child. You don’t have to have an elegant or even formalized program; you just need to get willing to recall the love and grace that God showed you and extend that to those who come to your church with a disability and to their families.
After all, we are called to teach “…the glorious deeds of the Lord… that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God…” (Psalm 78:4-7). I don’t see any disclaimer in those verses stating *except for those who don’t look or think or interact or behave or move or learn like you do. How can we be faithful to heed God’s word here if we don’t show care for the children yet unborn, including those with disabilities?
In addition to serving as a Key Ministry Church Consultant, Shannon Dingle is a co-founder of the Access Ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.
Check out Shannon Dingle’s blog series on adoption, disability and the church. In the series, Shannon looked at the four different kinds of special needs in adoptive and foster families and shared five ways churches can love their adoptive and foster families. Shannon’s series is a must-read for any church considering adoption or foster care initiatives. Shannon’s series is available here.