I remember speaking to a pro-choice activist who worked for years in children’s services. She recounted the unfortunate conditions of some orphanages she had visited, made worse only by the high number of children that lived there. They had no family. They were totally dependent upon the system, just years away from being turned loose upon a society that largely had rejected them. In her mind, these were the epitome of “unwanted” children. Knowing my position on the sanctity of life, she challenged my pro-life convictions by touting a supposed lack of concern for children like these. After I asked for specific ways that our local churches could help, I couldn’t suppress the question that lingered in the back of my mind since the beginning of the conversation. I asked her, “Do you think that any of these children should have been aborted?” Without hesitation, she retorted, “Yes, each and every one of them.”
I thought about this conversation not too long ago as I stood in the middle of an African orphanage. The courtyard of the small complex was filled with young children. Some wore tattered clothes, likely hand-me-downs from those who came before them. Many had flies covering their faces like bees on a honeycomb. Most of them were abandoned as infants. All of them were laughing and smiling. One of them was my son. After nearly a five-year long adoption process, here we stood, watching our son kick a ball with the only family he had known to this point in his life. He didn’t understand it then, but he had a new last name. And while there are many questions surrounding the early weeks of my son’s life, we do know that by the world’s standards he was unwanted. Then it dawned on me: according to this pro-choice activist, this is precisely the kind of child that should have been aborted. As I watched him toddle around the courtyard with friends, I felt the chill of her cold and icy words. Yet my heart was warmed towards these children. Many of them may have been “unwanted,” but these were real people with real smiles and very real personalities.
It is hard for me now to imagine our family without my middle child. To be clear, my son did not become valuable as soon as we received the adoption referral. Human beings are not valuable because someone wants them; they are valuable because God made them. And we need to remember that this is exactly what we are talking about when we talk about abortion. We must never forget that beneath the compassionate rhetoric of the abortion industry is a beast that bears its fangs against actual human beings. The Scripture says that the Devil prowls like a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is not simply interested in an issue; he is interested in image-bearers. The Adversary is unconcerned with who wins the abortion debate, so long as there are the bodies of men, women, and children left in the wake.
The pro-choice movement has sought consistently to dehumanize the unborn. Whether it is changing the terminology (“fetus,” “pregnancy tissue,” ect.), or shifting the focus to the rights and health of the woman, the abortion industry tries to make us forget that we are talking about human beings. We must remember, abortion is not simply about an issue to be debated, it is about lives to be defended. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from the fact that lives are taken through abortion. The rhetoric smokescreen filling our culture should never cloud our view on what is happening. For we know that life is precious at every stage.
How should Christians respond? Through our faithful witness, the people of God should display the glory of a gospel that leads to a high value of life. Our local churches should be beacons of hope in the midst of this culture. On any given Sunday, for instance, my local church is filled with families that reflect God’s love for the unwanted. There are transracial families united through adoption and foster care. There are men mentoring others recovering from destructive patterns of addiction. There are children with special needs being celebrated as fellow image-bearers. There are single mothers patiently teaching their children about the life-giving message of the gospel. There are brothers and sisters sacrificing time to serve children in the nursery. All of this is a declaration to the world that the kingdom of Jesus is different.
Jesus modeled this when he welcomed children (Matt 18:1–6; 19:13–15). Contrary to the expectations of the disciples, children have a place near Jesus. When the children did come, he did not separate them into those with stable home situations and those without. Both the ‘wanted’ and ‘unwanted’ were welcomed. Rather, he blessed them all, stating that “to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 19:14). In the gospel, we see that privilege and priorities of the world are put to rest in an empty tomb. That is why for James it is unconscionable that a follower of Christ would not care for the vulnerable (James 1:27). This is integral to our Christian identity, because we too were orphaned and in need of rescue. While we were weak, says the Apostle Paul, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6). Before the creation of the world, God purposed believers to be part of His family. We love like this because we have been loved like this.
While they may not say it so bluntly, the world looks at my son as one whose life should have been cut short. Maybe his birthmother couldn’t afford an abortion. Maybe she lacked access to available “reproductive healthcare.” Maybe the cultural stigma of abortion was too much to bear. Either way, if she had taken the life in her womb, there would be a gaping hole in my family. But more than that, there would be one more image-bearer consumed by a prowling beast hell-bent on destruction.
As the people of God, we proclaim and display the glory of a better lion, one who has jaws strong enough to swallow death. In Him, we are reminded that the unwanted and unlovable are safe. I journeyed to Africa to bring my son home; God came from heaven to rescue His. And He will stop at nothing to make sure all His children make it to the place he has prepared for them. As we uphold the sanctity of human life, we make clear that people are valuable, not because they are wanted, but because they bear the image of their creator. This may be counter-cultural proclamation, but such is life in the kingdom.
Andrew King is the Executive Director of Speak for the Unborn. He holds degrees from Mississippi State University (B.A.) and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., Ph.D. candidate). He lives with wife and three children in Louisville, KY. He is a member of Immanuel Baptist Church.