1) Why do you judge me?
Two points. In 2001, I was the tight end on the highest scoring football team in America. The Heisman Trophy winner was our quarterback and future NFL starters littered our offensive huddle. We played Oklahoma for the National Championship in Miami and were heavy favorites. We lost, scoring only two points. It was miserable. I played in four National Championship games in five years, we never lost a game at home, and we were the undefeated champions in 1999, yet the game I’m asked about the most is that 2001 Orange Bowl. People want to psychoanalyze the players, second guess the coaches, and constantly wonder what if. It was just so unexpected, stunning really. And every time someone brings it up I feel it. Ultimately it’s a silly game, but I really don’t enjoy thinking about it. It’s the only game I feel genuine regret about. Many things went wrong that night, but I still wonder if I could have done something to change the outcome. Listening to people dissect the intricacies of the game reminds me of parts I’d forgotten, re-aggravates areas of frustration, and makes me want to still their conversation. I promise it bothers me and my teammates far more than it bothers any of our fans or critics. I don’t want to forget it because it’s part of my story, but I don’t really want to remember it either, because it’s a part of my story I’m not proud of.
Comparing my regrets from a football game with those of a person grieving an abortion is like comparing a B.B. Gun to an Atomic Bomb, but I shared this story to communicate a semblance of empathy for a large segment of our population. When the issue of abortion is discussed, we are often focused on today and into the future. People speak frankly about the issue and the procedure because it’s important for people to understand the truth of the matter. But in doing so, it brings other people back to a part of their story they don’t want to forget but don’t want to remember either. My last article was an effort to speak into their lives.
We’re going to spend a long time dissecting the technical, legal, moral, and logical issues surrounding abortion. In the process I’ll have to deal frankly with some ideas and their consequences which could lead some to feel criticized or condemned. I’m going to try hard not to hurt, but sometimes the truth can be painful.
Before I get to the more technical questions I felt it was important to deal with this one. It wasn’t asked directly, but I inferred it from a friend’s comment. It’s the words of one person, but I believe they’ll resonate with many of you.
People should worry more about themselves getting into heaven rather than judging and condemning everyone else. I do not believe that I won’t make it into Heaven simply because I am pro-choice nor do I believe someone will make it into Heaven simply because they are pro-life. It is up to us as individuals to make the decisions for ourselves and then take responsibility for our choices when we meet Him at the gate. If I were to make the decision to have an abortion because of rape or incest then it would be on me to take responsibility for that when it came my time. I do not for one second believe that God would condemn me for having that abortion and to think otherwise would lead me to believe He is not the loving and forgiving Father I believe Him to be.
I believe there are many people who would feel this comment well describes their feelings, and these feelings are not isolated to the issue of abortion. Just reflect back on the whirlwind that ensued after Dan Cathy shared his views on marriage. (You can read my articles, Chick-fil-a, Dan Cathy, and… hate? and “Why do you feel Gay people should not be allowed to be married?” to learn my perspective.) The feeling of being judged when another points out a wrong is common among us. The feeling of being condemned when people discuss a wrong from our past is prevalent as well. But we have to talk honestly about the moral issues of our day, even if it’s painful. While my first article was written to the person who has an abortion in their story, this one is written to all of us. I’m hopeful this will allow us to be able to openly and objectively address the technical questions without anyone feeling condemned or judged in the process.
Using Judgement vs. Being Judgmental
I spent a regrettable portion of a recent evening watching Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. Apparently I’m out of touch, because there was an Australian kid named Cody Simpson sitting in as a celebrity judge and he was repeatedly referred to as a “superstar” and “world-famous.” Am I the only one who doesn’t know this guy? Anyway, the chefs had to make cupcakes using Australian ingredients including Vegemite and grilled shrimp… Cupcakes. With Vegemite. I was all the more thankful for my wife’s scratch made eclairs. In the first round, a girl made a “cupcake” where she used ground meat where Betty Crocker uses flour and sugar. All the judges, even the Aussie heart-throb, voted her out because her item, while apparently tasty, simply wasn’t a cupcake. They judged her. And they were right to do so. We do the same thing all day, every day.
Loan officers judge potential loan candidates. Teachers judge their students. We judge entire corporations based on the behavior of one counter employee. It’s a part of the human experience. If one of my sons, hypothetically speaking, were to smack one of his brothers, I would judge him, and sentence him. My judgement of his behavior informs him of the proper way to treat his fellow-man. A Navy sailor ended up fighting for his life because he rightly judged the behavior of a robber and intervened on behalf of the victim. Wouldn’t it be strange to challenge his heroism with, “Why was he judging the thief?”
Declaring someone’s behavior wrong is not the same as judging the person performing it.
Parents understand this better than anybody. We have to judge our kids’ behaviors all day, but we rarely judge them. Were we to stop using judgement we would end up incarcerated for neglect. As we consider the issue of abortion, explaining the immoral nature of the act, or saying it’s wrong is not the same as condemning someone who’s had an abortion. If you are at all unsure of my heart on this issue, please read the first article in this series.
I know a bunch of my readers watch the show Parenthood. I don’t, but I watched a replay of an episode where a character is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. the doctor’s bedside manner was abrupt, but his news was heavy either way. His judgement empowered him to identify the truth and compelled him to deliver the crushing news, but he didn’t judge the patient. The news was terrible, but the only way for the couple to begin to work through the issue was to deal with it in truth. This is exactly what I’m doing when I expound on the wrongness of abortion – using judgement about what’s happening without judging the person involved, although hopefully with a better bedside manner.
Judging the Behavior vs. Judging Someone’s Motivation.
Our family was hustling from the house to our “Party Bus” when Andrew shouted out, “Dad, Jackson left the door open to let in a bunch of mosquitoes!” Jeni had just told the boys to keep the door shut and her goal was to keep out the vampire insects, so Andrew’s statement was righteous, at least the first half. I was probably wrestling Toby into his car seat at the time, but as soon as I heard Andrew’s tattle I knew he was being judgmental. So how can he be righteous and judgmental at the same time? The answer holds the secret to understanding the difference between using judgement and being judgmental.
I’ve spent the last seven months working with women and men preparing for a baby they weren’t expecting. I’ve listened to stories of people considering abortion and I’ve been struck by the varying motivations. When I used to picture the abortion-minded girl, I would imagine a militant feminist. There were times I imagined every woman who had an abortion hated men, hated the idea of pregnancy, and rejected any notion of a domestic female. I didn’t expect to learn most women considering an abortion really don’t want one. I was surprised to learn how many of them think they have to because of intense external pressure from the father, their parents, their school authority figures, etc. As I heard their stories, I saw overwhelmed people desperate for help from a seemingly hopeless situation. They didn’t hate children or pregnancy, in fact, almost all of them wanted children. They just didn’t feel ready for one yet.
We told every one of them premarital sex was wrong – they wouldn’t be in their situation if they were living with sexual purity. We used and shared judgement. But we never, not once, heaped condemnation on one of those parents. Just as Andrew pointed out Jackson’s wrong in leaving the door open, we pointed out how they ended up in our office and the wrong in following through with an abortion. But Andrew crossed a line when he added, “to let in a bunch of mosquitoes!” At that moment he was judging his brother’s motivation and he was wrong to do it. This is a line we work to never cross.
Women consider abortion for a myriad of reasons and it serves no real purpose to assume why. The proper response is to learn their story, try to walk into their situation, and come alongside them as they consider their options. When we finally come to understand why they think an abortion is necessary we can begin to offer hope. But as we do it, we have to judge, for a guide is no use if he cannot identify danger. The secret to exercising judgement without being judgmental is in trying to understand the person’s story. In most cases, a woman has to be in some pretty extenuating circumstances to consider taking the life of her child. Understanding her is the secret to helping her and her child.
Works Salvation vs. Presuming Grace
While Jesus was suffering the excruciating final hours of His life, a guilty man hung from a cross beside him. He placed his faith in Jesus and expressed it in the form of a hopeful statement, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” His faith was rewarded when Jesus assured him, “today you will be with me in paradise.” The book of Ephesians states, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” So the following idea is absolutely true, “I do not believe that I won’t make it into Heaven simply because I am pro-choice nor do I believe someone will make it into heaven simply because they are pro-life.”
The Bible firmly asserts the truth that salvation is received as a gift of grace from God; no one can earn salvation. And there are plenty of times I’ve been in the wrong since I was born again, but those moments, or seasons of sin don’t rob the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of its power. So no, being pro-choice won’t condemn any individual to Hell. And simply being pro-life won’t promote someone to Heaven.
However, to ignore a Biblical declaration is to presume grace and there’s only so many times you can tease a lion before he’s going to roar. If we are following Jesus we are expected to grow in our knowledge of His character and submission to His authority. It’s the maturing process. Far too often, we point out the truth that our wrong thinking or acting won’t condemn us to Hell and use it as a justification to continue on our path, and that’s wrong. While we may still be welcomed into Heaven because we’re wearing the righteousness of Christ, we may also experience painful consequences for our thinking and acting while we’re on Earth.
Is it not true that our response to a child who spills his milk because he tripped would be very different than if he spilled it by intentionally pouring it on his sister? There are times we’ve sinned in ignorance, maybe it stung terribly maybe it didn’t. But I would never want to stand before God – the one who holds the sun, controls the seas, and rotates Saturn – and try to justify my rebellion.
If God holds me accountable He’s not loving.
Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.” This is explained in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” So as believers, even when we sin, we are not condemned because Jesus absorbed the condemnation on the cross. So in an eternal sense this idea is accurate, “I do not for one second believe that God would condemn me for having that abortion and to think otherwise would lead me to believe He is not the loving and forgiving Father I believe Him to be.”
God would not condemn someone because they had an abortion any more than He would save someone because they didn’t. Salvation simply doesn’t work that way. However, being free from eternal condemnation does not also mean we will be free from the natural consequences of our actions, and it’s not accurate to believe God is unloving when those consequences occur.
I disciplined Toby, my three-year-old, the day he ignored both of his parents and ran into a parking lot toward a busy road. I was angry about his rebellion, but I was more concerned about his future. His behind received acute consequences to hopefully prevent his entire body from receiving the disabling consequences resulting from being hit by a car.
The story of the prodigal son well illustrates this principle. We always remember fondly the closing scene where the father runs to his son and a welcome party begins. This scene is a picture of the ‘no condemnation’ idea. But before that scene, while the prodigal was still prodigal he experiences loneliness, hunger, and desperation, all natural consequences for his rebellious choices. A person may love Jesus like Buddy the Elf loves syrup, but if they have sex with someone who has an STD they’ll likely catch it too. And it may stay with them the rest of their life. God didn’t stop loving them when they contracted the disease, it was a natural consequence for their behavior.
There is absolute forgiveness for those who have had abortions because Jesus paid the price for sin on the cross. However, that truth doesn’t necessarily remove all the natural consequences associated with that decision. Women and men around the world are struggling through the process of healing after abortion. They are unconditionally loved by God but also living in the midst of their consequences. This is all the more reason to fight for its end.
If you disagree with me, you hate me.
Honestly introspective married people know the falsehood in this statement, but also how we’ll so often believe it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accused Jeni of some form of disdain for me because she pointed out one of my errors. “Ryan, you forgot to switch the laundry,” Jeni might say. To which I reply, “Oh, so I’m a bad husband and father now! Is that it?” I knew I was supposed to switch the laundry, but I didn’t like my forgetfulness being pointed out, so I owned the offense by saying Jeni was unjust in her observation. It’s insanity. But we do it all the time. I have friends, friends mind you, who disagree with me about all kinds of things, abortion being one of them. But my disagreement does not mean I hate them.
You may have seen this image back in August, it illustrates this idea in marvelous clarity.
The only time this really becomes an issue is when we allow the behavior or thought to define us as a person. When we do that, a criticism of our actions is received as a rejection of us. But it’s simply not true. The problem isn’t in our issue being addressed, but in our identifying with the issue.
Back to the beginning.
So why do I judge you? I don’t, but I will judge your behavior, yesterday’s, today’s, or tomorrow’s, because I care about you. I’ll judge, and if necessary speak up, because the behavior being contemplated is wrong, because it will hurt you, and because it will hurt someone else (Matt 18:15, Luke 17:3, Gal. 6:1). I don’t want anyone to experience pain that can be avoided. When I pass an accident, I flash my lights to let oncoming drivers know there’s danger ahead. If I’ve hit my head somewhere, I tell others to duck. Love motivates me to judge all the time, and that same love prohibits me from presuming to know someone’s motives. When I educate someone on the real consequences of having an abortion I’m not condemning those who have had them any more than I’m condemning someone when I teach my children about lying.
When I was a junior in college, the year before that Orange Bowl debacle, I was in the midst of being the starting tight end on the #1 ranked football team in America. The Seminoles were on our way to a historical national championship while my ego was on its way out of the stratosphere. I was hurting people with my attitude, cutting with my words, and neglecting the people who cared the most for me. Thankfully, those very people called me out. My house mates, and closest friends, sat me down and minced no words in addressing my arrogance. They reminded me who I was before I began believing I was a big shot. They reminded me of our friendship and how my selfishness was hurting it. They loved me enough to judge my behavior, and it changed my life.
That kind of accountability is part of the healthy human existence. It’s prescribed in Bible and beneficial to all. But our tendency is to run from such correction and often this false cry of, “don’t judge me,” is our mantra. Like John crying out in the dessert, I will continue to guide people away from abortion, regardless of their religious ideas, because it’s the taking of a human life. As I fight for the lives of the unborn, I’ll also reach out to those who carry the burden of having had an abortion with the redeeming love of Jesus. God loves the mamas and daddys just as much as he loves their unborn children; he endured the cross for all of them.