I am heartbroken by the recent images of Americans celebrating as they legislate against protection of the life of an unborn child. As I have pondered “How can we come against this? What is the role of God’s people to be at this time?”, I’ve come to realize that one of the things we must do is help children have a view of life that is in line with the truth of scripture. Today’s children may grow up without any knowledge that a government can and should protect the life of unborn babies. Parents, grandparents, ministers…are you willing to take on the responsibility of giving your child a perspective on the value of life that is different from the perspective of the society we live in? It may be your child who grows to help change the path we are currently traveling.
This is not just about abortion. This is not just a political issue. This is a worldview issue. Because of the loudness of the pro-life/pro-choice debate currently raging in the US, questions about abortion may well be the way your child raises this issue with you. Let’s begin there, but let me reiterate that the issue goes far beyond the value of pre-born babies.
What is Abortion?
How you answer this question naturally depends on the age and maturity of the child who asks. As always, give your child a true answer but without giving more detail than they ask for or they are able to handle. For children younger than about 7 or 8, the answer will need to be simple. You may be able to say, “We can talk about that later,” but be sure you do that. It is better for your child to learn from you than to piece things together from what others say. A simple way to explain to young children is “Abortion is a way to stop a baby from growing inside his mommy.” As children grow older, your answer can be more specific. “Abortion is a medical procedure that kills babies inside their mommies before the babies have a chance to be born.” If they ask how it is done, you can say that it is sometimes done with pills and sometimes done through an operation. However, I believe the initial question children have is not “How?” but “Why?” Your answer to that is extremely important.
One of the ways we as Christians have failed is that we, who have received grace upon grace, do not always show grace to others. Your answer to the “why?” question could be a speech about how bad people make bad choices. A far better, more accurate, Christ-honoring answer would be something like this. “There could be different reasons people make this choice, but most often it is because the mommy and/or daddy of the baby is sad and scared.” You can go on to explain that they may feel they don’t have what they need to take care of the baby or they may be afraid there will be something wrong with the baby. Now you have opened another important avenue of conversation. “What are some ways we could help parents who are feeling sad and scared about a baby?” Your family may already donate money to crisis pregnancy centers. You may be a foster or adoptive family or you may have friends who are. If there are ways you are helping now, discuss those with your child. If not, talk about ways you could help and then do it! Train your children that Jesus expects us to serve others.
Every Life is of Infinite Value
The words of the Bible are clear. From Psalm 139:13-16:
“For it was you who created my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.”
Every person is “remarkably and wondrously made”. Every person. What some call a “clump of cells” is a clump of cells with a complete DNA map determining who that person is. Not randomly made. There is purpose in every life. Teach your child that every person is created by God and in the image of God. That is, none of us look exactly like God; but just as a mirror reflects the image of our faces, something inside each one of us reflects something of who God is. This is true of a baby before she is born. This is true of an old man who can no longer walk or remember his name. This is true of a person whose skin is a different color than yours. This is true of a person whose abilities are different than yours. This is true of a person who believes or thinks differently than you do.
Teach this to your children! Every life is precious. To teach it, you must live it. Do you call the driver who irritates you “idiot?” Do you rage against the politician whose policies don’t line up with yours? Do you judge others based on their beliefs or lifestyle? Do you only have friends who look like you and act like you? Do you avoid weak or disabled people because they make you uncomfortable? Those behaviors send a clear message to your child. “Not every life is as valuable as ours.”
Valuing all life is a lifelong lesson. My suggestion is that you base your teaching on Scripture and follow it up with your own example. Other verses which may help include Genesis 1:27, Psalm 127:3, Jeremiah 1:5, and Galatians 1:15.
But What About Choice?
At some point your older child will understand the argument for legalized abortion–that a mother should have the right to choose. This argument can seem compelling. However, the truth is that not every choice is open to us. We do not have the freedom to choose to steal, hurt, kill other people. There are definitely cases when carrying a baby to term will seem unfair. I have several friends who carried a child through an entire pregnancy and delivered a much-loved baby, fully aware that the baby would not survive. This seems so unfair, doesn’t it? But this brings us to another principle that must be taught to your children. God is sovereign. We often cannot understand his choices, but we trust him. When we belong to God, we don’t fight for our right to do things our own way; we submit to his ways. When it is easy, when it is hard, when it makes sense, when we cannot understand. God wants us to follow him.
Following God means valuing what he values. Without doubt, God values every life. Without doubt, we are called to do the same.