What's wrong with this picture? (Other than the fact that a baby is about to be deliberately put to death.) Most Christians instinctively sense something's desperately out of whack here. But what?
Sadly, few seem able to put their finger on it. Sadder still is that after they sift through their own thoughts on the matter, nine times out of 10 they wind up less sure that, from a biblical standpoint, there really is anything substantially wrong with such statements. They know murder is wrong, but they also know the Bible teaches that God can forgive any sin.* Their reasoning often runs along these lines:
“It is true God can forgive any sin. And it's true Christ died for all sins, past, present, and future. And it's true God will forgive anyone who truly repents and asks for forgiveness. And this person really does seem to be a Christian who's in a difficult situation. So, even though it's terribly tragic that they feel the need to abort their child, technically they are correct: God will forgive them.”
Armed with such considerations, believers often succumb to the notion that since grace is waiting on the other side, even though God very plainly says “thou shalt not murder,” His commandments must be optional. Why else would He indirectly embolden sin with guarantees of subsequent forgiveness?
But does He? Can grace really be used this way, seemingly to magnify God, but actually to defend abortion? Is the above reasoning complete and sound?
What the Question Is Not
Just so we're clear: The question is not whether God will forgive the post-abortiveparent who turns to him in genuine repentance and faith. He most assuredly will. There is no sin, including abortion, that God cannot or will not forgive. God is more eager to forgive than we are to seek forgiveness. That's true regardless of whether we've sinned little or greatly.
Recall, for example, that King David committed both adultery and murder. Yet after the fact, when the prophet Nathan confronted him, David repented and God forgave him. As if to underscore His grace, God even had Nathan call David's second son by Bathsheba “Jedidiah,” which means “beloved of God.” Other examples could be multiplied.
The question is not, will the Father lavish grace upon all who turn to Him in true repentance and faith? Unequivocally, yes, He will.
What the Question Is
The question is, does God give to pre-abortive parents assurance He will forgive the murder of their child if, despite many dire warnings, they go through with it? More to the point, can they who are willing to deliberately ignore the clear moral commands of God be assured their heart will not be hardened to a degree where they will never even want to truly repent?
I submit that neither conscience (God's law written on the heart) nor Scripture gives any such assurance, and that to suppose otherwise is to confuse faith with presumption and grace with license. It is not “faith” that assumes one can deliberately sin without dire consequence; it is presumption. And it is not “grace” that holds forth the promise of consequence-free sin; it is license.
Sinning to the Glory of God?
Those who believe God's grace effectively means “obedience is optional” are likely not true Christians at all. Their thinking is desperately, diabolically wrongheaded. The theological import of it could be paraphrased thus: “Our yet-to-be-committed sins aren't that big a deal to God. Christ died for our sins, so we don't have to break a sweat to avoid them. When tempted to do something wrong, even something as serious as aborting a child, we just need to remember God's grace takes the worry out of sinning. No matter what we do, God will forgive. His grace is greater than our sin. Indeed, because our sin magnifies His grace, when we sin we do so to the glory of God.”
Reaping What We Sow
“Christians” holding to such ideas have far more in common with those who “turn the grace of God into licentiousness,” “suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” and “do evil that good may come.” They have no Scriptural basis to expect things will end well for them. They run the very real risk of being given up to a hardened heart. Indeed, their saying such things gives strong evidence that hardening has already begun. We reap what we sow.
Think about it: If I am so sure that, after I kill one of my children, I absolutely will repent to receive God's forgiveness, then why won't I repent before I kill the child? I have apparently already deceived myself into thinking I can order up my own repentance “on demand.” Yet if that were the case, wouldn't I be repenting now, before I kill my child, rather than after? No one is physically forcing me to kill my child.** If I refuse to repent now before the act, what makes me so sure I will truly repent later? What will have changed? And if I have another child, what assurance do I have I won't do it again? And if I do, did I ever truly repent after the first time?
Unless one is under the delusion that “repentance” is something done only when it's easy to obey God's commands, one can never be sure one ever did truly repent. Anyone can “repent” when there's no great cost involved. It's when the price of turning from sin is high that we discover whether our repentance is real.
It is a dangerous thing to presume upon the grace of God and say, before deliberately sinning, “God will forgive." Even if I am a genuine Christian, I am almost certainly going to be plagued, perhaps for the rest of my life, with unshakable feelings of guilt and doubt as to whether my repentance and faith was real and whether I am, indeed, a genuine Christian.
Grace never assures us beforehand that if we deliberately sin we will be forgiven. Grace only assures us that there is no sin, sincerely repented of, that God cannot or will not forgive through Christ. It is a crucial distinction.
God's willingness to forgive is never in doubt. But His forgiveness is always predicated upon the genuineness of our repentance. And the genuineness of our repentance is severely suspect if, before we go through with it, we can say in our heart, “I know it's wrong, but since God is going to forgive me anyway, I'm going to go ahead and do it.”
Those who say such things aren't looking for grace, but for permission to sin. They assuredly will not receive the latter, and it is fearfully doubtful they will receive the former, either. Not because God is unwilling to give it, but because they clearly aren't seeking it.
* A discussion of Matthew 12:31 and the “unforgivable sin” is outside the scope of this article.
** I recognize there is often tremendous pressure to abort, but few in this country are literally forced.
Image copyright David Castillo Dominici.
Rolley Haggard is a feature writer for BreakPoint.