A popular social media hashtag, #ThingsJesusNeverSaid, frequently claims Jesus never said anything about abortion as justification for a procedure repeated 70,000 times a year in Australia.
Former Catholic, Madonna, reportedly wants an audience with the Pope to tell him Jesus supports abortion. He doesn’t, and neither does the Pope!
Even Christians and theologians, who should know better, have been guilty of taking the Bible out of context to justify abortion, claiming life starts at birth, or at least at viability, and that abortion is optional and preferred when a child is conceived through rape or the unborn baby has a real or suspected serious abnormality. Yet there is no Biblical justification for any of these “enlightened” opinions.
What Jesus’ birth tells us
Interestingly and tellingly, Jesus, while conceived miraculously, chose to come into the world in the usual way through a regular pregnancy and standard birth (notwithstanding the stable, angels and wise men packing treasure and following stars), and yet even his life was at risk in the womb from a society none-too-keen on offspring conceived out of wedlock. Jesus was reaffirming the value of life and children from conception by undergoing the usual gestational process.
His human development started in the womb and continued beyond as he grew, “in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He didn’t become more human and more valuable outside the womb than within.
What about before Jesus?
Genesis says all humans are made in God’s image, male and female, to multiply, inhabit the earth and steward the planet entrusted to us, including plants and animals (Genesis 1:27-28).
Humans, from conception, have dignity and value, and are not another species of animal competing for scarce resources on a dying planet.
Even a cursory look at the Bible confirms that children are considered a blessing. Rachel demanded Jacob give her a son lest she die (Genesis 30) while Hannah wept bitterly year after year at the temple (1 Samuel 1:7) until she finally conceived.
God blessed Abraham with children as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15), and the psalmist says the man is blessed who has a “quiver full” (Psalm 127:5).
In Genesis 25:22, the Hebrew word banim* used to describe the unborn twin boys (babies) within Rebekah is also used to describe infants and children. In this passage, God speaks to the potential and destiny of the unborn children, describing them as “two nations” wrestling within her.
In Exodus 21:22-25, unborn children are afforded special protection. If a pregnant woman or an unborn child dies as a result of violence, intended or accidental, the offender is to pay compensation including and up to his very life.
God makes specific mention in Jeremiah 32:35 and Psalm 106: 37-38 that he detests child sacrifice.
God also makes clear in Deuteronomy (24:16) that children are not to be put to death for the sins of their fathers (parents) and vice-versa.
David declares in Psalm 139 that God “created his inmost being”, he “knit him together in his mother’s womb”, he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (13-14). His “frame was not hidden” from God when he was made in “the secret place” (15-16).
God tells the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations’’ (Jeremiah 1:5).
These verses do not just relate to the favoured few, the prophets, kings and priests, but are representative of every life, every person made in the image of God; unique, valuable, known and loved.
God also makes plain his delight in children who are testimony to his purity, power and love. Psalm 8:2 declares that God establishes a stronghold against his enemies through the glorious praises of nursing infants. Satan, God’s and our arch enemy, wants to dehumanise, devalue and dispose of the image-bearers of God.
The Bible constantly instructs us to teach our children, keep them from harm and model Godly behaviour. They are a gift, entrusted to us, not commodities and consumers. God reminds us through scripture that we are to provide special care to the vulnerable and weak in our midst; the aged, children, widows, orphans, poor and refugees.
What could be more vulnerable than a child in the womb who lives or dies at the whim of adults?
And so, back to Jesus.
John the Baptist, then about six months gestation, leaps inside his mother Elizabeth’s womb when Mary comes to visit (Luke 1:44). Jesus is only eight to ten days gestation, yet Elizabeth describes Mary as the mother of the Lord. Perhaps we should change the Christmas carol to read, “Jesus, Lord before (at thy) birth”.
The Greek word brephos* used to describe the unborn John is the same word used to describe the newborn Jesus in Luke 2:22 and the little children brought to Jesus for blessing (Mark 10:14).
In Matthew 18:2-14, Jesus says we welcome Him when we welcome children, all children, pre-born and beyond birth. He told his disciples, his closest mates, that it would be better to be drowned rather than face God’s wrath for sinning against a child, or causing a child to sin.
The day following his expansive teaching on the value of children, the same disciples attempt to stop women bringing their children to Jesus for blessing, and the Lord goes apoplectic (Mark 10:14).
Being fully God and fully man, Jesus is aware of our injustice against children since the fall in the garden, inside and outside the womb. His own conception and birth led to the deaths of baby boys two years and under in and around Bethlehem.
Unlike adults, Jesus could entrust himself to children who recognised his divinity when they shouted “Hosannah to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:15).
Jesus’ breaking point
Preventing mothers bringing their children to him was the breaking point for “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”.
Our methods of injustice against children have evolved over time. Modern abortion techniques are a much more efficient means of disposing of unwanted or inconvenient children, compared with Biblical times when termination procedures were crude and largely ineffective, requiring parents to resort to infanticide. Girls were most at risk in the patriarchal society.
While Jesus didn’t specifically mention abortion, insisting he approves of the practice is a serious distortion of his nature, behaviour and the completeness of scripture showing God’s love for humanity.
We approve, tolerate, endorse and promote abortion in God’s name at our peril.
Caleb Parke, Fox News, June 21, 2019, “Madonna Wants the Pope to Know Jesus Supports Abortion” https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/madonna-abortion-jesus-pope
Strong’s Hebrew Concordance, Bible hub: https://biblehub.com/hebrew/habbanim_1121.htm
NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/brephos.html
Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV).