I pay attention to a lot of religious news when I can, reading reports, articles, and blogs. I read something today that broke my heart. The article I am referring to is the story of a women who went from pro-choice to pro-life and was denied membership at two different churches for both views. The article poses the question of how the Church is to deal with people who are of either persuasion, pro-choice or pro-life. Not a bad question.
But my greatest concern is that we oftentimes ask the wrong questions when dealing with situations. We can become fixated with our answer because we’ve asked our question. The trick is to ask the question, and it seems that is, “How can the Church meet the needs and hurts of either group?” As someone that cares about the spiritual growth, formation, and awareness of other Christians, there isn’t much else to be concerned about than how we deal with and respond to the world as people of faith, as people exercising faith. Our faith can be dangerous, detrimental even, to ourselves and others unless we begin to deal with issues the way God does, or better yet, dealing with issues with God and not without Him. How do we deal with issues alongside God? Through selfless service.
There’s a story from the 4th century AD that is quite appropriate to the article I read today. An early Christian Bishop, Fr. Ammonas, who began as a monk in the desert was an amazing man of righteousness…
Thus, having become a bishop, someone brought a young girl who was pregnant to him, saying, ‘See what this unhappy wretch has done; give her penance.’ But he, having marked the young girl’s womb with the sign of the cross, commanded that six pairs of fine linen sheets should be given her, saying, ‘It is for fear that, when she comes to give birth, she may die, she or the child, and have nothing for the burial.’ But her accusers resumed, ‘Why did you do that? Give her a punishment.’ But he said to them, ‘Look, brothers, she is near to death; what am I to do?’ Then he sent her away and no old man dared accuse anyone any more.
Notice how the one who was most high (Ammonas) was the one who served the one who was the lowest and least (the young girl). First, he blessed the girl and the child with the sign of the cross, wishing peace upon both parties. Then he took care of the immediate needs of the girl. He had fine cloth brought to care for the mother and child in the event that anything dreadful happen. The girl was likely near death and the child was in jeopardy. This was not a time for judgement but rather a time for mercy.
The penalty of the young girl’s actions were already being felt. The authorities had dragged her to the bishop for judgement. Her society had most likely already cast her aside and now others wanted the Church to do the same. But, it was not up to the men who brought her to be judged to have their own sense of justice met. The proper response to this situation was service toward the girl, care for the girl and her unborn child. I am reminded of how doctors treat gunshot victims in the hospital, sometimes knowing that one of the people they are treating could be the shooter. Their purpose, their mission is to treat and to heal, not to cast judgement. Now, should I dare to say that this is the proper response to most, if not all, situations for the Christian? I will leave that up to you.
Another early Christian desert dweller, Abba Agathon, said, “A man ought at all times to be aware of the judgements of God.” If we at once forget that we too are sinners before God, then we might also forget to show great mercy to others as God has shown to us. Being mindful of our forgiven state it what creates the space in our heart to care for others. We are made capable to love others through the reminder of His grace, through the living out of His grace.
The true response of the Church to the woman from the article is to attempt to meet her needs. She has come to the place of refuge, the Body of Christ, the Church. Can we be that body and meet her’s and other’s needs? Will you bring out fine linen and give people a burial of honor? Will you clothe others with mercy the way Christ has clothed you with Himself?
If you’d like to read the article then see the link below.
WARNING: the article describes a portion of the abortion process that might be disturbing for some.
Click here: “Abortion and the Church”