Is abortion a sin?
Sounds like a pretty straightforward question, right? Well, according to Hillsong pastor, Carl Lentz, the answer isn't so simple.
Lentz recently appeared as a guest on The View. When asked if he thought it was a sin for someone in his church to have an abortion, Lentz replied, “that’s the kind of conversation we would have--finding out your story...God’s the judge. People need to live to their own convictions.” He continued, “that’s such a broad question to me.”
“So, that’s not an open or shut case with you?”
“Some people would say it is...to me, I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, to find out their story. Before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in their life, I’d like to know your name.”
Now, I’m sure Carl Lentz actually believes killing babies is a sin.After the backlash he received from the interview, he tweeted a response:
“I do believe abortion is sinful. Our prayer is that we can continue to help and love those that deal with the pain of regret from personal choices, rather than cast further shame and guilt on those already carrying so much and create a church that can teach people how to form convictions based on God’s Word…”
So why did Lentz dodge the question? According to his statement on Twitter, he believed that clearly stating God’s truth would alienate people from Christianity. He thought that calling abortion a sin would “cast further shame and guilt on those already carrying so much.”
Lentz’s answer may have given a warm, fuzzy feeling to his audience; it may have painted a picture of an accepting, tolerant church; but it did not reflect God’s grace. Instead, it twisted God's authoritative Word and misrepresented our Savior. What message did the audience of The View applaud? Chances are, they weren’t applauding God’s grace, his gospel, or his righteous hatred for sin.
They applauded a pro-choice message: “People need to come to their own convictions..”
They applauded a non-judgmental message that doesn't label sin: “God’s the judge.”
They applauded a message that says morality is determined by one’s personal convictions and experience: “People need to live to their own convictions…[I want to] find out their story before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in their life.”
This is what pastoral cowardice does. The pastor who is afraid of being too hard on sin because it might scare people away, will go to great lengths to soften the seriousness of sin. Instead of elevating God’s truth, Lentz elevated “your story” and “your convictions.” After all, grace doesn’t point out sin, right? Wrong. In fact, sin is what makes grace necessary in the first place.
Consider the incredible opportunity that Carl Lentz missed. What if he had responded to the question by saying, “Yes, the Bible clearly says that abortion is a sin. But the Bible also says that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. The incredible thing about Christianity is that it calls out sin for what it is, and then provides hope for salvation through Jesus Christ. Abortion is a sin, but Jesus can forgive.”
Would such an answer really “cast further shame and guilt on those already carrying so much,” or would it provide hope to those who desperately need it? It is in the face of our sin that God’s grace shines brightly. God’s grace hits sin head-on. It shatters the darkness and transforms the soul. It trains us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2:12).
Pastor, never forget that you are called to be as clear as the Bible--no more, no less. Your congregation needs to hear from God, not from you. When God calls it sin, call it sin. When God offers grace, offer grace. Don’t assume that you have a better discipleship approach than Jesus had, who responded to the question, “Is it lawful?” with “Have you not read?” (Matt. 19:3-9) and boldly declared, “unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins”(John 8:24).
Yes, “God is the judge,” but you are to declare what God has judged already.
Yes, you should lovingly and graciously hear people’s stories, but not to determine morality.
Yes, people should form their own convictions, but it’s your job to declare how God’s Word should impact their convictions.
Although we may be quick to call out Carl Lentz for his pastoral cowardice, we are often guilty of this ourselves. Do we avoid preaching on certain Scripture passages because of known sins in our congregations? Do we avoid personal confrontation because we think it will do more harm than good? What sins have become acceptable sins in your church? What sins are ignored because you don’t want to “cast further shame and guilt”?
Carl Lentz missed out on an incredible opportunity to magnify God’s grace. He was more concerned about what people might think instead of what God has declared.
Pastoral cowardice will always be a temptation for those in the ministry. Pastors, like Ezekiel, you are called to be a watchman. If you do not warn the wicked, his blood is on your hands (Ezekiel 3:16-21). But, if you faithfully proclaim God's truth and faithfully shepherd your congregation, you can say with Paul when your season of ministry comes to an end, "I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Act. 20:26-27).
Aaron Berry earned both his undergrad and MA in Bible at Bob Jones University. He, along with his wife, Hanna, and daughter, Brooklyn, currently live in Detroit, MI, where Aaron is pursuing his MDiv degree while serving as the Director of Recruitment at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and working on staff at Inter-City Baptist Church. You can follow him on twitter @AaronMBerry
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