She made a mistake. A big one. It was over a quarter of a century ago, but it haunts her daily.
She got pregnant. And, despite being totally against it in principle, she had an abortion.
Now it's 2012, and she's reaching out by phone, calling a Christian non-profit, desperately seeking some words of comfort and hope. Her family doesn't know. Her minister doesn't know. The one other person who knows doesn't seem to share her pain and remorse, though he was just as responsible in the situation as she was.
She talks to me, a stranger. She won't even tell me her first name. She cries most of the time. She speaks of her fear of one day facing her unborn child. She speaks of her fear of being found out by family and friends. Most of all she speaks of her fear that God will never forgive her.
What she hears from others offers no comfort. Christians saying that everyone involved with abortion is headed straight for the lake of fire. Family members saying that baby killers deserve any and all punishment that God gives them. Church leaders taking a strong stand against abortion, unwittingly heaping increasing loads of guilt on this woman's shoulders.
I don't know that I was able to help. She said that I was the first that had given her any hope, and I pray that I was able to do just that. [Wish I'd remembered this passage from 1 John: "This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (1 John 3:19-20).] I did tell her that God is bigger than any sin that we might commit, that his grace can cover even our worst misdeeds. And we prayed together.
It's a reminder to me, a call to gentler speech. This is a reminder to you, about the same. It's easy to grab the rocks and hurl them against "those sinners": the abortionists, the drug dealers, the adulterers, the homosexuals. It's also wrong.
I need these words engraved on my heart: "Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone."
We need to know how to take a firm stand against sin without trampling "other sinners" in the process.
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