Grace, Truth, and Politics
To be in politics is to do two things simultaneously: Advocate and oppose. To support one position is, by definition, to be against another. This is axiomatic and unavoidable.
This reality is part not only of political life but, for Christians, life generally. For example, Jesus claimed to be the only way to God. No exceptions, no qualifications. Whatever one’s religious heritage or personal preferences, Christ said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). There are no caveats in this statement.
To make this assertion is offensive to many. The idea that there is only one way to know God and one means of spending eternity with Him means that all other religions and philosophies are in error.
In the same way, to affirm that an unborn child is a unique person with her own DNA means she has value independent of her mother. It means she possesses an inherent right to life and, therefore, that the destruction of her life in the womb is immoral. Consequently, based on both morality and science, elective abortion should be made illegal.
There are many in our society who oppose everything in the previous paragraph. And not only disagree, but seek aggressively and with rage to defeat all who advocate for life, including justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. They have every right to fight for what they believe and have no intention of stopping.
Faithful Christians, too, have been advocates. We have spent decades making the case for life, using all kinds of tactics to do so. We have opened myriad pregnancy care centers, been champions of adoption, provided free ultrasounds to pregnant women, opened our homes to pregnant women in difficult circumstances, and provided housing, medical care, and nutritional and financial assistance to young women and their babies.
We have also been advocates in the public square, encouraging legislation to protect women and their unborn little ones from the predatory abortion industry. We have made arguments about alternatives to abortion and how the killing of, now, more than 60 million unborn children is a national tragedy.
Have we done all of these things perfectly and comprehensively? Certainly not. We have at times been too quick to make hostile attacks on advocates of abortion on demand. We have not always shown personal compassion or given practical aid to women with unexpected pregnancies. Yet, with that said, we generally have tried to bring both the grace and truth of the gospel to bear on our pro-life efforts.
Grace and truth: these are qualities of which Jesus’s disciple John tells us characterize our Savior. He was, as John writes, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14,17). Not just one, but both of these. Why? Because grace without truth is the idolatry of good feeling, a permissive ooze that glides past evil in the name of compassion. And truth without grace is harsh and scalding, a condemning presence looming over conscience. This is why grace always tempers truth, even as truth always informs grace.
The believing church needs to be winsome, extending kindness to those who oppose our efforts. As Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians, because we “fear the Lord, we persuade others” (II Corinthians 5:11). “Persuade” is a good translation of the Greek word used here, but that word also carries the idea of winning someone over, of inducing someone to agree with you. It’s the approach we need to take as we make public arguments about hard issues, thinking of ways not just to win a political contest but to change the hearts and minds of our opponents.
However, spiritual hardness is a reality. There are people who have so calcified their minds and hearts that they will not be dissuaded from heralding “reproductive freedom” and a “right” to choose abortion. Yet strident and fixed opposition is not a pretext for Christians to cease their opposition to evil and efforts to advance the right and good.
What I fear many believers are unprepared for is hateful and unjust attacks, the vitriol and the name-calling and the misrepresentation so common among pro-abortion advocacy groups, the major news outlets, and popular culture generally. The same goes for issues related to human sexuality and religious liberty. A biblical response to such things is not withdrawal or self-flagellation (“if only we were nicer, then they’d listen to us!”).
Our job is to stand for truth firmly with charity and grace in our minds and hearts, our words and conduct, and to do so recognizing that however graciously we present ourselves and our case, things will not always go well. The most gracious man Who ever lived also called Himself “the truth.” For this, He was crucified.
Are we ready to follow Him, even at great cost? And do so with both His mercy in our souls and His righteousness in our minds? There are few greater challenges to the American church today than this. May we be found faithful.
Rob Schwarzwalder is senior lecturer in Regent University’s Honors College.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.