“Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:23
In Galatians 5:22 Paul lists what is known as the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). These read like many of the practical applications of agape type love Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13. But at the end of this list in Galatians Paul adds, “Against such things, there is no law.” The point is: that it’s hard to legislate love.
I remember a woman in a church one time saying that the most formative lesson she ever learned from her mother was a question, “What’s the loving thing to do?” Every time she was in a quandary about some matter or having a hard time deciding what to do, she could hear her mother’s voice asking, “What’s the loving thing to do in this situation?”
I don’t know that this advice helps when it comes to the topic of abortion, but I do know that whenever laws are made there are always thorny issues that challenge the practice of love. Like many of you, I was surprised this week to learn of the leaked document from the Supreme Court signaling their intention to overturn Roe v Wade. I lament the added division this brings to a climate in our country already filled with division and strife.
I have rightly been criticized in the past for preaching about topics like gay rights, immigration, and racism while remaining strangely silent on the topic of abortion. That’s because it is a very difficult topic for me to know just what the right “law” is. I believe in the sanctity of life. That should settle it, right? My heart wants to believe in the right to life and the protection of unborn children. But I also know that every time you draw a line there is an extenuating circumstance. There is a justifying reason that makes the loving thing to do a lot less clear and settled, simply meaning that drawing a clear line on when and how abortions should be allowed or outlawed altogether (whether by the federal or state governments) becomes a difficult matter.
“Jane Doe,” the woman who petitioned for the right to have an abortion and won in the landmark 1973 SCOTUS decision, changed her position later in life. Norma McCorvey, her real name, became Catholic and said her involvement, in that case, was the worst decision of her life. My friend Adam Hamilton, founding pastor of our largest United Methodist Church in the country, has a mother who contemplated abortion when she was pregnant with Adam. So there are many examples that show choosing life is right. But there are also people who faced circumstances that for them made the right, best decision a different one.
So, no, I’m not offering my opinion one way or the other on abortion today. I’d need a lot more study, prayer, and reflection. I raise the issue because it makes me think about our topic of love right now, and how any given issue like abortion where we are tempted to make a hard and fast rule, can quickly be met with situations in which the loving thing to do just became more difficult because of the law. Sure, it is very simplistic sounding to make the mother’s question, “What’s the loving thing to do?” an answer for our most trying, divisive topics, but I do believe if we were to make such a question our guiding law, we would find our way through many of our divisions in life with a lot less hurt, anger, and separation.
Asking what the right thing to do is certainly a good and important question. I just believe Paul and Jesus would advise, that sometimes there is an even better question, what’s the loving thing to do?