I wanted to write this post in response to a recent article making its rounds in social media:
“Brothers and Sisters, Unwed Pregnancy is Not a Sin”
If you have not read the article, I encourage you to take a few minutes now and do so before reading my response.
The article brings forth some uncomfortable truths and much-needed admonition to those who would hold mistakes over someone’s head forever. We should never look down on anyone except to help them up. However, the article makes a pendulum swing too far away from “shame” and takes some liberties with scripture that are false and self-serving. I hope in this post to find some middle ground between shunning unwed mothers and gushing over them. Please understand that this was quite difficult to write and comes from a deeply personal place of turbulent emotions. I have tried to choose my words with great care.
First and foremost, children are a blessing in all instances. The Bible tells us that “Children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3 NASB). Pregnancy may be a consequence of bad decisions but babies are never a punishment (as one politician cruelly put it). However the baby got there, it is a miracle of life and a joy to be treasured, even in cases of rape. Those children did nothing to deserve a death-sentence and innumerable families would love to give that innocent baby a good life. You cannot absolve one horrific crime with an even worse crime.
Now, could we be more loving, more forgiving, and less condemning? Sure we could! And we must. Shunning accomplishes nothing except making a bad situation worse. Two souls (mother and child) need the church’s support even more at that time. Sadly, we often fail to show that Christ-like compassion. We have much work to do in this area.
The article pointed out that a woman walking into a pregnancy crisis clinic doesn’t need a theological lecture. She needs to feel safe and know that the precious child she carries is a blessing. That is a perfectly appropriate response from that agency. However, her church family must offer something deeper; something even more loving and possibly less comfortable for everyone.
The article makes several appeals to the old “what would Jesus do?” question without recognizing one crucial fact: Jesus never condoned sin. Jesus reached out to people with love and acceptance despite their sin,but he was never content to let them stay there and He NEVER celebrated their sin. John 8:3-11 gives us insight into exactly what Jesus would do. He told the woman caught in adultery “I do not condemn you.” He also told her “Go and sin no more.” This means there is room for forgiveness and mercy even when there is acknowledgement of sin. The two are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, sin must be acknowledged before forgiveness can occur. Jesus put it bluntly in Luke 17:3 “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” No ifs, ands, or buts. He repents, you forgive–period. Leave the judging of hearts to God, where it belongs.
Having compassion is one thing; celebrating is quite another. In my personal experience, when unwed pregnancy is met with only praise and rejoicing, it is seen as something to aspire to and be proud of. You encourage it and get more of the same. This should not be. Repentance must be part of the equation. Not public shaming, not grovelling, and not periods of “probation” before welcoming a sinner back into the family of God, but true “godly sorrow” as defined in Second Corinthians 7:9-10.
I never, ever, EVER get upset by fussy babies in the worship assembly. I wonder sometimes if they are voicing disagreement about a doctrinal error I may have just made. Babies can be very particular about their theology, you know. My ego normally encourages me to simply accept their outbursts as the baby version of “Amen!” I never know if that that child is teething, dealing with diaper rash, colic, or some other issue. Therefore, I always give the parents the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are doing all they can to quiet the child and will take the little one elsewhere when it goes too far. It can be tempting to make assumptions and form opinions about how the parents SHOULD handle it. Frazzled parents sometimes come up and apologize to me for their noisy child whom they assumed was a distraction to me and everyone else. I always sincerely respond by saying it does not bother me. But, I have found that I cannot speak for others on this matter.
Some people seem to imagine that there would have been no crying babies in the first century house churches. Ridiculous! Besides, we are not called to live our faith in a quiet, sterile, sanctuary once a week which bears no resemblance to real life. We are called to live our faith in the messy, noisy, inconvenient, and distraction-filled real world. It is good practice for the kids to learn about worship, being considerate of others, and devoting ourselves to God even when they don’t feel like it. It is also good practice for adults to learn how to worship even when things try to pull us away from focusing on God. We are losing our ability to concentrate because of things such as DVRs which allow us to skip past commercials and any other unpleasantness which threatens to ruin our perfect viewing experience. We tappity-tap on our phones for immediate answers to every question except the most important questions like “How can I be more like Christ?”
Praise to you parents and grandparents of small children struggling to teach them to sit still. Praise to you others who are being patient while that child tries to learn those lessons. Remember, YOU were once that fussy baby “bothering” everyone else. Let’s all lighten up and remember that the church is a family and worship is a family activity. It would be so easy (and so sad) for that frustrated parent to just stay home because it would be less of a hassle. We would miss the blessing of their presence and they would miss the blessing of worshiping with the body. They are the future of the church, after all. Plus, babies are cute and funny. But the noise comes along with that joy. It’s a package deal. May the Lord shine upon you.