Is Loving Our Neighbor a “Calling” or a Commandment? A Sidewalk Counselor Reflects on His Experiences in Front of Planned Parenthood

(Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post by David Graves, who has served as the director for two Everett 40 Days for Life campaigns)

When I am at Planned Parenthood, if I am not sidewalk counseling, I will usually hold a sign with the picture of a beautiful newborn baby and the words “LIFE IS A MIRACLE”. If you’ve ever stood in front of an abortion facility holding a pro-life sign you may have noticed that those who pass by generally belong in one of the three following categories:
1. Those that have no reaction. This seems to be the majority. Of these–some do not notice or understand (ignorance) -some will not notice or understand (ignorance sustained by apathy) -some simply do not care (apathy).

Which of these two, ignorance or apathy, is worse? From my perspective I must answer (as the old joke goes) “I don’t know and I don’t care.” For the sake of saving a life that is in jeopardy both are equally useless and sadly, most common.

2. Those that give the “thumbs down”, “the one finger up”, or the vocalized equivalent. I must admit, the first few times that I got this reaction it did sting a bit. But, how true the Word became to me –“friendship with the world is enmity towards God”.

When I tried to see myself from their perspective this hostile reaction puzzled me. What are they so disapproving of, the beautiful baby on my sign? Again the Spirit instructed me –“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” The reality is that only those that name the name of Jesus care about the defenseless child in the womb. The world knows this full well. It is Jesus that they hate.

Now, whenever anyone gives the “thumbs down”, the “one finger up”, or curses me in some fashion, I am filled with joy and bless them immediately.

Why do I now rejoice? Because-
– I know that I am blessed of God
-I am assured that Christ dwells in me
-There is great hope for the conversion of such a one who is “not lukewarm”

3. Thumbs up, friendly wave, etc.
When I first received this reaction it felt wonderful. As time passed and I received more and more signs of encouragement from passersby, I began to sense a vague but growing perplexity. The more I contemplated it the less “warm fuzzies” I felt. Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to sound ungrateful or worse, but something about these positive reactions just doesn’t sit right. I am fully convinced that those who react with positive signs of encouragement are sincere and are of genuine good will (and most, I must assume, are brothers and sisters in the Lord). Still, having spent a lot of time on the streets and much time seeking the Lord, trying to figure this out, I have come to the realization that there is definitely something wrong here.

The following are the only two conclusions that I have come to:

(a) We misunderstand what abortion really is:
Abortion, as I was recently reminded by my 8yr. old daughter, is the death of someone. That someone is a person, made in the image of God. Pro-life activism is not a protest! It is a rescue mission! An unjust sentence of death is about to be carried out upon the only member of our human family that we might legitimately say, without reservation, is completely innocent. How we must recognize the suffering Savior in these little ones!

Perhaps the following analogies will be helpful: You are driving down the road one day and see someone standing outside of a local factory holding a sign that reads: STOP UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES! Depending on your view you can either ignore him, express your disapproval (however you see fit), or express your solidarity (again, however you see fit). Regardless of your view on the subject all three of these reactions are in context and entirely rational.

Let’s say you drive on a little farther and just as you have forgotten all about the protest at the factory you happen upon a car that is turned over in the ditch. As you approach you can see that someone is pinned underneath the car and another passerby has stopped to help. He is struggling, in vain, to lift the overturned car and free the dying victim. Your help is desperately needed how should you respond? Do you drive on? Do you yell, “Let him die!”? Do you give the “thumbs up” and offer encouragement? Of course not! Encouragement is not what is needed; help is. All of these responses are irrational and out of context. We (those who know Jesus) must, as our Lord taught us, be the Good Samaritan. Perhaps some will say, “I am not called to a ‘car-crash ministry’.” This just doesn’t hold up in the light of revealed truth. To love our neighbor as ourselves is not a calling from God, but rather, a commandment of God and the second great purpose of our Faith. I grant that not everyone is called to this particular action (holding a sign or sidewalk counseling). But surely there are those who can do more! There are so many ways to help. To you who are laying down your lives and treasure for these little ones, Jesus knows your sacrifice-“Behold! I am coming quickly and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

I must accept some of the blame for this misunderstanding of the reality of abortion. I was converted to the pro-life position by seeing the remains of a little child that had been torn limb from limb from his mother’s womb. My heart broke when I saw that his little hand looked just like the hand of my own newborn son. God had great mercy upon me; granting me a love for my neighbor that I had held for my own son. The beautiful sign that I currently hold (LIFE IS A MIRACLE) states what is obvious and yet also tacitly obscures the truth of what abortion really is. Imagine the absurdity of me standing outside of Auschwitz holding a sign that says HAPPY HANUKKAH! and pictures a beautiful Jewish family gathered around the table smiling, as the smoke stack behind me darkens the sky! It is more than absurd. It is unthinkable. Many have stated what I know in my heart to be true: We will not oppose abortion as we should until we see what abortion really is. This is why “graphic signs” are necessary. They provide the proper context. They show the reality of what abortion is! So, is abortion murder? (I ask myself and you) Yes? Why don’t we act like it?

(b) Our faith is not in The Living God: I tremble to read the heading to this paragraph! Nevertheless, we are admonished in scripture to-“test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves”. I also recall the greeting of Jesus to Nathaniel, “Behold an Israelite, indeed, in whom is no guile!” These words He spoke after Nathaniel, having been invited to come and see the Messiah, responded with doubt-“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” We never not fear to question ourselves in regards to our relationship with God or man. On the contrary this is a sign of health and humility. So we must ask ourselves some hard questions. Is our faith detached from reality? Jesus was involved in the lives of others. (Especially the “least of these”) Is it the case that our religion is to some degree a theoretical exercise? This is not the pure and undefiled religion of James (that visits the widow and the orphan in their distress and keeps oneself unstained by the world). If we do not love our neighbors can we claim to know and represent God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation? An affirmative answer to these questions is not compatible with Biblical Christianity and calls for our repentance. These questions require a sincere humility-“For God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” How we need His grace to find the answers!

Finally, we know that –“…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” -therefore we must acknowledge that much of what we observe in others and experience in ourselves bears the mark of his deceits. “Woe to the earth and sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” Even so, we may be assured that–“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world is cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”

-“…greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world”

-“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith”

God’s promises to us are countless and the testimony of the Holy Spirit is within us, indeed, the very Life of Christ is ours!

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

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