I want to begin by saying this post is not about abortion, or Planned Parenthood, or individuals who are pro-abortion. This post is for churches and Christians proclaiming to be pro-life. My desire is to cause every pro-life advocate to seriously consider his/her core belief on this topic, because I am convinced there is a difference between being pro-birth and pro-life.
I believe most people and churches claiming to be pro-life are actually just pro-birth. Their intentions are honorable and good because they see the value in all human life and, as a result are opposed to abortion.
I have shared the story of my son and his adoption before, but want to remind readers of a few things. He was born at 24 weeks. He has been diagnosed with autism. He is legally blind and must wear a prosthetic eye in his left eye, because it never grew. He is hearing impaired and uses a hearing aid in his right ear and a cochlear implant in his left ear. When my wife and I were going through the adoption, we were encouraged to walk away from him because of the difficulties he was going to face throughout his life by individuals claiming to be pro-life.
The pastor of the church we were attending at the time of adoption wanted my wife, our son, and I to share our story on stage one Sunday so the church could see why we must oppose abortion. We did this and it was well received by the congregation. We continued to attend this church for the first few years of our son’s life and everything was good. As he grew we asked to have him moved into a room with other children his same age because he was still in the nursery with babies. We were told he would need to stay with the babies until he was potty-trained. The church was adamant that, regardless of his age, he would remain in the nursery until he was completely potty-trained.
For those of you who don’t know, potty-training a child with special needs is extremely difficult. I have read about some special needs individuals who continue to wear diapers into their teen years, because of not being potty-trained. You may be thinking to yourself the parent is not doing his/her job, but I can assure these parents are working diligently to teach their child to use the bathroom instead of a diaper.
So, the church that used our story of adoption as a case against abortion was now telling us our son was not good enough to be with children his own age. His special needs had now become inconvenient. We started to try other churches and quickly found out how unwelcome special needs families were in “pro-life” churches.
At one church we had a staff member tell us our son could not return to class because there was a “personality conflict” between him and the teacher. Excuse me? He was not even 4! At another church we were turned away because there was “no room” for him. So we had to leave. Another church claimed to have a special needs ministry, but we found out what that meant one Sunday when we had to pick him up early. He and another special needs child were in a closet watching videos. The above examples were difficult to live through, but they were not the worst experience we had visiting a church.
My wife went to the classroom after service to pick up our son and the teacher proudly shared about his time in her room. This teacher told my wife that she allowed our son to walk around the room by himself while she gathered the other students together in a group and prayed to Jesus thanking Him that they were not like our son.
We got the message! “We are proud of you for adopting a baby who could have been aborted, but please don’t come to our church”. So, we quit attending church for a while because it was a hurtful experience. We hoped our experience with churches was unique, however, we have learned it was not. I’ve talked to other special needs families and read countless other stories from special needs families who have been rejected by the church.
Church. Christian. Are you pro-birth or pro-life?
Pro-birth is when we oppose abortion and encourage mothers to choose giving birth.
Pro-life is welcoming and standing with individuals throughout the entirety of their life.
Pro-life is not rejecting someone to be a part of your fellowship, because they make you uncomfortable.
Pro-life is reaching out to the families impacted by special needs and accepting them into your community of believers.
Pro-life is praying for special needs families.
Pro-life is realizing that God has a purpose and plan for every individual, even those with special needs.
Pro-life is sharing the unconditional love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Pro-life is realizing the Holy Spirit can work in the hearts of all people.
Pro-life is understanding that every member of the body of Christ has a part to play in the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 12:21-27).
Who are we to determine who God can and will use to promote the Gospel? Our job as believers is to present the Gospel and share the love of Jesus. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35-36).
We never know who will accept the Gospel message, we just need to have faith that God’s word will “not return empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Individuals with special needs are able to understand more than we think, even though they may not be able to express what they know.
Churches often overlook those with special needs in our own communities. We are commanded, in the Great Commission, to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, this includes those with special needs. We are great at going to the far reaches of the earth taking the Gospel message, while praying that God will work in the lives of those we meet. We do not know what Jesus will do until we go, but we pray and go.
Well…we do not know what Jesus will do in the life of an individual with special needs until we accept him/her into our churches and lives. Mark 2:3-5 has become one of my favorite passages of scripture. Jesus was preaching to a crowd in a house. Four men brought a paralyzed man to the house to hear Jesus but they could not get him inside, so they went on the roof and removed it. This allowed them to lower the paralytic’s bed into where Jesus was preaching. Because of the faith of these men, Jesus forgave the paralytic’s sins and we learn a little later, that He even healed the man. I want to be one of the four men who carried the paralytic. They were persistent. They did not know what Jesus would do, but they knew how important it was for their friend to meet Jesus.
According to the U. S. Census Bureau in July of 2012, nearly 1 in 5 people have a disability. Christians and churches need to pray for special needs families. Pray about how you can bring special needs individuals and their families to Jesus, because they need Him just as much as you do.
When it comes to the special needs community, are you pro-life or just pro-birth?