As Gospel-centered sidewalk counselors, our goal should be to honor the Lord and be a peaceful and truthful presence on the abortion center sidewalks. We should be committed to proclaiming life, while glorifying God by our words and actions. Nonetheless, the Bible warns that the message of the cross and Jesus is offensive to those who are enemies of God. Despite how carefully the message is presented, the messenger is often maligned.
No matter how humble and kind you are, there will inevitably be times that abortion-minded moms and dads scream at you, swear at you, make crude gestures, and maybe even threaten you. Don’t let this scare you from going out to your local abortion clinic, because there are certain practical and Biblical principles that you can apply to help defuse the situation and avoid a nasty confrontation.
Learning to defuse angry encounters is critical for every pro-life sidewalk counselor. While the message is offensive to enemies of God, the messenger should strive not to be. Here are some important DON’T DO items to avoid escalation of tempers.
- Don’t resort to name calling. It’s not biblical and it rarely brings anything but anger.
- Don’t take anger personally. Quite often, anger is the expression of a person under the heavy conviction of guilt and sin.
- Don’t respond to anger with anger. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
- If requested to leave someone alone or stop talking to them, do so.
- Don’t respond to threats with threats. Back off. “It is honorable for a man to stop striving (or fighting), since any fool can start a quarrel.” Proverbs 20:3
- Never minister alone on the sidewalk.
On the positive side, there are things you can do to help calm a situation that has become volatile. Remember, Jesus Himself evoked enormous anger and confrontation. He nearly always responded with calm, and matter of fact questions.
- Immediately respond to anger with calm, confident statements such as, “Sir (or Ma’am), we are just trying to offer hope and help.”
- Ask questions, and listen carefully to the angry person’s response. “Ma’am, why are you so angry with me, I’m just here to offer help?”
- Respond to the concerns voiced with gentleness, citing relevant scripture, and reiterating that we are there because of a true concern for the baby and the mother’s situation that would bring her to consider such a desperate act as aborting her own child.
- Let her answers convict her of her sin, rather than you whenever possible. “What would God have you do?”, “When it is okay for a mother to kill her own child?”, “Why do you think Jesus says ‘why do you call me Lord and not do what I say?’”, “When does the child in the womb become human and worthy of protection?”, “When did God begin to love that child in the womb?”, “What does the Bible say about the taking of innocent life?”, “Does the commandment ‘thou shall not kill’ come with exceptions?”, “Have you prayed about this?”, “Did you know that if you missed a period, your baby’s heart is beating?”
- ALWAYS videotape situations that are escalating. The mere act of videotaping will sometimes turn the angry person away, but it will be important evidence, if anyone is harmed in a volatile situation.
- Call police if there are threats of violence.
- Be sympathetic and echo back the deep frustration and pain expressed by the angry person. “I am sorry you find yourself in such a difficult situation.” “I understand you feel attacked but our intention is to help. Can we tell you our resources that we think might help you?” “It sounds like you feel cornered and alone. We want to offer you friendship and tangible help.”
- Remind them of the blessings of choosing God in difficult situations. “Ma’am, we know you feel you are in an impossible situation. Jesus promises us “come to me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give rest to your soul.””
- Tone of voice is critical. Confident, calm, and kind should be conveyed in our voice. We should be ‘pleading’, not demanding.
- If the worst happens, and someone is assaulted or harmed in any way, call police and file a report. Press charges. Our experience has been that if lesser aggression is not reported, it tends to empower the aggressor and puts all sidewalk counselors in danger.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, situations can become very confrontational. It is important to remember that the sidewalk of an abortion center is a battle zone. The battle is not between flesh and blood but a spiritual battle between the heavenly forces of good and evil. Prayer is critical. In the heat of a confrontation, bowing down in prayer may be the strongest antidote available. Prayer prior to and following ministry time is essential.
Personally, I would rather see anger than apathy. Anger shows me that there is conflict in the person’s soul. Many times, I have seen the angry person, if properly handled, slide from anger to grief, then remorse, and finally repentance and submission. Anger is often an expression of fear or pain. God is at work. His word is powerful. Trust Him that seeds you have planted could be sprouting before your eyes!