My Bible study brought me to John 4, where Jesus meets the woman at the well. I have read that story many times, but something struck me this time. This is a woman who had five husbands and is now living unmarried with a sixth man. She seems to me to be ripe for a strong sexual purity sermon from the greatest teacher on earth. Yet … listen to what Jesus said: 

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Why didn’t Jesus BLAST her with convicting verses? Instead, He recognized her honesty in admitting she currently didn’t have a husband: not a word about fornication, the temple of the body, sexual sin, or adultery. A simple statement, one single statement that affirmed she was living with a man she was not married to. I read this passage and wondered why Jesus did NOT accuse her, or admonish, or even advise, “Sin no more.” In my opinion, He could not have been LESS confrontational!

There are a zillion things to discuss in this passage but I am focusing on this one simple thing. Jesus could have called her out with very strong words on sexual sin. After all, Paul tells us that sexual immorality is so serious because, of all the sins, it is against our own body, which is “the temple of the Holy Spirit within you“. Instead, Jesus stated a simple fact and acknowledged she was living with a man she is not married to. Then He moved on to focus on who He is and the power of the Spirit and the nature of true salvation and worship. As a result, with more questions than faith, the woman left and pondered if Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. As a result of her testimony, and emerging faith, men came out of the city to go to Jesus and ultimately believed!

While this is not specifically a passage on how to speak to sinners, I think it is illustrative. I believe it is helpful in considering how we speak on the sidewalk. There are many opinions of the best way to approach abortion-determined women but I think the approach falls into two camps: 1) using strong convicting language to speak truth and expose sin (such as telling them they are murderers and must repent), or 2) persuading with gentler language these truths and urging them to further engage with us.

I tend to rest on the latter and I believe this passage in John 4 supports that approach; however, I know not everyone agrees with me. So is one approach more biblical than the other? Is one more effective?

Should we use the word “murder” when calling out?

I could be wrong, but I believe that does more damage than good. This assessment is based on my goal as well as my decade of experience on the sidewalk. I want the women to come and talk with me. I will not compromise truth, but I am careful that the language I use, especially when first encountering them, is likely to draw them to speak with me more. I find when I deviate from that, they run from me.

Remember, women coming to an abortion center are intent on killing their baby, but they are also in crisis. They are often fearful, angry and panicked. In some ways, they are not unlike someone in a crisis intervention situation who is about to do something  drastic out of desperation. Professionals who work in crisis intervention, such as talking a suicidal man off a ledge, would steer clear of confrontative language. The goal is not dissimilar to what our goal is: get the person in crisis to agree to pause and talk with us. I wondered if I could learn something by examining Crisis Intervention Techniques.

That question led me to an interesting article on Crisis Intervention. Advice from that article is summarized below:

In crisis intervention, the goal is to de-escalate. Some tips include: 

  • Foster support because lack of it can lead to increased negative outcomes
  • Focus on resolution of solving the problem(s) underlying the crisis
  • Build self-image and self-confidence
  • If you take a LESS authoritative, LESS controlling, LESS confrontational approach, you actually will have MORE control.
  • You are trying to give the person a sense that he or she is in control.
  • Why? Because he or she is in a crisis, which by definition means she is feeling out of control. 

The model of intervention is called the CAF model: Calm, Assess, Facilitate

  • Calm: to decrease the emotional, behavioral, and mental intensity of a situation
  • Assess: to determine the most appropriate response as presented by the facts
  • Facilitate: to promote the most appropriate resolution based on an assessment of the facts presented

The person interceding should have a calm and helpful attitude. The focus should be on building hope. The intercessor should be confident but compassionate. Listening and trying to understand while offering resolution in a non-confrontative manner is critical.

This advice is excellent. It parallels my thoughts in how to best counsel abortion-determined women. On every major point, I agree. 

I also considered the times when Jesus most vehemently confronted sin. When people had closed their hearts to His message and were hypocritical, Jesus seemed to most strongly confront. There is no example I can think of when the hypocritical religious leaders changed  heart and turned to Jesus following this approach. Jesus clearly knew when His words would fall on deaf ears and they received His strongest tongue lashings.

We, unlike Jesus, do not know who is ready to receive our message or not. I think given that, we should err on the side of believing everyone we confront is possible to convince. Therefore, I will confront in a manner I believe most likely to draw them to engage and listen.  I think that approach mirrors Jesus with the woman at the well.

For this reason, I would be reluctant to call out “Don’t murder your baby!” I would say a less confrontative but equally truthful statement such as, “Please don’t take your innocent baby’s life!” My goal is to incline the woman to seek further interaction with me. If I can succeed in drawing her to talk over options with me, I am more likely to be able to expand upon the truths that will ultimately help her to save her baby. If she is willing to trust me enough to engage further with me, I may have the opportunity to more fully present the truth of the Gospel, the resources that can help her, and the truths about her baby’s worth and value.

Vicky Kaseorg

Vicky Kaseorg

Vicky Kaseorg is a missionary with Love Life. An author of over 25 books, she is ardently pro-life and deeply desires to share the hope and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ through her work, writing, and life. Read her personal blog at


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