The media insists that pro-life counselors are “abortion protesters.” In contrast, the “pro-choice” group is often called “reproductive rights advocates.” This subtle bias in the use of language can shape not only how the public views pro-life ministry, but sometimes even how we view our work.
Are we protesters?
The simple answer is no. Protesters’ mission is to protest or object to something they disagree with that is under the control of some authority. The protest is in some way an appeal to the authority to take action the protester believes is necessary. The objective of protesters is not to offer help or even necessarily solutions. It is to expose a problem. Their goal is usually to end the problem by bringing attention to the issue, and usually by banding with others who share the concern. Common tactics include picketing, crowd chants, and group gatherings.
Pro-life sidewalk counselors hate abortion and believe abortion should end. However, their goal is to provide hope and help and the Gospel to deter women from killing their babies. This is not to say that protesting evil and injustice such as abortion is wrong or unnecessary. It is just not what sidewalk counselors do.
Sidewalk Counseling Model of Ministry
In our ministry, Cities4Life, our model is the Good Samaritan of Luke 10: 25-37. The Samaritan who comes upon the wounded man does not stand by the ditch with a 3×4 foot picket sign that says, “Robbers should be put to death,” and “End Robbery Now!” He doesn’t walk up and down the ditch chanting, “Ho ho, robbers must go!” He doesn’t gather a group of other anti-robbers to join him with the picket signs and march alongside the ditch while the wounded man bleeds to death.
Jesus tells us the Samaritan is filled with compassion. He gets down in the ditch, binds the man’s wounds, puts him on his donkey and takes him to the inn. Then he pays for the room at the inn and tells the innkeeper he will cover the costs for the ongoing care of the wounded man.
In other words, the Samaritan provides hope and help and a solution to the pressing needs. Once the immediate crisis is dealt with, he provides for ongoing care for ongoing needs. That is the model of our sidewalk ministry, as well as many other sidewalk ministries.
Did Jesus Protest Sin?
There is no doubt that Jesus hated sin, and would have loved to have sin completely abolished. However, His work was not predominately or maybe even at all, a work of protest. Jesus’ mission was to proclaim and provide the means to salvation and restoration of a right relationship with God.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
He didn’t stand at the well with a picket sign for the woman that said, “Adultery is very bad!” He didn’t line His disciples behind Him with placards that said, “Stop Adultery now!” They didn’t march around the well appealing to Rome to make new laws that made sure various body parts of adulterers be surgically removed, nor did they chant, “If you cheatin’ —you will be beaten…”
No. When the woman came to draw water from the well, Jesus steered her to know God and ask Him for living water that would never run dry. Then He matter of factly confronted her regarding her sin of many husbands, and now living with a man she was not married to. He divulged the truth of what true worshipers must do and how to worship God in spirit and truth. He shared enough information that the woman saw her need and desire to know the Messiah she had only heard about. Then He revealed His true identity to her, and she went home to tell others about Him, the first woman evangelist! Many came to believe Jesus was the Messiah because of her testimony!
Now, there is certainly a place for protest. There is even some Biblical justification in some Biblical persons such as Esther and Queen Vashti.
Queen Vashti is summoned by her drunken husband to come display herself, presumably in scant clothing, before his fellow drunken buddies. She refuses. She protests the unjust and lewd request. The King throws a tantrum, divorces her, and is on the hunt for a new Queen. This was a successful protester in my opinion. Even the king recognizes that all husbands are in danger of losing control of their wives through her protest!
This sets the stage for Esther and her protest that exposes a life and death issue!
Replacing Vashti, Esther became Queen of Persia while hiding her identity as a Jew. Through a series of malicious events, her people were to be annihilated by the King’s decree. Esther’s uncle Mordecai tells her that she must go and petition the king to save her people.
Knowing the King could well have her killed for even entering His presence with a request, she nonetheless agrees. She goes to the King to protest the unjust edict against the Jews. He agrees to her petition (protest.)
“Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?” And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.”
The King listens to her petition and ultimately, through her protest, her people are saved. She did not bring about the solution, her protest moved the one in authority to action, and he brought about the solution. This is an example of an effective and necessary protest that led to justice being accomplished.
In summary, Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it. We are to model Jesus. The message is positive and helpful, not just a protest of what is wrong. He does indeed identify what is wrong, but then He always provides the way to deal with the problem and the most practical help ever offered: His substitutionary death on the Cross. As sidewalk counselors offering spiritual and practical solutions, we do not protest we proclaim LIFE.
This is the subject of our latest episode of the Gospel-Centered Pro-Life Podcast. Check it out here or wherever to get your podcasts.