On Repentance, Abolitionists Must Lead by Example: An Open Letter

John TaylorAbolitionism

Dear fellow abolitionists:

I wish my wife and I could attend your Abolition Now Conference February 5th-8th. Unfortunately, the combination of age and health makes such a trip from North Carolina unfeasible. But our hearts will be with you!

Your theme will be “Repent with us.” I’m in my seventies, so while I’m no expert on repentance (who truly is?), I am a veteran sinner who, like you, needs repentance. I have been pro-abortion, later pro-life, and spent years of darkness even as a Christian fancying I did not need to repent. Not a glorious trifecta to win! Therefore, I entreat you to let me share some thoughts on repentance as you look forward to the conference. 

1. How do we expect a pro-lifer to understand “Repent With Us”?

When I was pro-life and an Abolitionist brother asked me to “Repent with us,” I would understand him to be inviting me to an area where he was more advanced than I. And I would be right.

But is that all that abolitionists are saying when we say “repent?” Let me remind you of some aspects of repentance.

2. Repentance is a lifelong process.

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

“A Christian must never leave off repenting, for I fear he never leaves off sinning.”

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

A reminder to the wise: “Be transformed” is a continual process – “be being transformed.” Our minds must be constantly renewed, replacing the thought processes of this wicked world with Truth. I still find new things to repent of in my seventies.

So a Christian who resists the Abolitionist’s call to repentance saying “I already repented when I was saved” does not understand repentance well. Repenting from unbelief to belief in Christ is only the first instance of repentance. Surely such a misunderstanding of repentance is more serious than resisting abolitionism!

Let us not think of Abolitionism as a spiritual merit badge that makes us better than other Christians. (I know, we won’t say that, but how easy it is to think that.) The fundamental difference between me and a pro-lifer is that God opened my eyes first.

Though the reality of the abortion holocaust and the need to rescue those being led to slaughter makes this matter weightier than others, shouldn’t our message be an encouragement to others to add abolitionism to the many areas in which we grow in repentance? With the realization that the pro-lifer we seek to win over may excel us in other areas of repentance and can teach us?

3. We must be examples of repentance to lead someone to repentance

If we are not leading by example in continued repentance, won’t we come across as obnoxious? I suspect most of us have winced to see wannabe evangelists guarantee their hearers will reject their self-righteous Gospel presentation. The “evangelist,” of course, chalks that rejection off to “hardness of heart” as an excuse to never check his own self-righteous methods.

Have we never done the same as abolitionists? We must never fall into this pattern. We must call others — including pro-lifers — to repentance where necessary, but we also must display humility and repentance in our own lives.

4. Impediments to repentance

What keeps a believer from becoming an abolitionist? Is it cowardice? Pro-lifers, too, suffer cultural hostility and mockery. Some of them suffer violent attacks.

Is it indifference? That may be true for some, but the problem with many pro-lifers is not lack of zeal but being led improperly into an unbiblical, ineffective strategy. Let’s address three prominent impediments to a pro-lifer embracing abolitionism.

a) Intellectual laziness

I can’t speak for all, but intellectual laziness was a key impediment for me as a pro-lifer. I don’t ever expect to find a pro-lifer who does not believe that Roe v. Wade is immoral. They need to be shown that Roe is no “law of the land” but an emperor with no constitutional clothes. It takes work to be able to explain it, much like a thief may need to learn sufficient marketable skills before he can not only support himself but give to others in need.

Before I realized this, what else could but follow the typical pro-life party line – support measures that chip around Roe v. Wade with incrementalist laws State-by-State and hope that a future Supreme Court will overturn it? Let us be wise and take Proverbs to heart:

“A fool is not interested in understanding, but only in speaking his own opinion.”

Let us put in the intellectual spadework to show and lead pro-lifers in understanding these things. Otherwise, how is our laziness any better than theirs?

b) Spiritual blindness

There was a basic spiritual truth I did not grasp until at least fifteen years after my conversion, though I knew the Scripture that clearly taught it. Blindness occurs in other areas, too. I well remember being clueless to a college classmate’s point regarding those depictions of small horses supposedly “evolving” to big horses. “John, they’re still horses! Where is the cow that evolved into a horse?” I’m certain I could explain this to any 7th grader in my church, but I was spiritually blind.

Even as a Christian, God had to open my eyes to see the sinfulness of abortion and, later, my sinful and sloppy pro-life thinking.

My fellow abolitionists, not only were we once spiritually blind in many areas, we have no idea where we are still blind! Is there a reason the Gospels record Jesus healing more blind people than any other malady?

If we are impatient when we see pro-lifers’ symptoms of a spiritual malady we all have, don’t we merely feed our pride and stop their ears? How easy it is to forget they are bamboozled by the Father of Lies and murderer from the beginning!  How are pro-lifers going to see through the devil’s lies unless God opens their eyes even as He did us?

c) Pride

The most stubborn impediment to repentance, however, is pride. How can pro-lifers be satisfied with their work 49 years after Roe v. Wade and 63 million murdered children and counting? How can they turn every march on Washington and the hundreds of thousands of dedicated foot soldiers, and be so incompetent they fail to tell them to go home and push their State legislators to “Ignore Roe”? President Lincoln had the sense to replace commanders who didn’t know how to win even though their armies vastly outnumbered their Confederate counterparts and were far better equipped. How can they boast of the “pro-life generation” yet take their cues from nine unelected justices who may or may not overturn Roe v. Wade?

When we attack their baby, they become like obstinate parents who insist that their child isn’t misbehaving, despite multiple witnesses to the contrary. How can they be so blind to such obvious realities?

The answer is simple: Pride.

But let us remember Pride cuts both ways:

“With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

“Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” 

5. When Ezra repented, his example led others to repentance

Ezra was a priest and one of the leaders when the Jews returned to Jerusalem from captivity. He was shocked when many of his people had married idolaters outside the Jewish community. Did he pray to God in anger asking how his people could have been so stupid (my typical knee-jerk reaction, and perhaps yours)? No. Here is part of his prayer for the offenders before he addressed their sins:

I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed:

“’Oh my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.'”

Notice that Ezra prays as if he was just as guilty as the offenders. He had not committed the sins they had, but he had his own, and confessed their sins as if he had joined in committing them, always saying “we”, not “they”.

Many of the people, moved by his repentance, joined to support him. One of the leaders imitated Ezra’s example by saying “We have sinned”, not those guys, and proposed an action plan to correct the wrong. This plan was implemented, and God blessed the community with repentance.

Thank God we are making converts to the abolitionist cause. But what would God do if we imitated Ezra, and mourned together as if we were just as guilty?

One might say, “Ezra was a priest, and priests and Levites were supposed to bear the iniquities of the people.” True enough. But other leaders who were not priests also confessed their people’s sins as if they too were guilty. Moreover, all these men were forerunners of Jesus our great high priest who was the only one who never needed repentance yet submitted to John’s baptism of repentance! By baptism and crucifixion, He identified Himself with us sinners and paid the price for them as if He were the guilty one! If we do not identify with the sins of our brethren whose eyes God has not yet opened the way He graciously opened ours, how well do we understand the Gospel?

6. Repentance includes doing the opposite of what you were doing

“Let the thief stop stealing, but instead work with his own hands, to have something to share with those who have need.”

Notice the multi-layered transformation of behavior, and how it is probably not immediate:

  1. The thief used to support himself by stealing.
  2. He came to Christ
  3. He needed someone to kick him in the pants after his conversion to realize he must stop stealing.
  4. He began to support himself by his own labor. If that meant a serious reduction of income, even having to learn a trade from scratch because he had no marketable skills, so be it!
  5. He persisted in this new behavior until he earned enough money to give to others who were in need, instead of taking from them.

Repentance is not like an old wine bottle: “Bottled in 2012.” It is ongoing.

7. Christ died neither for the Abolitionist Movement nor the Pro-Life Movement, but for the Church

The Church has always needed chastising, for it always has problems and sins. Show me a New Testament epistle, and I’ll show you one written to deal with problems and sins. Nevertheless, the harsh epistles were few, they generally addressed issues that would keep readers out of the Kingdom, and the writer knew the readers personally. I have read many complaints about pro-lifers, but so far, no argumentation that being pro-life will drag one to hell.

Having said that, we need to warn pro-lifers, with tears, the implications of the Apostle’s blunt statement “No murderer has eternal life in him.”  They need to stop being accessories to murder by supporting pro-life organizations that oppose abolition, and by pushing State laws that allow murder. They must also stop telling post-abortive women that they are not murderers, for how can they be fully forgiven of their sin if they don’t confess what it was?

Though I write this way, we must remember “there is a time for every purpose under heaven.” There is a time to rebuke sharply and a time to remember:

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger. Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.”

It is easy for dedication to an activist cause to eclipse zeal for Christ. I’ve had to repent of that, too, and I will do it again as an Abolitionist if I’m not careful. Christ tolerates no rivals, even if it is a good cause.

May we all grow in repentance, may your conference be a blessing to all, and may God bless all of us to grow in repentance and be pleased to heal our land.


John E. Taylor

Click here to register for the Repent With Us Abolition Now Conference.

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