“Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.’ (Matthew 23:1-4 NRSV)”
There's a lot of speculation that sometime in the next couple of weeks, the Supreme Court will strike down Roe and pass decisions about the legality of abortion to individual states.
Christians have convictions that cut to the very core of the ethical questions around abortion. We believe that every human life bears God's image; that every moment of our existence is a miraculous gift that should be treasured; and that part of being human is to nurture, love, teach, and grow together. At any stage or age, taking a life is always a grievous thing. Christians, therefore, aren't wrong to say that abortion is wrong; it shouldn't happen.
In Pt. 1 of talking about this passage from Mt. 23, I asserted that Jesus provides an alternative example to the Pharisees. They tie up heavy burdens on others. Jesus takes heavy burdens upon himself and gives us his light load.
It almost goes without saying: raising a child is a heavy burden. As the old saying goes, it takes a village. If we want to share the load of raising kids, how are we going to do it?
First, we need to support pregnant women. Medical bills can stack up quickly. Household chores can be unmanageable; especially when you're not feeling your best. The judgment of others can be overbearing—those whispers and knowing looks make the burden even heavier, whether they're offered in judgement or pity.
Second, we need to support children whose parents are not in a place to raise them or provide for them. The best of us should be offering ourselves and our homes for adoption and fostering. It lowers the burden of carrying a child to term quite a lot if you can be sure that your child is going to a loving and safe home. And if we're not in a place to do that in our own home, how can we assist those who are?
Third, we need to support young parents, whether they're couples, or single moms, or single dads. Just meeting basic needs for a child is costly: diapers, wipes, nourishment, and clothes aren't cheap. Safe supervision requires either time or money. And then there's the gear: car seats, cribs, and strollers, oh my!
And those aren't the only demands on a parent. There's the physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation. The relational toll stacks up too, as kids don't always fit in old friend groups, or behave at restaurants, or have the stamina required for social events. Even picking up take-out (if you can afford it) is complicated if you've got to load up a baby. Schedules change and free time evaporates.
Raising a child is a heavy burden. And it's not a sprint. We could say that it's 18 years, but any parent knows that it's a life-long offering of a love.
As we've welcomed Peter into the world, we've been embarrassingly blessed by family, friends, and the whole community's support: Showers and gifts; offers of childcare to make time for errands or rest or chores or relationships; meals and treats delivered at just the right time; simply holding the baby when we're out somewhere so that we can eat a meal.
What if every child and every parent received that kind of support from the church and the community?
Abortion shouldn't happen. But are we willing to lift a finger to carry the load? If we find a way to do that, our righteousness might exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.