Because I was born three years after the conclusion of World War II, I grew up with a lot of questions about the war and why it happened. My biggest question had to do with how any nation could embrace the hatred that resulted in the extermination of six million men, women and children. I received insight into the answer to my question in the autumn of 1965 when, at seventeen, I learned about the corruptibility of the human heart. My lesson began when an assignment was handed to me on a small piece of paper in Mrs. Story’s high school speech class: Debate ABORTION (against).
“Abortion?” I wondered to myself, “What the heck is abortion?”
Too embarrassed to ask anyone what it was, I made my way to the high school library that afternoon to find out. Back then, there were no books on the subject in our library, but I did manage to find several articles. As I began reading about abortion, I remember feeling sick inside at the thought of an innocent baby being killed like that. However, as I kept researching the subject I was assurred that when abortions were performed, there really was not a baby at all. According to the articles I read, there was “only a smattering of cells . . . a blood clot . . . certainly not a baby!” Besides, I learned as I read on, there was the life of the mother to consider . . . wasn’t her life far more important? Certainly I felt empathy for any woman caught up in an unwanted pregnancy that could potentially ruin her life!
I began to wonder how I was going to debate against this weighty topic; the pros certainly appeared to hold the upper hand with the voice of reason. I kept researching articles, increasingly depressed by the topic, until I read an interview with President John F. Kennedy on why he was against abortion. Because He was Catholic, I assumed his answer would be based on religious reasons . . . but that was not what he said. Instead, Kennedy explained that his conviction was based on a claim Adolph Hitler made about abortion and the hardened hearts of the German people. Apparently, Hitler wrote that when abortion was legalized in Germany, he knew he could get away with anything else he chose to do–sadly, history bears out Hitler’s assertion.*
I can still remember sitting in the library that day, realizing that the answer to my questions about the horrific slaughter of innocent people was linked to hardened hearts. It would be more than a decade before I came to understand that every human heart is prone to corruption–my own included. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about how the heart is reflected by what we say and do. Jeremiah 17:9-10 declares:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
‘I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.’”
In Luke 6:45 Jesus said,
“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart,
and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Fifty years later, I remember nothing about the actual debate that took place in my speech class. Since then medical technology has stripped away our naivety about abortion, but it does not seem to matter. It would seem that our “rights” reign supreme no matter what the cost to our own children. Over the past two decades, I have been profoundly touched in the Counseling Room, as women have poured out tears of regret, because the birthdays of those lost children were never to be celebrated. Instead, they speak of the ages their children would have been, had they not had an abortion.
I share my story with you, because I have never been able to find the interview with President Kennedy that touched me so deeply. Yet I write this not only about the tragedy of abortion, I write this during a time when each of us need to be examining our hearts as we respond to the masses of people who are fleeing for their lives because of the faith we share.
It is tempting to avoid watching the news, I confess there are times when I have done that. However, I was grateful when I saw this video by Samaritan’s Purse two nights ago: to see families . . . young . . . old . . . and every age in-between, desperate enough to leave their homes, climb into those flimsy rubber boats in the hope of finding somewhere safe to start over. It struck me then, that to ignore the problem, tempting though it may be, requires that I (we) harden our hearts.
But God calls us not to hide in times such as these,
but to be looking for opportunities to be large-hearted
in helping where we can with our prayers,
our finances or whatever else God provides us to offer.
The wisdom of the Apostle John speaks to the responsibilities Christians bear in such challenging times as these:
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need
but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
I John 3:16-18
All to His Glory!
*President Kennedy knew what he was talking about. A serious student of history–particularly political history— he wrote his senior thesis at Harvard on what was later titled and published as, Why England Slept. His second book, Profiles in Courage (focuses on eight American Senators whom Kennedy particularly esteemed for their political and moral courage) won a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1957. To read a good synopsis on both books, you will find The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum site helpful.