By Julia G. Schoch
We have heard the story of Christ’s conception and birth so many times that maybe we are not even listening anymore. We often fail to learn a life lesson exemplified by Mary and Joseph. God, in His wisdom and mercy, has given us the answer to how to appropriately respond to an unplanned pregnancy. This message is not only available to the Christian who comes to church and reads his or her Bible, but also the nonbeliever who hears the hymns and carols played on secular radio stations each Christmas season.
By many accounts, Mary was estimated to be in her early teens, perhaps as young as 13 years of age at the time she was visited by the angel Gabriel. She was unmarried, and living in a culture and time that did not look kindly on what would surely be perceived as an “illegitimate child” born from “fornication.” Today, girls who become pregnant are given a baby shower and in-school day care. Not so for Mary. She faced public scorn and disgrace. Pregnancy would be viewed, no doubt, as the evidence that she had been sexually active prior to marriage.
She faced two prospects, neither particularly pleasant. Mary was engaged to Joseph. Upon learning of her pregnancy, he would realize instantly he could not possibly be the father. He surely would have assumed she had been with another man, and would either publicly break the engagement so all would know he was innocent of fornication or would privately break the engagement, thus leaving her “condition” to be discovered in due time and the public to draw their own conclusions. Either way, she would be left without a husband and open to public disgrace and humiliation.
Having an out-of-wedlock child, viewed as a woman who commits fornication and who has been left by a fiancé hardly sounds like a good situation for this young woman to find herself in. Joseph, in making his decision concerning Mary, had every right to leave her. Why should he take responsibility for a child not his own? He had to have known the talk on the street would be that he had violated her! They would have assumed the child was his and her condition was his doing. What shame would that have brought on Joseph and his family?
Mary did not plan this pregnancy. Joseph did not plan this pregnancy. Many men would walk away. Many women would get out the phone book and make an appointment to have “the problem taken care of.” Sometimes a way seems right …
I am sure, when asked, many Christians would claim, “God is in control!” Yet, how many times do we respond to situations as if we think God has no idea what He is doing and has lost either His handle on things or His mind? When confronted with a difficult situation, we begin to question God’s sovereignty. We then lean on our own understanding, look to the world’s wisdom, and begin to justify ourselves in our own eyes to excuse our sin.
This is especially true when it comes to the issue of abortion. When confronted with an unplanned pregnancy, the response by those who profess to be Evangelical Christians is in step with the response of the nonbeliever. One out of four pregnancies ends in abortion. Statistically, on any given Sunday, more than a fourth of the women seated in the pews have had at least one abortion. At least half of those women have had two or more. Proverbs 14:12 warns, “Sometimes a way seems right to a man, but the end of it leads to death!” The wisdom of the world has told women for decades that the “responsible” action to take when confronted with an “unplanned” pregnancy is to abort.
The slogan coined by Planned Parenthood, “Every child a wanted child,” has become ingrained in the hearts and minds of a generation who now believe they are actually doing the child a favor by ending his or her life before birth. The result has been not only the physical death of over 51 million preborn Americans since 1973, but also the pain, suffering, depression, anger, hurt, hardening of heart and even death of conscience for millions of Americans who have been involved with or supportive of decriminalized abortion on demand.
At this point, many Christians will proclaim, “But God ordained the birth of Christ! God Himself planned Mary’s pregnancy!” Yes. But, as the Author of Life, does He not also plan every pregnancy? God’s Word tell us in Psalms 139:13-15, “You formed my inmost being; You knit me in my mother’s womb. …my bones were not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth.” And John 1:3 states, “All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be.” Nothing! God forms us. He makes us. If all humans are made by His hand, then not one of us, regardless of timing, circumstances or situation, is a “mistake.” Not one seemingly “unplanned pregnancy” slips by unnoticed by God.
What we often miss in the Christmas story is that Mary and Joseph had been given free will. They had the “freedom to choose” how to respond to God’s plan, the angel and this particular pregnancy. Mary could have said no. She could have avoided the complications she knew would lie ahead. She knew the pain, embarrassment and shame this pregnancy would surely cause Joseph, herself and their families! She could have rejected Gabriel’s message, God’s call on her life and Jesus Christ Himself. Instead, she could have married Joseph and lived out her life as the contented, respected wife of a carpenter. Joseph could have easily backed out of the marriage to Mary, married another girl and lived a life of obscurity.
The Christmas story, as told to us in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, is a story of the ultimate unplanned pregnancy. In the face of all they believed was ahead of them, when approached by the angel of the Lord concerning the “unplanned pregnancy,” Joseph’s reaction, as recorded in Matthew 1:24, was to wake up and do immediately as the angel had commanded. Mary’s response was, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your word” (Luke 1:38). A few passages later, she rejoices and praises the Lord, saying, “From now on, will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear Him” (Luke 1: 48-50). “Mercy” may seem a strange word to use, knowing what God was asking her to endure. However, the Bible always refers to pregnancy, regardless of how it came to be, as a reward, a gift or a blessing. How many times have we exercised our freedom to choose to reject the tiny lives given to us by God?
As we approach January 22, the 37th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, which decriminalized abortion on demand in all 50 states on a female of any age, for any reason, during the full nine months of pregnancy, we must recall the words the angel Gabriel used to initiate every conversation with Joseph and Mary: “Do not be afraid.” If we really believe God is in control, there is no need to be afraid. Do not be afraid if you find yourself pregnant and unmarried. Do not be afraid if the baby you carry has been given a grim diagnosis by doctors. Do not be afraid if you are young, old, have lost your job, have conceived from a rape or the pregnancy is ill-timed. Do not be afraid of abandonment, shame, embarrassment or anything else that could be used to justify the killing of a preborn child by abortion.
Each one of the more than 51 million human beings who have lost their lives to surgical abortion over the past 36 years was made by God in His image. Each one was a real baby, not a potential baby, a statistic or a problem eliminated by abortion. Each one was meant to be a blessing to their families and our world. Every unplanned pregnancy involves a real baby with a real life who was created by God for His purposes. God has given each of us free will. Our Supreme Court has given us the “freedom to choose.” What then shall we do? Trust in the world’s wisdom or trust in God, the Author of Life? The answer is simple: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Julia G. Schoch writes from Bucyrus, Ohio. Julia is the mother of 5 children one of which was scheduled for abortion. She is the director of Response for Life (a local pro-life ministry that works with local jobs and families organizations to find alternatives to abortion for young pregnant women.) This guest commentary is presented with her kind permission.