In case you missed it, The Washington Post shared a controversial story about a high school senior who is not allowed to graduate from her Christian school because she is pregnant.
Principal David Hobbs says the school leadership is taking this action because Maddi violated the student pledge which every student signs. The pledge states that “the application of Philippians 4:8 extends to my actions, such as protecting my body by abstaining from sexual immorality and from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.”
In a public letter on the school website, Hobbs also states “Maddi is being disciplined, not because she’s pregnant, but because she was immoral.”
Over the past decade, I’ve heard many similar stories:
- Pregnant, unmarried women having to stand before their congregation and confess their sin, without the father of the baby present
- Churches divided over whether or not to throw a baby shower for a pregnant teen
- Couples having to write a letter of confession to the entire church congregation after getting pregnant outside of marriage
It’s a complex issue for Christians, because we do believe sex outside of marriage is a sin. That’s the truth. It’s just that there are some other truths we also need to consider.
The truth is that a woman doesn’t get pregnant alone.
Two people have sinned, and yet so often, the woman bears most of the attention, shame, discrimination – because she is the one visibly carrying the child. In Maddi’s case, she hasn’t even named the father. She is the only one walking through this media storm surrounding her graduation. We don’t know what the school leadership would have done if the father of the child attended Heritage Academy (he doesn’t) – but we do know that even in Christian circles pregnant women can be singled out for discipline and/or attention.
The truth is that many people have violated God’s standards for sexual purity, not just women who become pregnant (and their partners).
In looking at the code for Heritage Academy, I wonder how many others in Maddi’s graduating class have also violated that code at some point over the past four years. Has anyone else engaged in sexual immorality? Viewed pornography or engaged in lustful thoughts? The difference is, if these students didn’t get “caught,” they are allowed to participate in graduation. So it’s hard to tell if everyone else has faithfully observed the school code, or have just been able to hide their sin.
The truth is that when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, many women feel that their life as they know it will be over if they continue the pregnancy.
They face a dramatic identity shift, fearing they will be viewed as one of “those women” – and this fear of public shame is one of the main factors driving women toward abortion.
The answer to all these truths is the amazing grace of Jesus.
When we rely on his perfect sacrifice, we exchange our sin for his righteousness. It’s a complete exchange. “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…” (Colossians 1:22).
It’s this new identity of being holy before God that gives us the power and motivation we need to live a holy life. In contrast, the fear of punishment actually drives us to hide our sin, instead of bringing it to the light to receive the grace that transforms us.
Consider Maddi’s thoughts on this experience:
“Some pro-life people are against the killing of unborn babies, but they won’t speak out in support of the girl who chooses to keep her baby. Honestly, that makes me feel like maybe the abortion would have been better. Then they would have just forgiven me, rather than deal with this visible consequence.”
Maddi is echoing sentiments that have caused many Christian women to choose abortion over the years. As the Church, we need to recognize the part we have played in this. We need to repent of the ways we’ve been satisfied with partial truths and ask God to reveal his full truth in how to address unplanned pregnancy in our churches.
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13)
Let’s stand firm on this promise and ask the Spirit of truth to lead us into all the truth.
- The truth is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
- The truth is that Jesus leveled the playing field between all of us, refusing to make certain sins worse than others. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
- The truth of the complete forgiveness God offers is that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)
- The truth is that when we offer the same grace we’ve received to women facing unplanned pregnancy, it can break the power of shame that is driving them toward abortion.
We know God has the answer to the issue of abortion. Our part is to ask Him to reveal all the truth that will usher in His solution.