As a Presbyterian, I’m not terribly comfortable with the language of spiritual warfare. I’m not given to subtle premonitions, nor do I have an internal “powers and principalities” alert system. But I’m also not spiritually blind. So, despite my austerity and native skepticism, there was no denying what I was feeling as I stood on the sidewalk outside one of Orlando’s abortion mills. Though the sun was shining, it was a dark place. Though the weather was balmy, there was a definite chill. It wasn’t ordinary humidity that slowed my steps, but an invisible, gloomy cloud that carried the acrid odor of blood. Were I a less uptight man, I might have seen demons dancing on the roof. I had come to the gates of hell.
Jesus, we all remember, made an astonishing promise to His disciples. After Peter boldly affirmed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus replied, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). I did not come to the gates of hell merely to experience their horror. I did not come merely to make some sort of political statement. I did not come merely to support the pro-life movement. I came to see the power of the gospel at work.
There on the sidewalk, I got on my knees and prayed. I repented first. I confessed my selfishness, the callousness of my heart. I confessed that whole hours, indeed whole days, go by when I do not even think of the suffering of His littlest image-bearers. I repented for my country. I confessed that we corporately stand before Him more guilty than even Nazi Germany. The numbers killed in the American holocaust, fifty million and counting, dwarf the numbers killed in the German Holocaust. And we, all of us, know it is going on. Forty years later, and it is business as usual.
Finally, I repented for the church. We who have been rescued from the darkness, we who were dead but have been made alive, we who carry within us the Holy Spirit of God, are so often numb, indifferent, distant, and uncaring.
We might vote for the less pro-abortion candidate every four years. We might collect diapers or dollars for our local crisis pregnancy centers. These, of course, are good things. But they are not all that the true religion of Scripture requires of us in regards to legalized abortion on demand in the United States and throughout the world.
James tells us that true religion consists in visiting the widow and the orphan in their trouble, and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. We can’t even do the last, as statistics suggest that one in every six, or more than 200,000 of the mothers who commit the dark art of in-utero infanticide every year, are professing evangelical Christians, members in good standing at our churches. More evangelicals today will visit abortion mills as clients than as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
Is there ever a more vulnerable widow than the woman whose husband/ father/ boyfriend fails to protect her, but instead brings her to the gates of hell? Is there ever a more vulnerable orphan than a baby whose mother and father are alive and well, but seeking to commit murder? In short, your local abortion mill is not only among the most potent manifestations of the gates of hell in the world today, but it is also the very locus of where we can, and must, practice true religion. It is exactly where the church must be, if it would be the church.
I don’t go, however, only to repent. I visit our local abortion mills because I rejoice and delight to see the power of the gospel at work in those places.
If we want to see the Holy Spirit move in power, we have to go to the front lines. Where we are safe, the power is muted. Where the stakes are highest, that’s where He moves. No one is closer to understanding her own depravity than a mom about to murder her own baby. I go to watch the demons move from dancing to mourning, because the Word has come with power. I go to see moms move from weeping in their guilt to weeping in their forgiveness. I go to see babies move from flailing for their lives to jumping for joy.
But there is still more. I go to have my own heart melted. I go so that I will come home a little less stuffy, a little less crusty, a little less safe. I come home changed.
The church needs a broken heart, a contrite spirit. That is why the church needs to be at every mill, every day, repenting and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
That is why you need to go. You don’t need a program; you already have one—”Go into all the world.” You don’t need a leader; you already have one—Jesus the Christ. You don’t need a calling; you already have one—take up your cross and follow Him. You don’t need a message; you already have one—”Repent and believe.”