In her tragic book, Giving Sorrow Words, Melinda Tankart Reist tells the story of Ginny, an Australian woman who, after her abortion, shared that she “would hear a baby crying in my sleep or I would get up thinking I had to breastfeed or just getting up to check on the baby…No one prepared me for the years of nightmares, the feelings of guilt and the pain” – and this is not an isolated experience. Reports from The Elliot Institute in the USA indicate that 80% of women experience feelings of guilt after their abortion. In response to these feelings of guilt, many women are turning to harmful outlets such as promiscuous behaviour or drugs and alcohol.
The Church cannot take a backseat on this issue. The Church’s response to these guilt-ridden women needs to be tender-hearted yet not theologically compromised or incomplete. The modern church’s doctrinal minimising will never cleanse the guilty conscience. Charles Spurgeon is scathing on such a shallow gospel when he states that “Nothing can be more horrible, out of hell, than to have an awakened conscience but not a reconciled God—to see sin, yet not see the Saviour—to behold the deadly disease in all its loathsomeness, but not trust the good Physician, and so to have no hope of ever being healed of our malady. I would bear any affliction rather than be burdened with a guilty conscience.” Nevertheless, guilt is a burden we need not bear.
The antidote to a guilty conscience is found in Hebrews 9. In this chapter the writer of Hebrews has been demonstrating how Christ is a great high priest, who offers a perfect sacrifice. Hence He is greater than the Old Testament high priests and His once for all sacrifice is greater than he repeated Old Testament animal sacrifices. The primary reason why Christ’s sacrifice is greater is because the Old Testament animal sacrifices were, as verse 9 states, “not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper”. In other words, when the devout Jew came to sacrifice an animal for a sin offering and he confessed his sins over the sheep or goat then watched it as it was killed by the priest, none of these actions took away the feeling of guilt in his conscience for the sin he had committed.
Yet, now the Great High Priest has come, who has offered himself as a greater sacrifice as only His sacrifice deals with the guilty conscience. Verse 14 is the key verse, as the writer explains “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ…cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death.” Now, since Christ’s atoning death, the human conscience can be cleansed from even the most horrendous of sins. This is the Gospel message that the Church needs to be bringing to all those involved in the abortion industry, particularly those women struggling in the pits of despair, held captive by their own consciences. Therefore, no mother, father, grandparent, nurse, or doctor need to be crushed under the weight of this or her own guilt as we have a Saviour who has taken that upon Himself. In Him justice is satisfied, and mercy is offered to all.
Paul Barnes, teacher at Belmont Christian School