Stuck at home with a cold this past Palm Sunday, I opened my Bible to read Luke’s depiction of the Passion. Alone, in the quiet of the morning light, I was particularly touched by a poignant moment when, after Peter had denied Jesus three times, our Lord turned and looked at him. With Jesus’ gaze upon him, Peter’s eyes suddenly opened to what he’d just done. Filled with shame, Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Immediately, I had flashbacks of the movie I’d just seen at the theater: Unplanned” — a true-life depiction of the experiences of Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic. Though she had worked at the clinic for eight years, it wasn’t until Abby came face to face with a live baby fighting for his life that her eyes were opened at last.
As I watched the story unfold on the screen, it didn’t matter that I’d read Johnson’s book beforehand. It didn’t matter that I’d been immersed in the pro-life fight for decades and was well-aware of what went on in clinics throughout the world. In that heart-pounding moment, nothing could have fully prepared me to see the sonogram of a baby, moving, kicking, trying desperately to get away from the powerful suction-tube which eventually tore him limb from limb and pulled him from the safety of his mother’s womb. Though the baby had done nothing to deserve this torture, he’d been given a death sentence — just like Jesus. And just like Peter, Abby Johnson ran away and wept in shame. She could now clearly see what she’d done to two of her own children and that she was complicit in the killing of more than 20,000 innocent lives during her eight years at Planned Parenthood.
To say I cried at what I’d witnessed in the movie is an understatement. The sight literally shook my soul. But the shock was inevitable, because abortion is shocking. God help those who do not agree!
I also cried while pondering the gut-wrenching, “Oh God! What have I done?” moment that all post-abortive women, men, and those involved in the industry would eventually experience — either in this life or the next. I wouldn’t wish that moment on anyone.
Days later, while looking at a picture of my beautiful newborn nephew who’d arrived at 37 weeks, I sadly realized that with the passing of unrestricted abortion laws in some states, he wouldn’t have been safe from the scalpel or a heart-stopping injection had his mother given the word to execute him. How is this even possible?
The evil in this world is palpable and has been escalating for quite some time now. To realize how “normal” the proceedings at abortion clinics have become to so many, it’s no wonder current events parallel the events leading up to Christ’s Passion. We now have hundreds of millions of people walking the earth who are living in a state of woundedness and shame caused by their choice to abort — many of whom were greatly swayed by the fact that taking the life of their own child is “legal.” The most problematic of these wounded souls are those who deny the truth regarding their actions, building layer upon layer of guilt that encompasses their hearts, until the point when their consciences harden so completely that their souls are all but dead.
There is nothing new under the sun. The sins of yesterday are the same sins of today — they just take on different forms and operate under different names and through different people: The angry crowds demanding the shedding of Jesus’ blood were filled with self-righteous pride, resentment, jealousy and fear, causing them to seek their own agenda rather the holy precepts of God. Much in the same way, the murderous, self-serving agendas of many people and groups have escalated to the point of lawlessness, including the killing that comes through lies that roll off the tongue more easily than truth.
It was the sin of greed that prompted Judas to betray his master, and it is greed that drives the billion-dollar abortion industry. Through their mistreatment and failure to exonerate Jesus, Pilate and Herod became friends, paralleling the corrupt alliance between Planned Parenthood executives and power-hungry politicians who have abandoned their convictions in favor of votes.
Still, the story of Peter’s repentance and Abby Johnson’s conversion should give us great hope. Through prayers and surrender, God works miracles! Despite excessive opposition and attempts at censorship by Twitter, Google, and other media outlets, “Unplanned” has been a box office hit. Abby’s first-hand account is helping to expose the ugly “business” of abortion. Truth is essential for justice to prevail and should never be feared but embraced.
Today, as I ponder Jesus’ gaze at Peter, amidst his own humiliation and suffering, the tears spill from my eyes once again. I think about my own heart — the times I am angry, the times I fall short, and I wonder: What would his eyes convey to me?
This Holy Easter week and throughout each year, we would all do well to ponder the gaze of our Lord. Take a few moments of silence to contemplate his eyes — eyes filled with love that is so pure, yet powerful. Picture Jesus’ compassionate expression and realize that, despite your sins and shortcomings, he is calling you to come to him and be embraced by his love, his truth, his forgiveness.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:5-10.
Elizabeth Schmeidler is a Christian author from Hays