The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. (G.K. Chesterton)
It’s easy to spot a war zone when bullets are flying and soldiers are marching. I was 8-years-old when my country became one. In the bitter cold of the 1989 winter, life as we knew it came to a halt. After almost half a century of a cruel and inhumane dictatorship, the fall of Communism finally reached Romania. The entire country became a land of war. School was out, factories were closed, and stores opened long enough to feed its citizens. People were on a constant lookout for an enemy, a gun, a bullet.
My father had us practice crawling in our apartment—a safety drill to avoid windows and bullets. War makes people vigilant and watchful. The country boomed with gunfire, tanks, bombings, blood, and death. The cold corpses in the bloody snow testified to a country turning its military against its own. War-zones are not the place of cozy ideologies debated safely in shabby-chic décor. They are realities with imminent, dangerous, life-or-death outcomes, involving people and everything they hold dear.
But not all war-zones are as obvious as my country’s revolution. Some take cover behind physical addresses in the middle of a community at peace. To the worldly eye, Assurance for Life Crisis Pregnancy Center is just another business renting space alongside dentists and chiropractors. But to the kingdom of God, this pregnancy center is a fierce battleground for life and its fight against death. Assurance is at the forefront of the spiritual warfare of protecting assaulted lives of women and unborn babies. The battle here is real. The souls are real. The armies are real.
I felt drained the first weeks I started working as a volunteer. My whole body fell into aching exhaustion as if I had been fighting a battle. It’s the kind of mental and soul fatigue that I vaguely remember seeing in my family during the revolution. A constant alertness, with critical decision making, threat assessments, and human involvement and casualties. There were victories and defeats, lives saved and many lost. A hopeful march, a prayerful tactic, a mindful mission.
Facing an unplanned pregnancy, many women walk into the pregnancy center shaken, desperate, and confused. Behind every client’s face there is a soul, and for every soul a war is waged. The life of their unborn baby weighs heavily at the heart of their decision. These women are not coming in shouting about their crises, failures, and pain. Most of the women who walk in are broken. They face rough, miserable, and even dangerous life challenges. Some have been battling drugs and alcohol; others verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. There are young, single mothers, or married ones with children, working multiple jobs. Some are devout atheists or feminists, others are Christians or moralists—all with personal struggles that tug at their soul and harden their eyes.
I remember leaving the Assurance office marked by what I saw and deeply touched by what I witnessed. I thought I could recognize a war when I saw it since I had my very own childhood reference. Truth is, I was in a war-zone. It just took me a while to see it. Yes, there were no physical guns or tanks, no bombed walls or shattered windows. But the women who walked in were carrying emotional, spiritual, (and some even physical) wounds, hunched over by personal sins, hurt and attacked by a merciless enemy, and now facing an unplanned pregnancy: these women were in a cosmic war and most of them did not even know it!
The war in Romania, for all its horrendous afflictions and brutality, didn’t dehumanize my people. In fact, war made them more humane and compassionate towards each other. I wonder if we, as Christians, get lost sometimes in the horrors and brutality of our own spiritual warfare and dehumanize the people we are called to rally around and love with a cruciform love. We might throw criticism like bullets and solutions like impersonal treaties—keeping a safe distance from the actual war-zone and hiding behind justified principles and keyboards. Maybe we get too caught up in the political discourse about the war on life, and less invested in the actual lives of the mothers and babies, and the ministry of our pregnancy centers.
“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, emphasis mine)
Tolkien talks about a war that defends that which is loved. What are Christians to defend, anyway, in the spiritual cosmic warfare on life if not the good news of eternal life and the lives of those made by God in his image? Jesus made war for us to have life and “have it to the full” because God loves his image bearers (John 10:10; John 3:16). To stand for life means loving all women, babies, and men in crises with the forgiving, reassuring, empowering good news of Christ. Because of Jesus, our love for the unborn and their parents goes beyond political discourses, personal opinions, and right theological answers. It must reach deep within the very walls of the places where spiritual wars are fought and life is assaulted.
For some, loving life may mean choosing to donate time, money, or resources to the pregnancy centers. For others, it may look like fostering or adopting an unwanted child. And yet for others, it may require rallying around mothers and fathers who find it difficult to raise and nurture their baby. But for all Christians, loving life means finding practical, personal ways of getting involved!
What I’ve witnessed in my pregnancy center was a unique kind of defense of lives created by God—one armored in Christlike love. A love that sought to meet all kinds of immediate, dire, emotional and physical needs, as well as recognizing that hurting souls’ best remedy is in the person of Jesus—the only one who can heal all human brokenness. Spiritual warfare is real and constant, but so is God’s forgiveness and care for all mothers and fathers who turn to him in faith through Christ. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us,” declares God (Psalm 103). And “God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2). Through their gospel-driven ministry, the center never failed to point every client to a living God who forgives all sins, heals diseases, renews life, and crowns his redeemed with love and compassion.
My country’s past civil war and the war on life in our present culture are reflections of a bigger spiritual war of cosmic proportions. Life is an insult to Satan because life is more than a physical body and a beating heart: life displays the seal of God’s undefeated power. Life testifies of Satan’s inferiority before a divine superior. Because of Jesus, this life bears witness of God’s eternal victory and of Satan’s ultimate damnation. Even so, the devil’s lionesque prowlings still seek to destroy and devour all life—born and unborn. But the assured truth of his defeat at the cross makes his roars but squeals of inevitable defeat by Christ the Victor!